At the beginning of October, the Park County commissioners were hoping to apply for the least restrictive of Colorado’s five levels of COVID response and protection.
It is called “Protect Our Neighbors,” level green, and allows for larger numbers in group gatherings outdoors as well as indoors.
Instead of being able to go to PON as anticipated a month ago, the county moved up from Level Blue Cautious to safer at home, Level Yellow Concern on Nov. 16.
Then, Nov. 17 at 2 p.m. the county announced all offices will close Nov. 23-Nov. 29 in order to try to get ahead of the virus.
The announcement said that starting Nov. 30 until the end of the 2020, the county will operate at Level Orange High Risk, even though the state has the county at the less restrictive Level Yellow Concern.
“It’s a nasty bug. It’s not worth taking the risk (of contracting the virus) and it has long term side effects,” Commissioner Dick Elsner said Oct 29.
The announcement states the county will allow a 25 percent public access capacity in offices, more curbside services and by appointment, and 25 percent of staff will telework when practical.
At press time, The Flume had not received word on whether only the county offices will operate at the orange at Level Orange High Risk, or if that would extend to all businesses, visitors and residents in Park County.
County information can also be found at www.facebook.com/ParkCoPubliHealth
As cases soar in the state, Park County’s number of cases also rose. County Manager Tom Eisenman said as of Oct. 29, the county had 92 total cases, up from 81 Oct. 20.
According to Colorado’s website, Park County had total of 125 cases Nov. 9. By Nov. 16, that had risen to a total of 164 with three deaths.
One day later Nov. 17, the county site www.parkco.us lists 169 total cases with 48 active cases, while 118 persons have been released from a hospital or from isolation.
Safer-at-home has three levels. Each allows more economic and social activity as a county moves from level orange to level blue based on metrics over the previous two weeks.
Stay at home, Level Red is the fifth and most restrictive and requires everyone but essential workers to stay at home.
A new county health order 20-08 was adopted Nov. 5 that will remain in effect at least until Dec. 4. That order can be viewed on the county website.
The county website states “All residents, visitors and businesses must take on the personal responsibility to stop the spread in our county.”
“Cases are rapidly increasing in Park County and everyone needs to work together to stop this trend so we can stay open for business this winter ... If we take these simple actions now, we might avoid the most restrictive action of having to go back to staying at home,” Elsner wrote on the website.
All Park County commissioners and Public Health Director Lynn Ramey are urging everyone to obey the state and county orders in hopes of curbing the increase in cases.
Level Yellow Concern restrictions are listed below. Level Orange High Risk is more restrictive, reducing all percentage from 50 to 25 percent.
Orders include a mandatory face coverings indoors. Outdoors, face coverings should be worn if a minimum distance of six feet between people cannot be maintained.
Details of activities and numbers of people that are allowed at each level can be found on both the county and state websites. Level Orange, which the county is now in, allows 50 percent capacity up to 50 or 100 persons depending on the type of retail stores and restaurants, places of worship, indoor and outdoor events.
Bars are closed, gyms and group sports are allowed 25 percent capacity up to 25 persons.
And for that Thanksgiving Day dinner, only 10 persons from two households are considered safe.
The state asks that people wear masks unless one is eating or drinking. Social distancing of six feet is also recommended as well as opening windows and doors to allow ventilation of air.
Commissioner Mike Brazell asked if the county jail had been impacted by the virus.
County Manager Tom Eisenman said the county has been lucky and hadn’t had an outbreak in the jail. He attributed that to not releasing new inmates into the general population until all health checks are negative for the virus.
Human services programs
Human Services Director Susan Walton said Nov. 5 that, at least through the second quarter, the virus has not impacted the services provided by her department, such as food and energy assistance, as much as it has in other counties.
Walton discussed the 2020 second quarter expenditures, ending June 30, for 10 human services programs that help those in need at the commissioners’ Nov. 5 meeting.
The yearly budget is almost $3.5 million with $1.7 million spent. So the entire budget is on track.
The county’s matching cash share is about $68,000. The remaining is from state and federal funding.
Three programs don’t require any county match. They are low income energy assistance or LEAP, food assistance and the Colorado old age pension.
LEAP spent $219,000 of the $230,000 budget in the first six months of the year. Fortunately, the program renews in November.
Food assistance budget is $2.1 million and $1 million was used by the end of June.
The Colorado old age pension pays a monthly stipend to elderly persons who are below poverty level. The annual budget is $321,000 and about $124,000 was spent.
Five programs for low income families with children and for children in foster care spent about $340,000 by the end of June. The annual budget is $772,500.
Commissioner Ray Douglas pointed out that the temporary aid to needy families or TANF is on course to run out of funding. The 2020 budget is $128,000 and almost $79,000 was spent by the end of June.
The county signed a memorandum of understanding with Prowers County for Prowers to manage Park County’s 2021 child welfare hotline calls.
Park County will be billed for actual calls and associated tasks, but the estimated budget for 2021 is $3,971. The first four will be completed for no charge.
Calls involving either law enforcement or medical response will be immediately forwarded to Park County.
The county approved a second amendment to an InterGovernmental Agreement with La Plata County to administer La Plata’s human services programs.
It adjusts the salaries of Park County personnel for any overtime needed. The total annual cost cannot exceed $50,000.
Due to the small population and human services needs of La Plata County, the county decided to contract out services rather than to hire its own personnel.
An IGA was signed with Jefferson County to share snow plowing on roads that are in both counties. All roads are in the Pine Junction area.
Jeffco will plow about 3.8 miles of Park County roads and Park County will plow about four miles of roads in Jeffco.
The commissioners signed a revocable lease agreement with water rights’ owners to allow usage of county property for a state required stream measuring gauge in Deer Creek.
All parties except the county will share the cost of annual maintenance. The county’s cost will be to maintain the road and parking lot to the gauge. Neither the road nor parking lot has been built yet.
Parties with water rights measured by the gauge include the county, Headwater of the Upper South Platte, Mountain Mutual Reservoir Company and Lone Rock Foundation.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife also own water rights on Deer Creek, but have a separate agreement covering its responsibilities and fees.
The commissioners approved an MOU with Colorado Department of Agriculture that establishes information-sharing protocols regarding industrial hemp farms. The farms may be for commercial or research purposes.
Elsner said counties aren’t part of the state or federal license process.
This agreement allows the state to send any license application to Park County as a referral agency. This means the county will be aware of applications and may send comments and suggestions for possible conditions to the license.
Vouchers in the amount of $205,500 were approved for payment Nov. 5. Numbers are rounded by The Flume.
Vouchers approved for payment on Oct. 29 were in the amount of $155,400.
Payment of vouchers Nov. 12 was about $163,000.