In response to public outcry over the imposition of a stormwater fee on landowners in unincorporated Adams County, on April 1, 2013, the Adams County Board of County Commissioners passed a resolution creating the Stormwater Utility Task Force. A diverse group of 22 citizens were selected from people who answered the call for volunteers for the Task Force. The Task Force has been charged with developing recommendations to be given to the County Commissioners concerning alternatives to the fee as it is presently constituted. The County Commissioners placed no restrictions on the scope or content of the recommendations they expect.
I was selected to be the contract Task Force facilitator for its eight (and perhaps up to ten) two-hour meetings. The schedule for these meetings and the topics for each are given at the Adams County website given above. Two of the meetings have already occurred (on 5/22/13 and 6/12/13).
The first introductory meeting allowed the Task Force members to be greeted and then briefed by the County Commissioners on the expectations for the group. The members all introduced themselves, and I introduced myself to them as the facilitator of the Task Force. A discussion of the various members’ questions and concerns followed. I described the concept of consensus decision making to the group, and they agreed that they would use that method to arrive at group decisions. Then, the members considered a general set of twelve ground rules I proposed to them and discussed tailoring them specifically to this Task Force by adding a rule number thirteen about the role of non-member observers. The group arrived at a consensus for ground rule number thirteen (to be finalized at the second meeting).
The first thing the Task Force did at the second meeting was to ratify ground rule number thirteen, thus completing the adoption of the entire set of ground rules for their meetings to come. There was controversy concerning whether or not the County should continue to provide dinner at each meeting. So, I facilitated a discussion about this question. Although the group was not unanimous in its feeling on this matter, the overwhelming consensus was for the provision of dinner to continue. The rest of the meeting was devoted to presentations by guest speakers from the EPA and the Colorado Water Quality Control Division. I moderated the questions and answers during these presentations, recording them on a flip chart. Then, as is planned for every meeting, the group had a dialogue about what they had heard and what was to occur during the next meeting(s).
I will continue to facilitate the work of this Task Force during its meetings to come. I expect a challenging time when the group considers its recommendations in September. Group Facilitation of a public task force discussing a complex and controversial issue such as this is indeed a challenge, but it is one that I have met several times before in my career as a Group Facilitator. I look forward to the upcoming meetings and to assisting the members of this Task Force in reaching consensus on their recommendations. I commend the Adams County Commissioners and staff for their excellent judgment in seeking this type of public input on an issue that affects the lives and pocketbooks of all of their citizens.
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 articles: