Westminster Councilors using online meetings to keep in touch

Scott Taylor
staylor@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 3/30/20

While the Coronavirus has sent almost all of American life indoors, it hasn’t slowed Westminster’s City Council’s meeting schedule. If anything, it’s sped things up. Councilors met twice …

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Westminster Councilors using online meetings to keep in touch

Posted

While the Coronavirus has sent almost all of American life indoors, it hasn’t slowed Westminster’s City Council’s meeting schedule.

If anything, it’s sped things up.

Councilors met twice during the week of March 23, both times remotely with Mayor Herb Atchison and City Councilors at their homes in different parts of the city.

March 23 was a normally scheduled meeting with an agenda full of normal city business — councilors approved a development plan for the Northwest Business Park and a planned unit development for 118th and Tennyson, reallocated money in the budget, voted on a loan agreement for water and wastewater utility and met with their bond counsel.

“Five of the seven were at their home locations and two were working at City Hall because of internet connectivity issues and so forth,” said Ryan Hegreness, Westminster’s Innovation and Communication Manager.

Atchison and Councilor John Voelz were in City Hall, in separate rooms.

Their March 26 meeting, which came hours after the state issued a stay at home order, had a less defined agenda. Councilors met to ask questions about COVID-19 and the city, county and state response to the virus and health department orders.

“During a time of crisis, our residents expect us to work for the good of the community and to rise above and deliver a strong, unified message,” Councilor Rich Seymour said. “I felt, as some of my other councilors did, disconnected. So the reason I wanted to have this meeting was to help us formulate good ides. When we work together, we are going to be better for our community.”

And while no members of the public attended, audio from the meeting and a computer presentation showing the agenda items was shown live on the city’s Youtube Channel, WestminsterCO. Councilors took questions via email, at PublicComment@cityofwestminster.us, the day of each meeting.

“If you watched on Youtube, you saw what councilors saw,” Hegreness said. “Everyone saw the slides but did not have face-to-face interaction. I was watching from home it looked like a regular meeting. It seemed like they were in the same room together.”

Councilors were scheduled for another special remote meeting March 30, the fifth Monday of the month when councilors normally do not meet.

“This meeting tonight is really a great effort and I appreciate those of you who called for it,” City Manager Don Tripp told councilors during the March 26 meeting. “I probably wouldn’t have chosen to put a meeting on the calendar right now, with everything going on. But I see it as being helpful and I hope we have a lot of listening in because there is great information being shared. And the more people know about what’s happening, the safer they are going to feel in our city.”

Mayor Herb Atchison signed an emergency declaration March 12, cancelling all city programs, activities and special events, closing city Recreation and other facilities as well as municipal court. The City Council met March 16, voting to extend that emergency declaration indefinitely. All Westminster libraries were closed and the outdoor book drops are closed as well.

City parks remained open to the public to visit until the state’s March 26 declaration. Parks, fields and city trails and open spaces can be used but playgrounds and other facilities like basketball and tennis courts are closed. Cities across Colorado have done much the same in an effort to keep people inside and slow spread of the disease.

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