Keep our citizens informed

In June, The SUN became aware that the Facilities and Campaign Committee had been formed by the county to take a look at last November’s failed ballot issue for a new jail and advise the commissioners about changes to make regarding the proposed facility.
The advisory group would also advocate for the new jail as a campaign committee.
The county advertised earlier this year for citizens to volunteer and serve on that committee.
When a report was given in a county meeting on June 26, The SUN became aware that the committee had held three or four meetings, some of them in private homes. Those meetings were not properly noticed public meetings as required by Colorado’s Open Meetings Law.
We brought up the matter with one committee member who said he would address the group about our concerns.
After that conversation, we took the issue to Archuleta County Commissioner Ron Maez who agreed that the meetings should be open to the public. He added that other advisory committees to the commissioners should also be noticing their meetings.
We commend Maez and the jail advisory committee for taking a stand and working toward open and transparent government. We wish more public officials would do the same.
This brings us to issues we have about how Archuleta County notices public meetings. It’s not sufficient for the county to only post a meeting notice on its bulletin board.
This week, The SUN received letters to the editor from Arboles residents who have significant concerns about the number of well pads allowed on properties outside their front doors. Can you imagine those Arboles residents having to drive the 30-40 minute trip to downtown Pagosa Springs just to find out if the county is having a meeting about those well pads?
This is the 21st century. The county should post all of its meeting notices online for the convenience of residents and property owners.
Additionally, the county should follow the law about maintaining a “Sunshine List.”
The Colorado Open Meetings Law requires government entities to also maintain lists of persons who request to be notified of meetings or discussions on special topics and provide reasonable advance notice.
Oftentimes county personnel have gone out of their way to make sure The SUN is aware of public meetings, but that doesn’t always happen. The SUN has requested multiple times to be notified of all meetings of the county in accordance with state law.
Just last Tuesday, a reporter stumbled upon a jail meeting that we hadn’t been informed of. We discovered the meeting had been noticed on the county’s bulletin board, but no one had taken time to let us know as we had requested.
We’d like to see the county set its standards a little higher by posting all meetings online, on the bulletin board and via email to those who request notification.
It’s unfortunate that not all of the jail committee’s meetings have been held in accordance with Colorado’s Open Meetings Law. The jail is a critical issue in this county and the county can’t afford to lose at the polls again this November.
There should not have been any meetings concerning the jail held behind closed doors.

This story was posted on August 2, 2018.