Layout changes put council on new level

New seating arrangement plan to enhance the experience of council for residents and viewers of the new webcast

Saanich council used a new configuration on Monday to better engage with the residents and webcasting camera.

Mayor Richard Atwell was the only person who stayed put in a rearranging of the Saanich council chambers seating layout tested on Monday.

It’s part of a plan to enhance the experience of council for residents and viewers of the new webcast.

All eight members of council have been elevated from the floor to a head-table that faces the room, similar to a wedding, with Saanich’s council-attending staff shifting from in front of the mayor to facing in from both sides.

“I like it, it makes for direct eye contact between councillors and residents,” said Haro Woods champion Deborah Dickson, who gave support to the new configuration during public input.

Dickson did, however, question the new “Welcome to our respectful workplace” signs that are posted in chambers.

“These signs are great but they also show a sign that there is disfunction, and by having them, perhaps this is not a respectful workplace.”

Saanich is evaluating several proposed seating designs for the council chamber in order to create a more effective space for its meetings and the interaction between council, staff and the public. The plan is to improve the visibility for council and the public, facilitate communication, and create a welcoming environment that will also accommodate future council meeting webcasts.

The temporary seating arrangement, which offers a practical demonstration for discussion purposes, works within the building constraints of the existing space and is intended to provide a general feel for the proposed design.

“We’re just in the training wheels stage of it,” said Coun. Fred Haynes, who now sits on Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell’s immediate left. “We can redo the chambers with more permanent furniture once we have the shape we like.”



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