Steamboat Springs City Council plans to start meeting more often
Steamboat Springs — The Steamboat Springs City Council is planning to add more meetings to its schedule to invite more public discussion on some of the city’s more complex and controversial issues.
By adding a monthly work session on specific topics ranging from bus routes to downtown parking, the council is also hoping to arrive at more informed decisions.
“I think over the years we’ve been all about business without enough discourse,” longtime councilman Walter Magill said Wednesday. “We’re always going right to the decision-making process without making time to take some of these (big topics) outside of a voting area and really doing a discussion.”
Magill and other members of the council see work sessions as a way to have more candid and thoughtful conversations with city staff and the public ahead of the meetings where the council members make motions and vote on items.
Council members also expect they will dive into more research and background information at the less formal work sessions, which could last up to four hours.
The council currently meets during two regular meetings each month.
As an example of a flaw in the council’s current meeting setup, Magill pointed to a meeting last year where the council nearly voted to install parking meters downtown at a meeting without much public debate or deliberation ahead of the spontaneous vote.
“It makes us a better community to take more time to talk about issues,” Magill said.
The council will hold its first work session Oct. 13 to discuss how it wants to work with its city manager in the future following the recent departure of Deb Hinsvark.
“I think people are going to be really excited about this opportunity,” councilman Tony Connell said of the work sessions. “I think (the work sessions) will also help the new council members get up to speed, be more informed, and help them think more strategically and less operationally.”
Connell said the extra meetings will require more of a time commitment from staff and the council, but he feels the sessions will ultimately make the regular meetings more efficient.
Future work session topics floated by council members so far include affordable housing, the transit system and transit taxes, lift ticket taxes, police and fire department staffing and operations and downtown parking.
Council’s desire to host more work sessions comes as two recent surveys show the public and city staff’s confidence in council’s leadership is low.
The 2015 and 2014 city employee satisfaction surveys showed a majority of employees do not feel the city council has been “providing the strategic direction needed to keep the city organization strong.”
Employees collectively ranked the council’s strategic direction a 1.64 out of 5.
It was the lowest score given on the survey that was conducted to gauge staff’s satisfaction on everything from their compensation to their relationship with their supervisors.
In addition, a community survey recently filled out by more than 1,200 residents revealed the public’s level of confidence in the council was tepid.
Only 24 percent of survey respondents who live in the city limits rated their overall confidence in the city council as good or excellent.
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