Have a commission seat, will travel
September 14, 2009
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Garfield County’s elected leaders may soon start holding at least one of their three monthly regular meetings in communities other than Glenwood Springs.
Two of the three commissioners on Sept. 8 instructed county staff members to continue scouting potential meeting sites in the towns of Carbondale, New Castle, Silt, Rifle and Parachute, and the unincorporated community of Battlement Mesa, as a way of making it easier for citizens to come to meetings and be part of the decision-making process.
Abram Dress, one of the county’s information technology technicians, told Commissioners Tresi Houpt and Mike Samson (Commissioner John Martin was absent) that it would cost between $9,000 and $11,000 to purchase the necessary remote recording equipment that would be needed to videotape meetings held in locations without existing video or television transmission equipment.
The disparity in the cost estimates, Dress said, reflects differences in the quality of the sound recording technology, and he added that the addition of a speaker system, to be used for meetings with large audiences, could boost the cost to as much as $14,000.
But, he concluded, a $9,000 system would be sufficient to “get us started.”
According to County Clerk Jean Alberico, several of the county’s six municipalities have meeting facilities equipped with television recording equipment, but some have meeting schedules of their own that would conflict with the county’s schedule of meetings three Mondays out of every month.
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In addition, she said, there are municipal court schedules that might conflict with the commissioners’ plans.
Houpt, prefacing her remarks by saying she is “perfectly willing to travel” to the different towns for remote meetings, wondered about the value of the policy.
“My big question is … if we have a meeting scheduled in Parachute and there’s a big Carbondale issue [on the agenda], we haven’t solved any logistical issues,” Houpt said.
Plus, she asked, “Are people anxious to attend our meetings?”
Samson, who campaigned in part on the desire to bring the commissioners more in touch with their constituencies, told Houpt, “I don’t know that there’s any way we could answer that without giving this a try.”
Planning Director Fred Jarman said his staff typically schedules hearings on land-use applications as much as three months in advance, which would require coordination with the administrative department to see that any issues specific to a certain town would be on the agenda when the meeting is held in that town.
“It’s going to require that you be a little more focused on what your agenda is going to look like,” said Dale Hancock, a county administrator filling in for County Manager Ed Green.
Samson suggested the county commissioners try meeting once a month at one or another of the towns, but keep the other two meetings in Glenwood Springs, thereby minimizing conflicts and confusion as well as satisfying a state law requiring the county to hold at least one meeting a month in the county seat.
Hancock said that, procedurally speaking, the third meeting of the month would present the lowest level of conflicts with county staff, but cautioned the commissioners to keep in mind the “windshield time,” a reference to the amount of time county staff will use in driving to and from meetings remote from Glenwood. “I’m sure you haven’t budgeted for that.”
And public works official Marvin Stephens pointed out that winter driving to Carbondale is more hazardous than to the towns of New Castle, Silt and Rifle, prompting Houpt to recommend that any wintertime remote meetings be scheduled for a site in the Colorado River corridor.
Both commissioners urged the staff to work quickly on possible sites and other logistical issues, in the hope that the remote meetings can begin in January.