As Snowmass Village residents continue to navigate the uncharted waters of the evolving novel coronavirus pandemic, staff and elected officials are making one thing clear: the town is committed to doing all it can to support its residents, employees and businesses.
“The health and well-being of our community members is our utmost priority, and to that end, we want to be sure that the community has access to all the resources that are currently available, for both your personal well-being and businesses,” said a letter from Snowmass Town Council sent out on Tuesday.
In the letter, council members committed to contribute at least $100,000 to Pitkin County’s COVID-19 relief fund and will make that contribution official at its Monday meeting through a 2020 budget amendment.
But for Mayor Markey Butler, it’s not just about ensuring village locals and employees have access to financial support. It’s also about making sure they feel heard and understood by the town’s elected officials during this crisis.
“The community wants to hear from its elected officials and wants us to know and understand what they’re going through as well,” Butler said Wednesday.
“Some people are extremely anxious and it brings a lot of stress when you don’t know what is coming next. … Our goal is to listen to folks, pick up the phone, let them know we care and try to help any way we can. That’s extremely important.”
At the Monday meeting, Butler said Town Council plans to discuss how it can serve the community as more than just a governing body, and what more it can do to support the village.
Council is also tentatively set to continue discussions on the proposed mall transit center and Snowmass Center redevelopment. The Monday meeting will be conducted virtually and remotely, meaning council members will call in from their homes and no one will meet at Town Hall.
Travis Elliott, assistant town manager, said town staff is still working out all of the details, but plans to broadcast the council meeting live as usual and hopefully allow locals to participate through “e-commenting” software. If that software doesn’t work, Snowmass will follow the city of Aspen’s lead and have locals submit questions via email 15 minutes before the meeting at the latest, Elliott said.
As for other town board and commissions, Elliott said all March meetings were canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the town is still working out a way for the groups to meet virtually.
Over the past week, Elliott and many other town departments have spent countless hours working with the county’s Incident Management Team (IMT) assigned to help mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus and respond to local COVID-19 outbreak.
Snowmass Tourism has helped with information dissemination and social media, the town’s finance department is helping with financials and logistics, and Snowmass police officers, Town Manager Clint Kinney and Elliott are also involved in the IMT’s day-to-day operations.
“This really is a regional response from Pitkin County and beyond. We’re all working together on the same team,” Elliott said.
Roaring Fork Fire Rescue Authority, which has a station in Snowmass and provides emergency and non-emergency services throughout the village, Basalt and surrounding areas, is also a part of the county IMT.
According to Scott Thompson, the authority’s fire chief, Roaring Fork Fire Rescue receives daily updates from the IMT and has been altering its operations in phases to both continue offering the same amount of service while also protecting its first responders.
The authority’s fire stations are now only being used if there is an emergency call, all administrative staff is working from home and station responders are following strict, ever-changing protocol to protect themselves from coronavirus.
Thompson also said the authority is helping its employees with rent and child care issues as needed, and has lowered the number of staff working each shift to help minimize in-person contact and potential virus spread.
Although call volume has dropped as a result of the ski areas being closed, Thompson said at least a few of Roaring Fork Fire Rescue’s five to eight daily calls are related to COVID-19.
Responders are taking the utmost precautions, Thompson and authority lieutenant paramedic Andy Fisher explained, and are working to support each other and the community in the safest way possible for everyone during the pandemic.
“Wildfires, house fires, vehicle extrications, we’re confident with those calls and they don’t scare us,” Thompson said. “But this, this scares us. We could bring this home to our families. … We really want the public to understand that if they are symptomatic, stay home and we want to assure the public that we’re still here to serve and protect.”
While the county is working to support locals and organizations like Roaring Fork Fire Rescue Authority are doing their part to support their employees, the town of Snowmass Village is also ensuring its residents and employees feel specifically supported.
In a notice sent out by the Snowmass Housing Department on March 23, housing director Betsy Crum said no one would lose their housing due to the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, and that the department is working through the logistics of offering case-by-case rent payment plans.
“We can offer a payment plan to you right now if you are unable to pay for April or May. You can opt to pay your rent back over the next four or six months,” the notice says. “As always, we are available to talk with you if you have any questions or concerns about this or anything related to your housing.”
However, the town also encourages all Snowmass locals to seek out the various relief sources available at the county level if needed.
Beyond this shelter assurance and contributing money to the county’s COVID-19 relief fund that locals can utilize, town staff and council members are working to keep up with the evolving coronavirus pandemic and are seeking to help Snowmass residents and employees the best they can.
“We remain committed to taking care of our community safely and effectively,” the letter from Town Council emphasizes. “Never has there been a more important time to remember who we are as a village: Continue to be kind, compassionate and healthy and we will get through this together.”