City of Aspen goes virtual again for its public meetings

Due to a high transmission of COVID-19 cases, municipal government cancels in-person meetings

The debut of in-person meetings at council chambers in the new Aspen City Hall will have to wait for at least two weeks — or when the high community transmission rate of COVID-19 dissipates.

The city of Aspen announced last week that it is halting in-person meetings and going virtual until Jan. 14 for the City Council, citizen boards and commissions, advisory groups and the upcoming Aspen 360 program, formerly known as the Citizens Academy.

“We are monitoring, like everyone else, transmission numbers in the community,” said Denise White, the city’s director of communications. “In an effort to reduce community transmission while offering this community service, we will stay virtual until the 14th and see where COVID takes us.”

Due to cases of COVID-19 cases skyrocketing in Pitkin County in recent weeks, city employees were asked to work remotely last week, even though City Hall remained open to the public for walk-in service.

Last week, the city shuttered the Wheeler Opera House from performances and, thus, large gatherings.

Also last week Pitkin County shuttered the library and its administrative offices to the public, as did the Aspen Art Museum.

The Aspen City Council held its last meeting at the old City Hall in the armory building on Galena Street on Dec. 14, with the intention of holding its first one at the new City Hall on Rio Grande Place on Jan. 10.

That meeting, a work session on the planned 310-unit Lumberyard affordable housing project, will be held via Webex, Facebook and the on the city’s Granicus platform.

The same goes for council’s regular meeting on Jan. 11.

Other meetings scheduled for the virtual realm include the city’s planning and zoning commission and the liquor licensing authority board on Tuesday, the board of adjustment on Thursday and the historic preservation commission on Jan. 12.

Social distancing was put into effect at City Hall during an Aspen City Council meeting March 12, 2020. The council passed a resolution declaring an emergency due to COVID-19.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

The council began meeting virtually in March 2020 when the pandemic first hit Aspen, and it wasn’t until June 1, 2021 before it began meeting in person while also offering virtual participation.

Perhaps the one meeting this month that would be best suited to be in person is Aspen 360: A Look Inside Your Government, renamed from the traditional Citizens Academy that is an annual program that offers residents an opportunity to learn how their government works.

The six-session program runs through March 16 and is designed to offer interactive content, field trips to city-owned facilities and time to communicate with department directors and staff to learn about how the municipal government operates.

The first session is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday.

White said there were 12 people enrolled, though two dropped out due to the virtual aspect of the gathering. The first session was supposed to include a tour of the new City Hall, but that will have to wait.

“We are going to do the best we can to be interactive,” White said. “Hopefully we go back to in-person in February.”