Commissioners launch 'citizen input meetings'

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By AJ Vicens

The Jefferson County commissioners launched a series of public meetings last week dubbed "citizen input meetings," aimed at interacting with the public and allowing for extensive question-and-answer sessions with county officials and staff.

The first stop on the tour was The Peak Recreation Center in South Jeffco, where the commissioners hosted about 20 area residents.

"We just want to keep you up to date on what we have going on in the county," said Commissioner Kevin McCasky. "We really want to get your feedback."

The commissioners took turns giving residents updates on the state of the county's finances, the county's airport and the Jeffco Open Space program. The commissioners talked up the major initiatives they're pursuing, including the creation of a toll road through the northwest part of the Denver area and a program to allow county properties to be used to showcase green technologies like wind energy and a film put on windows to generate electricity.

The commissioners told residents that the county's health department received $212,000 for the H1N1 flu vaccine, and Jeffco Human Services Director Lynn Johnson explained that referrals for child protective services are up 40 percent over this time last year.

The situation was more of a two-way conversation, as audience members were given remote devices that allowed them to vote on various questions posed by the commissioners.

The questions started simple. Have you ever accessed the county's website at www.jeffco.us? Fifteen of the 20 residents said they had. Did you find what you were looking for? Twelve said they had.

Then came a series of agree/disagree questions on whether the residents were satisfied with the website (most were) and whether they wanted the county to do more social networking on websites like Facebook and Twitter (most didn't).

The questions then turned more policy oriented, with queries about economic development and transportation issues. Before each question was asked, one of the commissioners would cite a projection for the future geared toward that question. For instance, McCasky told the group that the population of Denver will grow over the next decade, and then asked whether they agreed that transportation funding in the county should be increased. The residents were divided on the issue.

The county asked the attendees which service they'd be most willing to forgo if spending had to be drastically cut: law enforcement, libraries, social services, snow plows and road maintenance, health care, and building new roads. The residents they'd cut building new roads first. From the same list, the residents said they'd be least likely to reduce law enforcement services.

The residents said they'd like to increase law enforcement services, funding for parks and open space and funding for social services. They said they'd leave snow-plowing services on major roads and in the neighborhoods and road maintenance at current levels.

The commissioners are planning three more meetings: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at the Belmar Library in Lakewood; 7 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 2 at the Evergreen Lake House; and 6:30 to 8 p.m. Nov. 4 at the Standley Lake Library in Arvada.

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com.