As outlier with remote city meetings, Prairie Village exploring hybrid options

Prairie Village City Hall

Prairie Village appears to be the last city in Johnson County sticking to virtual meetings, and there are no plans to change that anytime soon. Mayor Eric Mikkelson said with the delta variant "ravaging" nearby communities like Springfield, Mo., and the county's vaccination rate plateauing, in-person meetings aren't moving forward. File photo.

As COVID-19 precautions ease up, Prairie Village appears to be one of the only cities still hosting virtual-only meetings. However, Mayor Eric Mikkelson on Wednesday morning told the Post the city has been working on plans to convert to hybrid meetings and is “waiting on some tech replacement parts to facilitate that.”

“Of course our current plans to go hybrid could change if conditions deteriorate,” Mikkelson told the Post.

When COVID-19 hit in March 2020, cities quickly shifted gears and took their regular meetings online with platforms like Zoom or GoToMeeting.

Some cities like Lenexa returned to in-person meetings as early as summer 2020, while others like Shawnee and Merriam didn’t return to in-person meetings until May 2021 or later. Many cities like Westwood, Fairway and Mission are opting for a hybrid style, in which the city councilmembers meet in-person and the public can participate in-person or online.

Meanwhile, the Prairie Village governing body has been evaluating the status of local, regional and national COVID-19 positivity rates and vaccination rates in the county, and has agreed time and time again to not go back to in-person meetings. During his report at the July 19 city council meeting, Mikkelson said conditions aren’t right for in-person meetings just yet.

Mikkelson said positivity rates are “spiking up” again as cases of the Delta variant increase — and pointed out that the Delta variant is “ravaging” nearby communities like Springfield, Mo. Additionally, he said the county’s vaccination rate isn’t climbing fast enough, with 50.1% of the county ages 12 and over vaccinated.

In Prairie Village, the vaccination rate is slightly higher, Mikkelson said, at 53%.

“We were all hoping I wouldn’t have to do this anymore at this point, but unfortunately things are going a little bit in the wrong direction,” Mikkelson said during his mayor’s report.

Mikkelson said the increase in positivity rates coupled with the plateauing vaccination rates — and Johnson County Department of Health and Environment’s latest guidance recommending schools require masks for individuals not fully vaccinated — don’t bode well for in-person meetings.

Mikkelson said he thinks the city council has done all they can to encourage residents and the public to get vaccinated, but said that spreading the word again is likely in the general public’s best interest.

“Let’s be careful, let’s be safe, let’s do the best we can to get this back in the right direction,” Mikkelson said during his mayor’s report.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with additional comments from the mayor.