Still figuring out long-term hybrid solution
[ By Kendra Walker ]
Due to the recent rise of COVID cases in Gunnison County, the Mt. Crested Butte town council decided to hold its January 4 meeting over Zoom, and will be conducting their meetings virtually until further notice. This also applies to planning commission meetings.
“We are holding a virtual meeting as it is not practical or prudent due to the health pandemic to meet in person,” said mayor Janet Farmer. “I feel more comfortable with doing it virtual during this spike, and hopefully it will drop off soon.”
Last week, Gunnison County reported 209 positive cases, 150 of those being residents. Across all known testing sources, 639 tests were conducted yielding a 24 percent positivity rate. The county has since updated those numbers, see page 1. Town attorney Kathy Fogo noted that while the county’s health system has been in good shape, other parts of the state are overwhelmed at this time.
“I think that number is probably the minimum so I’m totally in agreement of going virtual for a little bit,” said council member Michael Bacani, noting that not everyone is reporting the results of rapid tests being done at home.
“This follows the influx of the Christmas rush and coming ahead we have MLK, Presidents’ and Spring Break,” said council member Roman Kolodziej. “This is probably going to fluctuate with that influx of people, probably through end of ski season.”
The council also discussed their goal to find a solution to conducting meetings in a virtual/in-person hybrid format this year.
“We’re having what seems to be a successful meeting tonight, virtually,” said council member Nicholas Kempin. “We absolutely need to figure out a solution to carry this forward to in-person meetings. We’ve allocated $10,000 in our budget to accomplish that. If we need to allocate more money to do that, I am in support of that, if we need to hire outside help to accomplish that, hire an outside consultant to implement virtual meeting technology for us, I think we should do that. It seems like this pandemic is a real thing and we might be switching back and forth periodically. I hope to make that seamless.”
Town staff noted the hybrid model has been tricky to accommodate in the Mt. CB Town Hall given its Internet limitations. “We don’t have the technology within the council chambers to make it effective to have some on Zoom and some in person,” explained Fogo.
“The high speed Internet in our town stops at Treasury Road,” said town manager Isa Reeb.
Reeb noted that the town staff is interviewing IT firms to help the town accomplish a virtual/in-person hybrid model. “It doesn’t work with our bandwidth, which is why we’re hiring an IT consultant and they will give us options.”
Kolodziej and Kempin also suggested reaching out to Xtream Internet and Starlink.
For now, the town council and planning commission meetings will be conducted over Zoom, and Zoom meeting details can be found on the Mt. Crested Butte website.