I am continuing to facilitate the meetings of the Adams County Stormwater Utility Task Force. This diverse group of 20+ citizens volunteered to serve on this Task Force charged with developing recommendations to be given to the County Commissioners concerning alternatives to the stormwater utility fee as it is presently constituted. The County Commissioners placed no restrictions on the scope or content of the recommendations they expect.
The first introductory meeting of the Task Force was held on May 22, 2013 and was described in my June 24th article introducing the Task Force and my role as its facilitator. Since then, five more meetings have been held at intervals during this past summer. Although various issues have arisen and been discussed by the Task Force members during those meetings, the primary purpose of the first six meetings was to provide relevant information on a wide variety of topics to allow the members to be able to make informed decisions on potential recommendations.
Last Wednesday, on September 11, 2013, the Task Force met for the first time to consider potential recommendations. There was something of a sense of urgency, since this was the first of only two meetings set aside for this task. Even so, I thought it best to use a measured approach and told the Task Force that, under my contract, Adams County had retained me to facilitate as many as ten meetings – so they potentially had three more meetings to complete their deliberations, rather than just one.
During the first six meetings, it had become obvious to me that there were a wide variety of opinions among the members of the Task Force on everything from what the Task Force was about, to what the essential issues were, to what appropriate recommendations might look like. The universe of possibilities seemed very large. So, I decided on a strategy to reduce the size of that universe of possible outcomes.
I started by asking the group to try to decide on facts, concepts, issues, etc. about which they agreed and others about which they disagreed. This established some of the parameters for agreement, right at the outset (and, of course, served to let the members begin to think about the gaps that would have to be bridged to get to a set of final recommendations). The “agreement” ended up just as long as the “disagreement” list. After a break, the group reconvened to brainstorm a list of areas within which recommendations would need to be made – no matter what the specific recommendations turned out to be. I made sure that the discussion did not digress into specific proposals within those areas. That discussion was reserved for the following meeting(s). This discussion was completed when no one could come up with any further areas (although I made sure that everyone knew that other areas could be added in the future). I congratulated everyone for their work, and the meeting was adjourned.
Before these exercises, the Task Force members were not sure if they could agree on anything, and the universe of possible solutions seemed enormous. At the conclusion of the meeting, the group members knew that they already agreed on some issues, were clear on where they did not yet agree, and could see that the universe within which they would be making decisions was not boundless. It now remains to be seen if this will allow the group to reach consensus in the time remaining to them.
For more information about the Adams County stormwater fee, the conflict about it and the development of the Stormwater Utility Task Force, please refer to the following Denver Post article: