This artistic rendering shows the proposed permanent tribute for Ron and Joyce Allred, and Jim Wells in the Oak Street gondola plaza. (Image courtesy of Tommy Hein Architects)

Approximately half of all Village Court Apartments (VCA) residents took advantage of Mountain Village’s February rent reimbursement program, property manager Luke Adamson explained during Thursday’s virtual Mountain Village Town Council meeting.

“(Patrick Dasaro, town payroll & accounting specialist) and I have been working together to put together all of the documents for the residents that have submitted for the rent waiver approval,” he said. “We did receive a total of 121 declaration forms that came out to $96,739 in total requested benefits. Right now, we’re waiting for DOLA (the state’s Department of Local Affairs) to either approve or deny these applications. They’ve indicated that this is going to take roughly 30 days or so for them to review and either approve or deny, and then send out funding for these rent waivers.”

Council members agreed in January to take advantage of the state’s program in assisting VCA residents who may be experiencing financial hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic seek rent relief. The information was shared in an email blast, as well as on VCA-specific social media pages. A paper, in both English and Spanish, explaining the application process was delivered to each resident’s door, too. Applicants had to show proof of financial loss.

“The form was very clear how you could qualify for this program,” Adamson said.

He added the town will work with residents who are denied by DOLA.

“Anyone that has submitted the forms, we have gone ahead and waived their rent ahead of time,” he added. “Now we’re just waiting for approval or denial from DOLA, so that we can work with the residents who have been denied to set up a payment plan to get February’s rent paid over time.”

Mountain Village Mayor Laila Benitez reiterated that “certain sectors have been impacted so much more than others” during the pandemic and offering relief to resident’s in town-owned properties when possible has been the town’s stance.

“Hopefully the participation level will make it clear to DOLA that these are people who really do have a need, and we’re looking forward to their approval,” council member Jack Gilbride added.

The town also waived April’s rent at the onset of the pandemic, which totaled $190,000.

In other news, council unanimously approved plans for a tribute to Ron and Joyce Allred, and Jim Wells, the visionaries and developers of the ski resort, in the Oak Street gondola plaza

Katie Singer, Telluride Foundation director of donor relations and events, presented the action item and explained the permanent tribute will be 12-by-15 feet, including a planter with seating around it, trees and flowers, as well as a boulder with a plaque explaining the importance of the trio affixed to it.

“The Telluride Foundation wishes to celebrate the vision that the Allreds and Mr. Wells turned into the creation of a world-class resort,” Singer said. “ … This evolution was pivotal as it allowed the local economy to move away from the declining industry of mining to an economy of recreation and tourism that sustains us today.”

Mountain Village owns the land the tribute would be built upon, though since it’s in the Town of Telluride, officials there must also approve the design.

Questions about what the plaque features came up, and council members agreed to approve the plans with the stipulation that the plaque’s text will be presented and approved at a later date.

Construction will start whenever the weather permits, Singer explained, and a dedication ceremony may also take place, if public health orders allow.

“I’m flattered that the Telluride Foundation would want to recognize my stepdad, along with the Allreds,” council member Marti Prohaska said.

Council members also agreed to table a request for wastewater treatment plant virus testing funds, citing a lack of information and communication between stakeholders.

The proposal sought a total of $13,294 from Mountain Village and Telluride — $6,647.50 each — to continue testing after the ski season through the end of the year.

But council members had questions that couldn’t be answered immediately as Telluride and San Miguel County representatives weren’t virtually present Thursday.

“We’re all over the county calls. We attend the Telluride meetings regularly, yet I don’t see anybody from either of those organizations paying attention to what we’re doing,” Mountain Village Mayor Pro Tem Dan Caton said.

He continued that he wanted to know how data from the tests inform public health decisions and guidelines, especially the current Level Orange Extreme orders that affect Mountain Village and its businesses, particularly the current lodging capacity limit of 50 percent.

“To me, up to this point, the wastewater treatment numbers have been a fun data exercise, and I'm all for lots of data to help inform where we’re going, but I think it ought to be useful data numbers, and all they’re doing is creating a lot of talk, so far as I can tell, without any changes to staffing or PPE (personal protective equipment) or anything else,” Caton added.

Benitez shared Caton’s frustration, adding the “lack of solid communication” between the town and the county has caused confusion.

“I reminded them that we wanted to hear some answers about this, so this was on their radar during their public meeting,” Benitez said of Wednesday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting during which she spoke during the local stakeholders update.

Instead of continuing the action item to the March regular council meeting, council members agreed to revisit it at a later date after they have an opportunity to talk to all the officials involved.

“I propose that we express some disappointment that someone from the county was not here to help us understand the importance of this program, how the data is used to inform decisions and also ask that the information, the data, is actually shared with the public,” Caton said, adding that the county’s COVID-19 dashboard that includes wastewater test results hadn’t been updated since Feb. 3.