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Barbecue tour proving a success in connecting residents

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By Jeremy Johnson

FREDERICK — Frederick resident Berk Charlton likes the personal touch of the town’s summer-long community barbecues, an event that started last year and is continuing this season through Sept. 15 at various locations.

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For example, whereas a resident gets about five minutes to speak publicly at city council meetings, informal discussions around the grill generally last at least as long as it takes to finish a hamburger and a soda pop.

“We’ve attended a couple of city council meetings in the past, but this is a lot more personal than that,” said Charlton, whose family lives in the Eagle Valley neighborhood where the June 16 event was held. “Here, you can have an actual conversation. And I think that is a great thing.”

So do the town’s board members and organizers of the corporate-sponsored event, who see the community barbecues as a way to find out what the town’s residents really want out of their officials and neighborhoods.

“This is the second year we’ve been doing this,” said Rafer Burnham, of Frederick’s board of trustees. “And it was so effective last year, we decided we needed to do it again because the biggest (challenge for) the board has always been getting information out to and from the residents. 

“This seems to be an easier way to open that channel of communications than asking residents to come to board meetings,” he added. “Apparently that’s too formal, too ostentatious.”

Town Clerk Meghan Martinez said the events — funded last year by taxpayers but this year by Stapp Toyota of Frederick — act as a valuable tool for city planners, who use the feedback they get from residents to gauge interest in future projects. For instance, Martinez said, at the current slate of events, organizers are handing out surveys from the town’s Art Commission regarding future community art projects.

“This gives us a chance to get some feedback from residents on what kid of art pieces they might want to see, or what things they are looking for in their neighborhoods,” she said. “It’s all about getting that feedback from residents and then starting conversations and keeping the lines of communication open.”

Interacting with residents has become a top priority for officials of Frederick, a town referred to by one barbecue patron as a “bedroom community” where residents often leave in the morning for work, go straight home at night and have little time in between to be active with current community events.

Along with the community barbecues, the town also hosts a weekly Farmer’s Market all summer long, with both events leading up to the town’s trademark Miners Day event in late September.

City planner Chris Kennedy said the events are an imperative component of growth in a town that continues to see steady increases in population and building permits. Kennedy, who worked in Greeley during the recession, when there was little growth anywhere, said Frederick’s population even then was growing between 3 and 5 percent and is up to 7 percent growth now. For a town of about 10,000 residents, Kennedy said the 200-plus building permits issued each year is a positive sign.

“Frederick is a nice little town with lots and lots of potential,” Kennedy said. “And so it’s really invested its community outreach department, which is almost as extensive as our planning department. You don’t normally see that, so that’s a testament to our town, I think.”

And the residents’ investment in the town is evident by the early success of the community barbecues, which have drawn between two- and three-dozen people per event so far. Although, Martinez knows they’re not coming just to chat.

“Of course, the grub is great, too,” she added.

 

Contact Staff Writer Jeremy Johnson at 303-659-2522, ext. 217, or jjohnson@metrowestnewspapers.com.