Paonia trustees extended the town’s emergency disaster declaration, reviewed its meeting schedule, took a peek at street closures and approved a farmers’ market all during last month’s second meeting.
Trustees approved the disaster declaration extension during the March 23 meeting with little debate. The only concern was if the board could resend or change the declaration if it was no longer deemed necessary.
The emergency disaster declared was held over from last year and began on Jan. 1, 2021. It was set to expire on March 31 but is now extended to Dec. 31, 2021. According to the document, the declaration can be extended, rescinded, or amended by the town council at any time.
Trustee Dave Knutson introduced discussion on changing the town council meetings from every two weeks to every three weeks. Knutson said he was concerned about getting information into the bi-weekly meeting packets and the short turnaround for staff.
“It seems like you just finish a meeting, finish getting the minutes done and boom, you’re preparing for the next meeting. It’s just a pretty intense schedule,” he told the board.
Trustee Karen Budinger said other towns have introduced the three week meeting schedule and found them to be less stressful while increasing community participation. She also mentioned the possibility of work sessions between the meetings and providing time for staff to take vacations. Trustee Bill Bear voiced concern about overloading the meetings if there were less meetings per month.
Bo Nerlin, town attorney, voiced that he was in favor of a longer turn around from a staff perspective. He recommended that trustees look at a possible change to the code or give it a trial period to try it out.
Mayor Mary Bacharan said her big concern was disbursements that take place every two weeks. Budinger said that other towns have found a way to have the disbursements and payroll taken care of in the off weeks.
Nerlin recommended that the board keep its current schedule for April and then make changes in May, if approved by the board.
One citizen vehemently opposed the recommendation, blasting the board for wanting to lessen its workload.
“If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen,” she said. “That is for the board and it’s also for the staff. I think you would be doing the public a great disservice by this ... you can’t be doing business in the work sessions, that will just not work.”
Following the public comment, Bachran directed the town attorney to draft a document in regards to changing the board meeting schedule for further discussion.
Town Administrator Corinne Ferguson introduced discussion on street closures and the need to review policy and regulations.
“The reason that I requested to bring this before the board was right now it’s pretty wide as far as administrative approval for street closures, specifically Grand Avenue, our core commercial area,” she said.
Ferguson said that the town typically only sees a few street closures a year; however, in the past few years there’s been more talk about using the closures to invigorate commerce. More recently, due to COVID-19, the requests for street closures have increased dramatically.
While the demand is up, not all businesses are in favor of street closures, Ferguson said. Bear agreed saying he like would to see applicants come before the board for approval and allow input from other businesses. Knutson said some of the restaurants would like to use the street areas for evening dining.
Ferguson said she would like more direction from the board since the code does allow for administrative approvals for closures less than five hours. With multiple requests, Ferguson could approve them all now but requested more direction from the board due to the increased number of requests.
“I just really wanted to bring to the attention of the board the change, the shift that we are seeing when it comes to Grand Avenue activities and find out from the board if they need to modify or say ‘no’ we’re good to go ... one or the other,” she said.
Bear recommended taking the issue to a work session for further discussion. Bachran said part of the discussion comes down to having the cooperation of downtown businesses and more feedback.
Trustees approved a seasonal farmers’ market for the town park beginning May through October. The popular Arbol Farm Market was approved after council members voiced concerns about maintaining the park’s grass.
Vendors will have to set up on the asphalt strip in the shade and off the grass. The market is scheduled to begin May 18 and run until Oct. 12 every Tuesday evening from 5 to 8 p.m. The market will provide a small group of musicians.
Alicia Michelsen, The Learning Council, spoke about how the market provides local-sourced produce for meals to the community. The market accepts SNAP and Double-up bucks to help low income families.
“We support farmers without food programs so, that means that we pay market price to our local farmers and then provide the food on the gift model to the community including free delivery.”
The next town council meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on April 13 in person at town hall.