Aurora City Council ends disaster declaration, keeps virtual meetings

Mayor Mike Coffman in his city hall office conducting a virtual city council meeting online June 2, 2020. The meetings are conducted with most members and city officials remotely as part of the pandemic crisis. SCREEN SHOT BY SENTINEL COLORADO

AURORA | City lawmakers ended a two-and-a-half month long disaster declaration on Monday, but decided to continue meeting remotely for the foreseeable future. 

Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly enacted the disaster declaration on March 18 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Tri-County Health Department, there have been 3,663 confirmed cases of the virus in the city. There have likely been hundreds more unconfirmed cases, public health officials say. 

Twombly recommended to council members that the declaration end now that the number of coronavirus cases have significantly dropped and state health officials have moved to a “safer-at-home” model allowing many businesses to re-open with social distancing guidelines.

City council meetings will remain virtual, however. Lawmakers decided to continue meeting via video chat for now. City Clerk Steve Ruger said city staff are working on allowing the public to participate in meetings in real time instead of their current, temporary process. Since the pandemic crisis, public comments were required to be sent in electronically so the clerk could read them aloud. Now, Ruger said, the ability to “patch the public in” is available, so members of the public can make comments live.

That system should be available by the beginning of July, Ruger said. 

Council members Nicole Johnston and Alison Coombs encouraged that accessibility continue to be an option when the body decides to return to the dais. 

Ruger said staff are already considering options for the future.

During the Monday meeting, council members agreed to fund to fund two outreach workers who would work specifically with victims of assault, stabbings and gun crimes.