County staff urges against off-site commissioner meetings
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Garfield County staff would like the county commissioners to revisit a policy of scheduling some of their regular meetings outside the county seat of Glenwood Springs.
As an option, the commissioners might consider informal town hall meetings in each of the county’s municipalities in 2012, county attorney Andrew Gorgey suggested at Monday’s Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting.
“That would be a way to address the geographic needs of the county,” Gorgey said.
Hosting the town hall meeting in the evening might allow for greater participation by the public, he said.
A 2008 campaign pledge by District 3 County Commissioner Mike Samson of Rifle eventually led to the off-site BOCC meetings in Parachute, Battlement Mesa, Rifle, Silt, New Castle and Carbondale.
After a few test meetings in 2010, this year the board scheduled the second regular Monday meeting of every other month in a community other than Glenwood Springs.
“That was a campaign promise of mine, and I would like to see us duplicate the off-site meeting schedule [in 2012],” Samson said.
“It’s good for us to have some of our meetings in the municipalities,” he said. “I know it’s a hassle … but we are servants of the people, and we need to reach out to them.”
Samson said he would support the town hall meetings in addition to official meetings being held at the off-site locations.
The remote meetings present some challenges for county staff, however.
Often, there’s a gap of anywhere from one to three hours between the morning and afternoon sessions of the regular BOCC meetings.
That’s time department heads and other staff can use to get office work done, Garfield County Clerk and Recorder Jean Alberico said. But it’s not possible on the off-site meeting days, she said.
If the off-site meetings continue, she and Gorgey suggested the board not take a lengthy break between agenda items.
There can also be problems at some of the sites with setting up the audio equipment to keep the official record of the meetings, Alberico said.
And, as the county is now live streaming the BOCC meetings on its website, some of the remote locations will only allow for audio streaming but not video, said Lisa Dawson, director of county administrative services.
“The other challenge is that the meetings are simply not being attended by the local constituents,” Gorgey added.
Land-use issues typically generate the most public interest at the meetings, he said. But with the strict time lines in the county’s land-use application process, there’s no way to guarantee a local land-use hearing can be scheduled at an off-site meeting in the community most affected.
“Those issues come up when they come up, and we’ll have a good turnout here [in the commissioners’ regular meeting room in Glenwood Springs] if it’s an issue they’re interested in,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said.
In addition to town hall meetings, Jankovsky said the commissioners’ joint meetings with local town and city councils offer another chance for local participation.
Commissioners did not decide whether to continue the off-site meetings. Commissioner Samson agreed to meet with Gorgey, county administrator Ed Green and other staff to draft an optional meeting schedule.
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