In a special meeting via Zoom conferencing on Monday, March 23, the Chaffee Board of County Commissioners approved new procedures under which it can call an emergency meeting with less than 24 hours notice. The procedures they adopted are very similar to those emergency procedures adopted or being adopted by multiple Colorado counties in response to the public health emergency created by the coronavirus known as COVID-19.

Chaffee Board of County Commissioners, left to right: Keith Baker, Greg Felt and Rusty Granzella. Photo by Jan Wondra.

“We realized that we didn’t have a procedure in place that allowed the board to call an emergency meeting with less than 24 hour’s notice,” said Chaffee County Attorney Jenny Davis. “This applies to the Board of County Commissioners and to the Board of Health. It allows for any member of either of those two boards, the county administrator, the county attorney, or the head of Public Health to be able to call a meeting with less than 24 hour’s notice.”

The new measures include provision that notice be provided to each member, and allows for the emergency meeting to be held in person, telephone or electronically, at any location as necessary. The emergency meetings will be required to have minutes taken or audio recorded, with any action taken at the meeting required to be ratified at the next regular meeting.

Commissioners expressed great sensitivity to the need for meetings to be transparent, and to assure that establishing such protocol would not be misused by future boards. They discussed the definition of “emergency” [the state’s emergency definition is “an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action.”]

“They aren’t secretive meetings … when we establish this, we only discuss the topic, we don’t let folks add stuff to it, correct?” clarified Commissioner Keith Baker.

“I’d want it to be very clear that this is related to public health and safety,” said Commissioner Rusty Granzella. “Something like this is only in circumstances that include a combination of unforeseen circumstances” that are threats to the health, welfare and safety” of county residents. based on how the statute defines emergency.”

Davis explained that the wording of the new Chaffee resolution is very similar to the emergency protocol adopted by the Town of Nederland, Colorado. “An example of the case for immediate action would be something like – ‘we’ve had 100 cases overnight ofCOVID-19 and it requires this board to take urgent action’,”explained Davis.

Another future action step before the Board of County Commissioners will be the development and adoption of a county succession plan – which would apply in extreme emergency situations, in case one or more of the commissioners were incapacitated, to ensure leadership continuity.

“If we’re in the situation like now where the landscape is changing everyday and we don’t want to use the emergency meeting – it makes sense to schedule a few meetings between now and April 7,” commented Chaffee Chair Greg Felt.

Commissioners settled on notifying the public now of these three special meeting times for the next week (which may or may not be required). All would be conducted via Zoom conferencing:

Thursday, March 26 3 p.m.: https://zoom.us/j/109079543

Friday March 27 – TBD either before or after the 12:30 p.m. public health town hall: https://zoom.us/j/109079543

Tuesday March 31 3 p.m. https://zoom.us/j/109079543