Town board retreats to Loveland to discuss business

By Rudy Hemmann
The Surveyor

The Berthoud Board of Trustees attended a two-day retreat on Oct. 28 and 29 at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Loveland. Heather Bergman of the Peak Facilitation Group facilitated the event.

Town staff was invited to attend the first day of the retreat, with all of the department heads taking advantage of the invitation.

The only staff members to attend the second day were Town Administrator Mike Hart, Town Clerk Alisa Darrow and Slate Communications representative, Claire Bouchard.

The first exercise Bergman had the board members do on day one of the session was to give a brief explanation of “why they decided to serve the community” (as a trustee).

Items mentioned were: frustration with the amount of disinformation being spread by some individuals during previous elections, frustration with previous town board following a citizen-participation episode, not following the land use plan in the late 1990s, having the town be influenced by a small vocal group of citizens, accepting what was done by previous boards – not go back and try to change decisions that had been made, belief the town should be run more like a business than it has in the past.

In the next exercise the trustees were asked to give their hopes and fears for the Berthoud community in 20 years.

Hopes for the town included; securing more open space to limit sprawl, attracting retail businesses to the downtown area that are appropriate to that area, successfully preserving the old town residential area by rebuilding infrastructure.

Fears for the community include; repeating the mistakes of other area communities, bringing retail businesses into the perimeter of town that will choke the life out of the downtown area. The trustees did not keep their (financial) expectations realistic.

The trustees were afforded the opportunity to discuss the items brought up by others or to ask for clarification of points made.

A suggestion concerned the old town retail area and a certain number of residences around the retail area and designating the area as “The Village” with its own design standards, etc.

Rick Werner, president and CEO of Upstate Colorado Economic Development, gave a PowerPoint presentation which was centered on economic development.

Tami Tanoue, general counsel / deputy executive director for the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency (CIRSA), gave a presentation titled Ethics, Liability and Best Practices for Elected Officials.

Her presentation drew the most questions from the trustees. The question came up concerning how many trustees gathered together at one place at the same time does it take to constitute a meeting. Her answer was “three.” (This is not to say three or more trustees cannot be at a social gathering or other event. It just means they need to refrain from engaging in a discussion of town business.)

According to Tanoue, the number “three” also applies to email and other social media “meetings” which may be held “out of sight of the public.”

She stressed town business should always be conducted in open meetings, and email communications should be limited to information gathering. Tanoue stated there is a fine line between the dissemination of information and lobbying for or against an issue.

Another point made by Tanoue was, once a decision is made by the board, even though it may be on a narrow split decision, the members of the board need to speak with one voice. Having one or two members who take it upon themselves to be critical of the majority’s decision does far more harm than good, according to Tanoue.

On day two of the retreat the trustees ranked the importance of issues they had offered up on Friday afternoon. The following three items garnered the most votes: affordable housing in Berthoud, getting recreational marijuana on the town ballot, a youth/senior center, and support for veterans.

The group of items with the next highest importance, according to the trustees: quiet zone – free from train horn noise, “Village” concept for old town.

Hart then presented a list containing more than 50 items town staff was already working on. Hart’s list included items which ranged from a recreation center to long-term revenue strategies, from master-plan updates to special-events parking, street and sidewalk maintenance 10-year plan, to traffic control signage.

Bergman led the trustees in discussions of how to better communicate with town staff as well as the residents of the community.

Each of the trustees was given the opportunity to share their thoughts concerning the retreat. At press time these responses were received.

Mayor Steve Mulvihill stated,

“I was very pleased with the retreat. It was conducted very professionally and addressed many of the issues that the board deals with on an ongoing basis regarding the town. The meeting allowed the board and the town staff to discuss the agendas and the challenges facing the town for the foreseeable future. The ability for us as a group to share our priorities, our visions and our concerns was very helpful. We were able to set some priorities and to agree on some process for prioritizing and conducting town business. It was great to see the board, as a group, have the same or similar goals in mind for the town. I feel confident the board will be able to move forward together to work for the benefit of all the residents and the town.”

Mayor Pro-tem Chris Buckridge wrote,

“From my perspective the retreat was a resounding success. The mediator and presenters were well qualified and very effective. Staff and the board all took the retreat seriously, were honest, open, and didn’t shy away from touchy subjects. The result was a good understanding of the board’s and staff’s roles and responsibilities, agreements on the best ways to communicate with each other and the community, a clearer focus on the strategic direction of the town, and an agreement on the ways the board will handle protocol and process in doing the town’s business. We are all in a better position to be as effective as possible.”