It could be quite some time before residents and citizens get to attend live City Council meetings in person, but a handful of staff and councilors were scheduled to be in City Hall Oct. 19. …
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It could be quite some time before residents and citizens get to attend live City Council meetings in person, but a handful of staff and councilors were scheduled to be in City Hall Oct. 19.
Councilors discussed their plans to reopen City Hall and as new state health data showed COVID-19 spiking in both Adams and Jefferson Counties.
Councilors said they were fine meeting in person Oct. 19, the first time they’d met in person since COVID-19 struck Colorado and the state declared a stay-at-home order in March.
But public attendance at the meetings is still off limits and City Hall remains mostly closed to the public.
“We opened City Hall (Oct. 12) to employees only as a first week’s step,” City Manager Don Tripp said.” We wanted to become acclimated by bringing some people back. We are doing it a 30 percent level, a level I am very comfortable with. It was a day of great apprehension for the people who came in the building. I greeted them as they came in and I talked to a number them as they came in. I think we will get used to that work and I think it will get better going forward.”
Most City Hall employees and citizens have grown accustomed to using virtual meeting software and social media, he said. He said he’s comfortable allowing some citizens to return and Assistant City Manager Barb Opie they’d like time to get staff acclimated before bringing residents in.
“What we had originally proposed was to come in next week and allow council and staff a few weeks to get comfortable with the protocols and make sure it’s working properly,” Opie said.
Tripp said councilors and citizens should expect to see a mix of virtual and live testimony at City Council meetings for quite some time, going forward.
“Some of the people that you might see from staff will not be able to risk being in the room, because have been told not to because of their own health conditions,” Tripp said.” We’ll have back-up people to serve you, but I’d ask you consider delaying for a bit and allow us to start slowly and allow us to have meetings with just you and the staff for a while.”
Reports from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment showed testing results of COVID-19 spiking in Adams County, especially the western portion that includes Westminster. As of Oct. 15 Adams County had a rate of 313 instances of COVID-19 for 100,000 people. That prompted Tri-County Health to issue a new public health order for the county, limiting indoor gatherings to no more than five people and outdoor gatherings to no more than ten.
Mayor Herb Atchison said restrictions could be more severe if the numbers don’t decrease.
My concern is that we are seeing our numbers exponentially continue to go up,” Atchison said.” If we hit the 350 mark and stay their for two weeks, we are looking at the potential for a new stay at home order in Adams County, and that will affect us greatly.”
The city will comply with Adams County’s plan to blunt that spike, he said.
“This is not Westminster issue by itself,” Atchison said.” We are following the mandates coming down to us though the health departments, from the state. We don’t get to choose what we comply with. These are state mandates.”
When the city reopens meetings to the public, COVID-19 protocols will be the rule. Opie said resident temperatures will be checked before entering the building, the number of public attendees at any given time to 16 persons in the City Council Chambers and 16 persons in the City Hall lobby. They’ll be required to wear face coverings at all times.
The city is encouraging residents to participate virtually as as much as possible. That includes emailing comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, leaving a voice mail message for the City Council at 303 706-3111 or registering to speak via the city’s online platform by email to email@example.com. Whether it’s an email, voice mail or registering to speak, they must be completed by noon on the day of the meeting.
Councilor Anita Seitz challenged Westminster staff to allow residents to submit their own video comments to testify.
“I’m nervous that we won’t be able to accommodate the full amount of the public that wants to come in,” Seitz said.” I don’t want people to feel disenfranchised or unheard because they are frustrated with that.”
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