WINDSOR, ONT. -- Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens says he is making it easier for Ward 7 residents to make their views and concerns heard during the ongoing pandemic in the absence of a ward councillor.

Starting at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 22, residents in Ward 7 will be able to participate in a virtual telephone meeting, which will include interactive components, survey questions and live audience questions.

“I know that residents are never shy about contacting my office with local issues or concerns,” said Dilkens. “But we just want to make it a little bit easier for residents to participate from the comfort and safety of their own homes.”

Using only land-line phones which have not previously signed up for ‘do-not-call’ telemarketing registration, an automated dial will ring up several thousand residential lines in the ward simultaneously Wednesday night.

After a brief introduction, individuals choosing to participate in the meeting will be able to stay on the line, join the presentation and interact with Dilkens.

For those who miss the call, a voicemail will provide instruction and call-in numbers for interested parties to join in the virtual meeting while in progress.

The meeting is expected to last at least an hour.

The Ward 7 by-election was suspended due to the ongoing public health emergency and has not yet been rescheduled.

Only the City of Windsor Clerk has the ability to restart the by-election period, and it has not yet been determined when this will be possible.

Until a councillor is sworn in, Dilkens said he is committed to ensuring residents of Ward 7 have access to representation and the ability to effectively communicate their concerns to decision makers at City Hall.

Windsor city councillors usually host ward meetings each year,but it remains unclear if these meetings will be able to proceed in 2020 due to current public health guidelines that restrict meeting participation.

The mayor’s virtual meeting will act as a pilot project for members of council to consider as an alternative to their annual ward meetings.

This telephone forum is also anticipated to increase accessibility for residents who might typically be unable to attend a public ward meeting, including those with child care concerns, busy schedules or mobility issues.

A professional third-party service provider is supplying the technology associated with this evening’s telephone meeting.

While participation is limited to Ward 7 residents, the results of the survey questions will be made public.