After two years of online-only meetings and grumbling that local politicians were all too happy to keep the public at arm’s length, the wait is over:
Baltimore City Hall, closed since March 2020, will open its doors to the public on April 4.
A meeting of the City Council will be held in the ornate Second Empire building that evening, according to a news release issued today by Mayor Brandon Scott. A Board of Estimates meeting will be held there on April 6, Scott added.
Through the on-again, off-again restrictions imposed amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Scott has said virus transmission was a particular concern at the 147-year-old building and kept it closed.
He appointed a committee that would develop a plan to reopen safely, bringing workers back to city government buildings while integrating some remote work into the mix.
As the months wore on and other old buildings, such as the 126-year old Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse, reopened to the public, calls for City Hall to follow suit grew louder.
They grew still louder last month when Scott lifted Baltimore’s indoor mask mandate.
While City Hall and other government buildings are reopening (see Status of City Services), officials said the online meeting format developed in response to the pandemic will continue in some form.
While depriving the public of face-to-face interactions with city officials and staffers, virtual meetings were helpful for some without access to transportation or the ability to attend a meeting in the daytime.
“While it is important that we restore in person access to government meetings and officials, it is just as important that we not deprive people of the virtual access that they have come to expect,” Comptroller Bill Henry said today.
Scott reminded the public that while visitors will soon be welcomed back, some Covid safety protocols will remain in effect at City Hall.
• Masks will still be required during public meetings.
• All visitors will be subject to a health screening to enter the building,
• Covid-19 protocols regarding increased cleaning schedules will stay in place.