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Not your average city meeting

Nov 20, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

I've heard a lot of negative comments stemming from the Oct. 9 work session at Riverton City Hall.

The meeting was advertised as an opportunity to talk about local roads and prioritize which streets need the most work in town. But instead of the city's regular work session format, which often involves long, drawn-out discussions about minute details of day-to-day municipal operations, this meeting was organized like a game involving every person who showed up in the council chambers that night.

Public services director Bill Urbigkit gave each attendee a bag filled with $1 in change and gave a pile of city maps to each member of the Riverton City Council. After outlining a list of 21 problem roads, he told members of the public to approach the council dais and put their money where their mouths would have been at any other city meeting.

As a regular observer of council gatherings, I have to say I was entertained. I can't remember a work session wherein every single person got out of his or her chair and participated. For 10 minutes, the council room was filled with chatter while people perused the city maps, placing a quarter here and a nickel there depending on their preferences.

Jokes were exchanged while stories were shared, and it seemed to me like everyone was having a good time.

Best of all, the city council got a definitive idea of the public's opinion when it comes to infrastructure needs in Riverton -- when the coins were counted up, it was pretty obvious which street is in most need of upgrades, at least according to the people who attended the work session.

I wonder what critics would rather have seen during the meeting. A lot of griping and groaning about potholes and cracked curbs? To me, it seems like the loudest and maddest person in the room usually gets his or her opinion across in that kind of setting, while the more demure or reserved resident sits quietly in the corner.

The city avoided being lambasted by people with pet projects, while simultaneously offering less outgoing folks the opportunity to put their two cents in, so to speak.

I understand that Mr. Urbigkit was in charge of planning for the meeting, so I applaud him for taking a risk. Considering his decades of experience in city government, I'm sure Bill knew ahead of time that some people might consider the format disrespectful or gimmicky. But he went ahead anyway, likely using that same experience to assure himself that the council members would be pleased with the information gathered as a result of the meeting.

Judging by the smiles on their faces during and after the evening of one-on-one constituent conversations, I'd say they were.

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