City of Aspen to host COVID-19 virtual town halls |

City of Aspen to host COVID-19 virtual town halls

Aspen City Hall.
Aspen Times file photo

The city of Aspen and the chamber of commerce are hosting two virtual town halls in the upcoming weeks to take the community’s temperature on how summer went during the COVID-19 pandemic and what winter should and could look like as public health orders continue to limit social interaction.

The town hall meetings are being designed to discuss winter planning, and get feedback from businesses and community members on the city’s COVID-19 mitigation and recovery efforts, which included allowing restaurants and retailers to operate in the right-of-way this summer.

Similar efforts could be done this winter, as public health orders may continue to require restaurants to be at 50% capacity.

“It’s really a listening session,” said Jessica Garrow, who works for Design Workshop, a firm that has been hired to help facilitate the town halls. “So bring your ideas.”

The first town hall is geared toward the business community and will be held Sept. 23 from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

The second one is designed for the community at large, and will be held Sept. 30 from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

People can register to attend either meeting, or both, at, the city’s interactive web page that also has a survey asking participants about their concerns for winter and their opinions on the summer.

The deadline to submit the survey is Sept. 29, but people are encouraged to fill it out right away so the results can guide the conversations in the town hall meetings.

“What we really want to hear is what worked well this summer, what didn’t work well and what do you expect for the winter,” said Jennifer Phelan, the city’s development manager.

Design Workshop and Phelan will then prepare a report that summarizes the feedback, which will be presented to Aspen City Council members on Oct. 12 to help guide them in deciding priorities and policies.

The city has created an internal task force to help formulate the winter plan, implement it and serve as liaisons to the business community.

Garrow said her firm’s team is assembling data to present during the town hall meetings, such as the summer’s occupancy and sales tax reports, enplanement numbers at the airport and real estate activity to provide context for the discussions.

“We will make it all digestible,” she said.

The format will include a high-level summary of local and regional trends, and a review of pre-meeting survey results.

A more detailed discussion will follow that will be broken up by themes focused on how to create policies supportive of economic and social prosperity.

The format also will include polling questions and opportunities for participants to provide feedback via voice or text, depending on group size.

While the themes for discussion will be shaped by survey results, some likely categories will include workforce challenges, COVID mitigation efforts and outdoor business opportunities, according to city officials.

“As we plan for the coming winter we want to listen to our community about what was successful and what needs refining, to see how we can continue the positive elements already implemented and adapt for winter needs to support economic and social recovery in Aspen,” Mayor Torre said in a statement. “Our staff has already been engaged with winter planning efforts and the feedback will add greatly to the conversation.”

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