WATERVILLE — The City Council is expected Tuesday to consider overriding Mayor Jay Coelho’s veto of a vote councilors took Feb. 1 to hold virtual meetings until the end of March because of the highly contagious omicron variant of COVID-19.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the basement of The Elm at 21 College Ave., or virtually via a link on the city’s website. An executive session to discuss labor negotiations is planned for 6:45 p.m.

“The meeting will be held in person because the mayor vetoed the remote-only resolution,” City Clerk Patti Dubois wrote Monday in an email. “There is the availability of remote attendance for those who do not wish to attend in person.”

Councilors voted 4-3 to meet virtually for the next three council meetings after Councilor Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, said the action was intended to protect people from the spread of the omicron variant. The vote would only affect City Council meetings.

Coelho vetoed the council vote Wednesday, saying the omicron variant is on the downturn and no matter what side of the issue a person is on, “we can all agree that we are COVID-fatigued.”

“Exacerbated by inconsistent messaging from the start,” Coelho wrote in his veto. “Going fully remote puts the burden of access directly on residents, not everyone has internet or a means to communicate with their elected officials.”


An override requires a two-thirds vote of the City Council. The city has seven councilors, so five would have to support overriding the veto.

Francke, council Chairwoman Rebecca Green, D-Ward 4, and Councilors Flavia DeBrito, D-Ward 2, and Thomas Klepach, D-Ward 3, attended the Feb. 1 meeting from their homes. Coelho, Foss and Councilors Mike Morris, D-Ward 1, and Thomas McCormick, D-Ward 7, attended in person, and none wore a mask.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has continued to recommend people wear masks in indoor public settings to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

DeBrito, Klepach, Green and Francke voted to move to remote meetings. Morris, Foss and McCormick voted against.

Green said last week she was not sure if the council would overturn the veto because the worst of the omicron variant seems to have abated.

“My main concern is that we allow for a way to hold our meetings that provides access to the public while following public safety guidelines,” Green said. “Right now, that means wearing masks in public settings such as council meetings.”

In an email Monday, Green reiterated she was not sure the council would vote to override.

“Nothing has changed, as far as I know,” she said.

Also on Tuesday, councilors are scheduled to consider ratifying a union contract with the Fire Department, hold several votes related to zoning matters and appoint members to the comprehensive plan review committee.

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