County declares local emergency, outlines safety protocols

By John Finefrock
Staff Writer
On Monday, Archuleta County Administrator L. Scott Wall issued a Declaration of Local Disaster in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While, to date, there has not been a confirmed case of COVID-19 in Archuleta County, I am making this declaration as a proactive step to ensure that Archuleta County is in the best possible position to respond if, or when, COVID-19 is confirmed within our community. Making this declaration will allow Archuleta County to secure any needed resources more expediently, implement emergency plans as necessary and to become eligible for state and federal emergency funding should such funding be needed,” a Monday press release from Wall states.
On Tuesday, Wall explained more about the declaration at the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners’ regular meeting.
“I don’t want people sitting in the audience to think this is some kind of catastrophic thing we’re doing,” Wall said. “It’s a step, a procedural step.”
“It’s basically just a step that we have to take so that we can be eligible for federal funds if we need to expand any of the county’s money,” Commissioner Ron Maez said. “Then we can get, through procurement, we can get these monies reimbursed back to Archuleta County if and when we ever need to do these expenditures.”
“It’s much more of a formality in order to make your stuff consistent with what the state and the federal government wants to go through this process,” Wall said, adding that the declaration “in no way emulates what the governor’s done to our community.”
Asked for clarification on that statement, Wall wrote in an email to The SUN, “Basically, we do not intend to do anything that hurts our local business owners or their employees. Also, there is no action required from our citizens in response to the emergency declaration.”
County Attorney Todd Weaver explained at the meeting that the declaration will expire after the commissioners’ regular meeting on April 21 unless the commissioners take action to change the expiration date.
One local hotel owner spoke during public comment and outlined how businesses are hurting in the county.
“We are suffering badly, as a business, all the lodgers are,” the hotel owner began, adding, “We definitely would like your help, the county, [for] funds and programs for businesses to help us survive. Because we have concern that some businesses may not survive.”
Weaver explained that Region 9 Economic Development District of SW Colorado is meeting on Thursday to discuss possible emergency loans for business owners in the region.
“I think our state needs to come up with something else to incentivize you guys for your loss,” Maez said. “It’s not mine to decide but I think we can send a message.”
Maez noted in a follow-up phone call that he believes that state orders closing all ski resorts and mandating that food establishments only deliver or have carry-out service “should have been thought out more.”
“I’m an employer here and I’m having trouble. My people are having trouble, so this is very difficult for everybody,” Commissioner Steve Wadley said, who owns a local restaurant. “We all need to get through this and it’ll pass. It’s a tough time, it’s gonna be a tough two months, but the sun shines, the birds are singing. We’ll get through it.”
In a follow-up phone call, Wadley suggested that he’s relying on advice from San Juan Basin Public Health as to what measures to take to ensure community safety.
In follow-up phone calls, Wadley and Commissioner Alvin Schaaf both urged the public to stop panic buying and hoarding staples like toilet paper.
County staff
A letter sent to county staff on Monday outlines some specifics of how the county will operate to protect employees and the public from COVID-19.
“If offices are closed, employees will be paid their regular pay, but will be expected to be on stand-by for phone calls or to respond to emails, if applicable,” the letter reads.
“In the event that any county employee is tested for COVID-19, then all the employees in that particular department will be sent home and that office will close until the test results are confirmed, which is generally four days. Employees who are tested must provide written notice from the doctor or hospital of the testing. Employees will be paid for this four day waiting time. If the results come back positive, all the employees in that department will remain self-quarantined in their homes for an additional fourteen days and will be paid for this time as well. Employees in self-quarantine will be expected to be available by phone or email during normal business hours,” the letter continues.
County administration office
As of press time Wednesday afternoon, the county administration building at 398 Lewis St. was still open to walk-in visitors to conduct business.
County staff reported that next week’s commissioners’ work session may be call-in only for members of the public, though that had not been finalized by press time Wednesday.
The press release issued by the county on Monday states, “The County will avoid or postpone scheduling unnecessary hearings that might draw a large audience,” and, “For meetings that do take place, the County will post signs requesting that attendees practice social distancing and that sick persons not attend.”
Other county offices
The Archuleta County Clerk’s, Assessor’s and Treasurer’s offices, which are all located at the courthouse at 449 San Juan St., are not accepting walk-in visitors and have advised residents to use phone or email to handle their business with those departments.
The contact information for each department is as follows:
• Assessor’s Office, 264-8310 or assessor@archuletacounty.org.
• Clerk and Recorder’s Office, 264-8350 or govotecolorado.gov or mydmv.colorado.gov.
• Treasurer’s Office, 264-8325 option 1 or treasurer@archuletacounty.org or archuletatax.com.
There is also a drop-box located outside the courthouse that can be used to drop off payments or documents. The drop box is under 24-hour surveillance.
Archuleta County Department of Human Services
Archuleta County Department of Human Services (DHS) Director Matt Dodson told The SUN Tuesday that the department has been preparing for increased COVID-19 measures for the last few weeks.
He encouraged all citizens wanting to apply for access to human services to use coloradopeak.secure.force.com.
The drop box located in front of Town Hall on Hot Springs Boulevard can also be used for DHS correspondence, Dodson explained.
“I feel we are positioned as well as possible for switching gears on the fly as directed to do so or in response to public safety,” he said.
Jail construction
Representatives for Nunn Construction, which is managing the construction of Archuleta County’s new jail, said COVID-19 has caused no delays and construction is still on schedule.
The reps explained that they have contacted all of their subcontractors to see if any materials would be delayed and no delays have been reported.
The new jail is expected to open this summer.
Extension office and 4-H
All extension events and 4-H events and club meetings have been canceled, with the exception of the master gardener course, which still continues online.
Archuleta County Extension Agent Robin Young noted in a phone call Tuesday that she strongly encourages 4-H participants to still buy and care for their animals for the annual sale at the county fair in August, as the extension office is operating as if the county fair will occur as normal this summer.

 

This story was posted on March 20, 2020.