About eighty peopkle attended the commissioners Feb. 3 meeting, with 17 commenting on the newest COVID-19 public health order. Only two approved of signing the order with 15 asking commissioners to not sign the public health order.
Commissioner Dick Elsner said by state law, health orders must be signed every 30 days when a health emergency exists. No one had voiced opposition before this one. He also said he was glad they were participating in the meeting.
Elsner said the order was no different than the ones signed each month for the past nine months. The first order was signed in April 2020.
The first section of the county health order recites state actions since the governor declared a state of emergency on March 10, 2020.
Then the order recites circumstances in Park County that led to the commissioners issuing a health order.
The order states the county will follow the metrics and restrictions of its current COVID-19 color level as determined by the state health department.
Currently, the county is in Level Yellow-Concern. Most businesses are restricted to 50 percent capacity. It is the second least restrictive level before Green.
On the day of the meeting, the county was one step more restrictive, called Orange-High Risk. It restricted most businesses to 25 percent capacity.
Before opening the meeting to public comment, Commissioner Amy Mitchell said this was the first time she could vote on the monthly health order and she couldn’t in good conscience support the health order.
Elsner and Douglas voted to approve the health order. Mitchell voted against it.
Mitchell said after 11 months, the residents and county knew what to do and could best judge what was needed.
She said it was time to turn control back to the counties and for citizens to take personal responsibility for keeping themselves and their families safe.
Commissioners Dick Elsner and Ray Douglas agreed with Mitchell, but without a health order the county would not receive mitigation money to help businesses stay open or for the public health department to operate as needed.
County Manager Tom Eisenman said the county is eligible for $1.8 million. He didn’t say how that amount was determined.
To date, he said the county had received about $1 million to pay costs of additional public health employees, tests and testing equipment, vaccines and needles, and personal protective gear for employees.
In addition to county expenses, the county gave money to the Town of Fairplay to help mitigate effects for businesses in town.
So far, he said, the Town of Alma said had not requested any mitigation funding.
Elsner said the county bought tents so restaurants could expand seating capacity to outside.
One message from many attendees was that freedom is more important than money. Some said if the county wouldn’t sign the order, citizens would step up to help businesses survive.
One said he was going to leave the state if COVID-19 restrictions weren’t lifted soon. He would move to a state that didn’t have restrictions.
Douglas asked, how much are they willing to pay, and for how long?
Elsner said the way to help is to spend money at local businesses, even if it was a special effort to do so. He said he rarely does take-out or eat at restaurants, but this past year, he has eaten more take-out than ever in his life.
Another point raised by several attendees was a phrase listed twice in the health order. It stated the county and state have “the power to establish, maintain and enforce isolation and quarantine, and in pursuance thereof, and for this purpose only, exercise physical control over property and the persons of the people within the jurisdiction of the agency.”
Some asked the commissioners to review the language of the order and change or leave out such phrases as above.
The commissioners said they would review the order and make changes if the county attorney agreed changes wouldn’t jeopardize the county.
Douglas asked Eisenman what would be the first thing that would happen if they didn’t sign the order and what would be the worst thing that could happen.
Eisenman said the first thing would be no more money for PPE, tests, vaccines and extra staff to administer such and complete contact tracing.
Eisenman said the worst thing would be state funding being withheld for all public health programs, and maybe some human services programs.
Elsner said the county commissioners were meeting with other rural county commissioners to work on a plan to gain more local control over COVID-19 restrictions.
He said most counties agreed that commissioners and town councils knew what was needed in their counties and towns.
Elsner said Mitchell is working on a resolution opposing state control of COVID-19 restrictions and to allow the counties to do what they believed was best for their county.
He said he expected other counties would do that same. He said counties wanted less state control in several areas, one being cleaning up contamination from old landfills.
He emphasized that for things to change, people needed to get involved in state politics and elect people of like-mindedness for the state legislature and the governor.
The state revised its health order and lifted some restrictions the same week as the commissioner meeting. Most counties were moved to less restrictive levels with less restrictive capacity percentages.
More about state health orders and restrictions can be found at www.colorado.gov.
More about the county’s order can be found at www.parkco.us.
Mutual Aide Intergovernmental Agreement
An IGA was signed with the Town of Alma to provide mutual aide between the Alma Police Department and the Park County Sheriff’s Office when needed and requested.
Areas called out in the agreement include animal control, traffic violations, training, investigations and to assist when additional personnel are needed.
All Alma policemen will be sworn in as Park County deputies and have all authorities of county deputies.
The IGA will remain in effect until one party gives 30 days notice to terminate the agreement.
The commissioners signed a support letter to Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Capital Development Committee that the county supports an access easement for hunting on Boreas Pass Ranch.
The ranch’s owners will place a conservation easement on the ranch with support from the county and CPW. Colorado Open Lands will hold the conservation easement. The ranch will remain a working cattle ranch with limited hunting access.
The ranch is located between the Cline Ranch State Wildlife Area on the east and U.S. Forest Service land west of Como.
Vouchers in the amount of $881,232 were approved. About one half of that was spent by the general fund and included a payment for all of the county’s insurance, such as vehicle, health and liability.
The grant fund spent over $208,000 and public works spent about $134,550.
Human services spent $40,260 and fleet services spent about $7,900. The sales tax fund spent $500.