Vail, Eagle County return to in-person public meetings
Space will be very limited in both Vail's town hall and the commissioners' meeting room
After several virtual meetings, the Vail Town Council next week returns to the council chambers in town hall. But that meeting will be different, and more sparse.
Thanks to social distancing requirements, attendance in the meeting room will be limited to the seven council members and no more than nine people at a time in the meeting room. That’s going to limit participation largely to applicants and town staff.
“There’s enough space for those obligated to be there,” Vail Town Manager Scott Robson said.
Residents and others who want to provide in-person comments will be asked to line up in the hallway outside the room — properly socially distanced, of course. A live video feed of the meeting will be provided there.
In the room, Plexiglas dividers are placed between council members, so they don’t have to wear face coverings throughout several hours of meetings. The podium to address the council and its microphone will be wiped down after each person speaks. Staff members who may be called on for questions will watch the live stream from outside the meeting room and come in if needed.
For those who can’t attend the meetings, meetings will continue to be streamed on both Zoom and on High Five Access Media. People can also submit comments via email.
Vail Town Manager Scott Robson said staff this week conducted a successful exercise to make sure all the essential technology works as it should.
While the council is getting back together, Robson said the distancing requirements are likely to remain for the foreseeable future.
“It’s just going to be a necessity,” Robson said.
Controversial matters can draw dozens of people to the room. And the council has delayed a couple of matters to ensure they can hear in-person input on those issues.
The Eagle County Commissioners hold their meetings in a much larger room in the county administration building in Eagle. That room has seen crowds in the hundreds for controversial matters.
With social distancing requirements, people will be required to email their intent to come to a meeting. Attendance will be limited to about 36 people, plus staff and applicants.
In a Thursday on-line press session, Commissioner Matt Scherr said one of the goals of the new in-person meeting rules is to provide an “equal opportunity” for comment. If those asking to attend a meeting exceeds the allowable capacity, Scherr said public attendance will be shut down and people will be asked to submit comments via email.
Scherr said “it’s a big deal” for the board to get back to the idea of public participation.
Vail Town Council member Jen Mason agreed. Mason said she’s “grateful” that the Zoom streaming technology has been available for meetings.
“But being in person is so much better,” Mason added. “You can have more discussions.”
Mason said she’s happy to be going back to in-person meetings, although she’s a bit nervous about safety.
“I’m happy we can engage the public again,” she said. “They’ll know their voice is being heard.”
And the current technology, like everything else about the past few months, is subject to adjustment as needed.
Robson said the idea behind the in-person meetings is to find a balance between being more open to the public and public health orders and safety requirements.
“That’s why we’re creating multiple platforms,” Robson said. “We’ll adjust things for the June 16 meeting as necessary.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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