facemasks

Melissa Harris and her daughter Zylah sport homemade facemasks.Telluride Town Council extended an ordinance requiring wearing a facemask in enclosed public spaces and on public transportation at its Tuesday meeting. (Image courtesy of San Miguel County)

Telluride Town Council voted unanimously to extend an emergency ordinance that requires using facemasks in indoor, public places. The previous ordinance, passed by council May 12, was set to expire midnight Tuesday.

The new ordinance, set to sunset midnight, June 30, is in line with current state public health orders, which expire June 30 said town attorney Kevin Geiger. San Miguel County public health orders, issued Monday, expire June 26.

“It’s reasonable to extend this out until at least June 30,” Geiger said.

This latest version of Telluride’s facemask ordinance remains mostly the same as the previous version, which requires wearing a face covering in enclosed, public spaces and on public transportation. One notable change includes an additional exception that aligns with current state public health orders that allowed for the opening of dine-in restaurants at reduced seating capacity. That exception allows diners to remove facemasks while seated at their table. However, diners are also required, when moving around the restaurant or entering or exiting, to wear a facemask. Geiger stressed that all restaurant employees must wear a facemask at all times while working.

Public support for extending the facemask requirement was evident, both in letters submitted to council and comments taken during Tuesday’s meeting.

“Since it appears COVID-19 will be with us for a while, please consider the possibility of turning this into a regular town regulation to be in effect for periods where the State of Colorado or San Miguel County recommend face coverings,” wrote Greg Craig. “That would eliminate the need to revisit this topic at regular intervals and codify it for future town councils. It should be noted that many more Colorado communities have joined Telluride in this face covering requirement, including Carbondale and Basalt.”

Theresa Koenigsknecht, the director of programs and exhibits at the Telluride Historical Museum, also spoke in favor of extending the facemask requirement.

“This is one tool to help prevent a second wave,” she said. “This comes from working in a small space and from a historical perspective.”

In her letter to council, Judy Haas not only voiced her support, but floated an idea to help communicate the ordinance to summer visitors.

“Have lightweight jackets or vests embroidered with ‘Ambassador Town of Telluride,’” Haas suggested. “Ask for a few volunteer from the residents who live here to wander around the town and Town Park … or anywhere people are enjoying the outdoors. Ambassadors will introduce themselves and answer questions along with friendly reminders of our ordinances.”

Further discussion revolved around the current penalties, which top at $1,000, a customary fine for other town ordinances. The fine is rarely levied and is a discretionary measure that can be decided by the municipal judge.

“I think you are sending the wrong and overly punitive message by including the $1,000 number,” Craig continued in his letter to council. “It just gets reported, and talked about, within and outside the community, as ‘You’ll get fined $1,000 if you don’t wear a mask.’”

Craig suggested setting the penalty at $250.

Council eventually settled on keeping the current penalty language as written in the emergency ordinance, and voted unanimously to enact it.

Also during Tuesday’s regular meeting, council unanimously voted to create a pickup spot on South Mahoney Drive for services delivering prepaid and pre-ordered goods, such as groceries. Businesses availing themselves of the spot — located in the former bus turnout east of the Shandoka parking lot — can apply for a permit to use the space. Four permits (one per day) will be issued by the town. Applications are available beginning today (Wednesday).

Council member Tom Watkinson said one potential user of the new, designated spot said it was not ideal, and though council members were sympathetic, said that flexibility on the part of vendors would be required.

“Vendors and customer need to adjust,” said council member Jessie Rae Arguelles.

Council member Geneva Shaunette agreed.

“It’s not our job to completely create space … specific to individual businesses,” she said. “We can’t create our policies specific to one or two businesses.”

One member of the public, Kathrine Warren, expressed concerns that the neighborhood is busy and already somewhat congested.

“I have some concerns it might not be the best spot,” she said.

Council decided to move forward and possibly revisit alternate locations after the summer season concludes.

“This is better than nothing,” said council member Adrienne Christy. “For now it’s the best we can do.”

The resolution passed unanimously.

For complete information and to view town council packet materials, go to telluride-co.gov.