Mt. Crested Butte back to in-person meetings in April

Still figuring out a way to make hybrid meetings work

[  By Kendra Walker  ]

The Mt. Crested Butte town council will continue conducting their meetings virtually through the end of the ski season. During their March 1 meeting, the council agreed to continue Zoom meetings until the mountain closes on April 3, and will go back to meeting in person for their April 5 meeting. Town council and staff are getting closer to procuring the technology elements needed for a hybrid format so that council can meet in person while the public can still tune in virtually moving forward. 

“My inclination is to wait until the end of ski season,” said mayor Janet Farmer, on going back to in-person meetings. “I would feel more comfortable with that.”

“I think the value of in-person meetings can’t be understated,” said council member Steve Morris, who preferred going back in person for the March 15 meeting but was okay with waiting until April.   

“I’m fine extending it through the end of the season,” said council member Roman Kolodziej. “Spring break is nigh and the reason why we are in our separate rooms now is because we had a spike in visitation that drove cases up. So we are on the cusp of having another significant wave of visitors in the community for the next two weeks.”

Kolodziej also asked if the council would be interested in giving town staff direction to research an appropriate resolution not tied to the pandemic that would allow meetings to be held virtually until proper technology was resolved to conduct hybrid meetings. The council has been asking staff to figure out a hybrid solution since they went back to in-person meetings last summer, but staff has said that town hall’s technology/Internet has limited their capabilities to do so. 

“It’s important to have as many people have access to this as possible,” said Kolodziej. “And just telling people to listen on the website is not really a proper response to that. 

Council member Michael Bacani agreed. “There’s no incentive for [staff] to look at getting the hybrid meetings. I think the public participation is more important, getting as many people as possible involved.” 

“It seems like we’re leveraging this thing for reasons other than the pandemic,” said Morris. “I don’t think that was the intent of our resolution, using this to leverage the technology component.”

“Legally speaking I don’t think you guys have that discretion,” said town attorney Kathy Fogo. “It has to be related to this pandemic, it can’t be related to technology.”

“I’m not seeing this urge or demand from the public on this,” said Morris, saying they had not had any public comment since the council went to virtual meetings in January. 

The town has in fact had public comment since they went virtual, including on January 4 regarding looking into Aspen’s building moratorium and considering it for Mt. CB, the Homestead affordable housing project delays, and on January 18 regarding short-term rentals (STR) and for a public hearing on Hunter Ridge. During public comment on March 15, Katie Harper also urged the council to continue the virtual element for the public. 

“It’s been pretty vanilla,” said Kolodziej, noting that council meeting agendas haven’t included many contentious community topics recently. “Once we start actually addressing STRs again, stuff with the various PUDs (Planned Unit Developments) that are churning around, I do anticipate that [participation] spiking significantly.”

“It’s not lawful to stay virtual when there’s no reason not to meet in person,” said Fogo. 

During their March 15 meeting, capital projects Evan Roberts presented an assessment of the town’s Internet/IT capabilities. “When I started here in June it was very evident that the Internet speeds were sub par,” he said. “In looking into other services and talking with Visionary and Spectrum about bringing fiber into town hall, Visionary was able to turn up our speeds… which in my opinion is sufficient to run a hybrid meeting.”

Roberts noted that a fiber connection is much better, and so the town is working on a fiber install in May or June, as well as integrating video and audio with existing equipment, which will allow for hybrid meetings.

The council agreed to stay virtual until their April 5 meeting, and expressed their gratitude and relief to Roberts that they are on the home stretch of figuring out hybrid meetings for the public after nearly a year. 

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