signs

A host of new, educational signs will be prevalent in town, reminding locals and visitors of the best practices for fighting the spread of COVID-19. (Courtesy photo)

Telluride Town Council unanimously approved the extension of the emergency ordinance that requires face coverings to be worn inside public establishments and public transportation. The COVID-19 pandemic-driven measure was expanded to include bars, though Governor Jared Polis announced Tuesday such establishment must close to in-person business over the next 48 hours for 30 days as there has been an uptick in cases across the state.

A motion to include the addition of further recommendations that facemasks be worn outside, as well, if six-foot physical distancing could not be maintained was discussed and made, but ultimately failed when council member Lars Carlson voted against it, citing the inability to enforce that inclusion.

The discussion leading up to the eventual extension of the ordinance was, as Mayor DeLanie Young said, “lively.” Young and council member Geneva Shaunette were keen to strengthen the wording to protect public safety, primarily Telluride’s frontline workers who run greater risks of exposure, particularly as visitors flood Telluride. Young said the public input she had received indicated locals are concerned about lax enforcement. But Carlson said he’d only heard positive feedback from citizens and resisted making the ordinance tighter.

“We’re trying to become a police state and we don’t need to be,” he said.

But Shaunette wanted to see an ordinance that supported current public health orders.

“It makes sense to make laws that go along with our public health orders,” she said.

Public comment focused on enforcement, or a perceived lack thereof. Elena Levin voiced her support for the additional recommendation of outdoor facemask use if a six-foot distance could not be maintained. She recounted incidents of pushback from customers within her Main Street business — Ghost Town — when asked to keep six feet away from her and her employees.

“The education of mask-wearing falls on the service industry, and it’s exhausting,” Levin told council. “(Non-compliance) puts my staff in jeopardy.”

Matt Lynch, a local who is immune-compromised, also expressed his concern that for a town that was rigorously locked down since mid-March it seemed odd to not want to make face covering laws tighter. He also lamented the lack of enforcement.

“I’m not seeing any code enforcement,” Lynch said. “I’m not seeing any of that. I just don’t understand how our town was in lockdown and now we’ve got people from Texas, Arizona, Chicago … people coming from everywhere. It’s a little concerning.”

Telluride Arts Executive Director Kate Jones suggested hiring Telluride Theatre actors as educational ambassadors as a solution and aid to the Telluride Marshal’s Department. Her organization is behind the Friday and Saturday evening live music events on Colorado Avenue.

“We could use a little support,” Jones said. “Pay (the actors) $20 an hour. It would be a small investment for high impact.”

Chief Marshal Josh Comte explained that while officers are patrolling, the influx of visitors has meant an increased call load for the department. Patrol, he said, has been made more challenging because of decreased access to Colorado Avenue, which is currently only eastbound, and less parking.

“We are getting out there as much as we can,” Comte said. “We are talking to them, we are out there. We’re providing the education. We’re taking this seriously.”

With two members of council absent — Adrienne Christy and Jessie Rae Arguelles — it was imperative the extension of the emergency ordinance be passed unanimously. Once the recommendation to wear a face covering outdoors if six feet could not be maintained was removed from the language of the initial motion, Carlson came on board and the motion passed 5-0. It is set to expire Aug. 25.

In other council business, Young delivered the traditional State of the Town address. In it, she praised town staff, which has handled an increased workload with grace as the town navigates governing during a pandemic. She noted that not being able to share office space and see one another other than via Zoom meetings, email or phone, was a notable absence.

“Human connection is vital, and we all miss it,” she said in a prepared statement. “This is bizarre for all of us.”

She urged residents to continue practicing, “kindness, patience and gratitude,” and praised the way townsfolk have enthusiastically helped out those in need.

“It’s an extraordinary level of generosity … even for us.”

In a morning update from county public health officials Grace Franklin and Dr. Sharon Grundy, council and the listening audience were reminded that precautions needed to slow the course of the coronavirus were still firmly in place, and despite a recent uptick in local cases — an additional positive case was announced Tuesday — there was no reason to roll back the phased opening of businesses in Telluride and across the state. Members of the local workforce and “younger people mingling,” Grundy said, were typical of recent positive test results.

“These are healthier individuals being infected that don’t require hospitalization,” Grundy said, though vigilance is still mandatory. “This is the long haul we’ve been talking about.”

Lodging, which is slated to expand its capacity from 50 percent to 75 percent later this month, will be assessed next week with a decision on whether to go ahead with the next phase to be made July 8.

When council meets at its next regular meeting July 21, they will take up a measure that will make the revised Model Traffic Code (MTC) law. The MTC is updated by the state periodically and municipalities have some leeway in tailoring them to suit the particulars of the local area. Town legal assistant Lauren Bloesma and Lois Major, the town’s municipal judge, presented council with a lengthy checklist of recommended modifications that speak to everything from one-wheels, to jaywalking, to parking fee increases. The pair sought direction on four main points: Decriminalization of all MTC violations or the establishment of local criminal violations; point reduction incentive for timely remittance of moving violation penalty assessments; parking zone-specific regulations; and establishment of penalty assessments for MTC violations.

Certain aspects of the MTC remain indelible.

“A stop sign is a stop sign is a stop sign,” Bloemsma said.

Council also made new appointments to town boards and commissions. Dan Enright applied and got the nod for an alternate two-year seat on the Planning & Zoning Commission, duties that begin immediately. Two incumbent members of the Public Art Commission, Kristen Kwasniewski and Lee Shea Betten, will serve for another two years with that board.