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Snoqualmie is state's first city to hold online meeting

One of the first city ordinances developed by the Snoqualmie City Council in 1903 was to regulate the bells used for cows and horses. On June 29 of this year, the Snoqualmie City Council held the first online council meeting in the state of Washington and made history.

The city has come a long way, said Jodi Warren, Snoqualmie's city clerk.

She said the meeting may have been the first online city council meeting in the nation.

This special meeting was for the approval of a sewer connection for a parcel of land located outside city limits in the 8000 block of 384th Avenue.

The parcel is currently served by the Snoqualmie water system and treats wastewater through an on-site septic system. An independent contractor tested the system and reported that it was failing and discharging into a "neighboring sensitive area," Warren said.

The property owner requested to connect to the city-owned sewer, an action that needed to be approved by City Council. King County required an answer by Friday, June 30.

"There was the timeliness factor," Warren said about why the special meeting was held. Regular meetings will continue as usual, with online meetings being used sparingly.

In February, the City Council approved its ability to hold special online meetings in order to address matters deemed urgent or timely in nature.

The online structure is much like a chat room. Council members receive special passcodes and are then able to communicate in real time with typed commentary.

While City Council members participated in the online meeting from locations including work and home, the meetings were also available for public viewing on a projection screen at the Snoqualmie Headquarters Fire Station, 37600 S.E. Snoqualmie Parkway, where council meetings are traditionally held.

Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson interacted with fellow council members from that location.

"I fully expected a few technical glitches, but all in all, it went over very smoothly," Larson said, noting there was a debriefing about the online meeting at the July 10 City Council meeting. "We're very proud that we were the first ones [to have an online meeting].

I'm proud we have a council looking in a forward direction and willing to venture out into new terrirtory."

The public was invited to view the online meeting at www.ci.snoqualmie.wa.us. Transcripts are available at the same Web site, which experienced 149 hits during the meeting.

"This indicates that the meeting was 'well-attended,'" Warren said.

The meetings will be used sparingly, maybe three to five times a year and will not be a substitute for traditional council meetings, city attorney Pat Anderson said.

There were a few provisions to assure that the online meetings were legal, including one specifying that notice be given as required for special meetings and that any actions, including discussion, be limited to what is specified in the notice. Additionally, the meetings must be conducted as other council meetings would be and the public must be allowed the chance to "attend."

"Overall, the meeting went better than expected with minor [technical] glitches," Warren said.

There are no immediate plans for another online meeting, though the city is open to one should there be a need.

For information, call the Snoqualmie Administration Building at (425) 888-1555.

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