On Tuesday, July 21 Las Animas County Commissioners met for their regular meeting and among items discussed were the specifics of the most recent state mask ordinance and how it would be enforced as per the Governor’s orders. County Commissioner Luis Lopez broke it down based on how he understood the order that puts businesses as primarily responsible for enforcing the mandate.
“The business is to monitor the mask wearing,” said Luis Lopez. “If they have a customer not wearing a mask and they want them to wear the mask, it is up to the business to enforce the mask ruling, not law enforcement. However, if the mask is not worn and they are asked to wear it and the customer refuses, then the business will be able to call the local police department.”
Luis Lopez went on to explain that at that time, a citation or warning of a citation of trespassing would be issued to that customer not in compliance.
“The next step of discipline would be put on the municipality to strip the business of their business license in that community,” said Luis Lopez. “So it’s not a 100 percent mandate direct from the governor. Basically, it funnels through to the business and whether the business chooses to allow masks or not to allow masks. I believe the way this comes across, up to the business and then up to the municipality to enforce the business to do so. It’s really gray still.”
Las Animas County Sheriff Derek Navarette added that Luis Lopez’s breakdown of the mask order was in accordance with his understanding of the order as well.
“We will assist in any way possible in that matter,” said Navarette. “This has been a big topic of conversation about the mask wearing and [giving] citations. I had made a statement that we would probably not be enforcing the mask order, but we will assist with trespassing and continue to educate the public on the wearing and health benefits of it.”
Commissioner Tony Hass cleared up some previous concerns with the naming of Fisher’s Peak State Park, the new Colorado State Park overlooking Trinidad, during his report. According to Hass, on July 16, the commissioners were asked to give testimony to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife committee as to what the name of the new, 42nd state park should be.
“We had received many comments from our constituents that it should be named Fisher’s Peak State Park and all of us alluded to that effect,” said Hass. “After testimony, a vote was taken and it passed unanimously as Fisher’s Peak State Park.”
As a bit of positive news, Luis Lopez mentioned at a recent Otero Partners meeting, a group providing business loans to small businesses in this region, the board approved a loan for a new business that will be opening in Trinidad.
“It is for a hot wings restaurant,” said Luis Lopez. “They will be funded the amount of $35,000 for operations and equipment. That was a bit of good news.”
Luis Lopez added that another loan in Las Animas County was being reviewed and in the process of being approved at that time.
During county staff reports, Deputy Clerk Joseph Mestas said he had gotten some complaints regarding callers not being able to get through at their office or voicemails being full on occasion. Because of limiting person-to-person contact with COVID-19 concerns, Mestas said phone calls to the office have skyrocketed but they were working diligently to make sure they returned all calls they receive.
“Our phone situation is getting bad,” said Mestas. “We’re down to two or three phones that actually work. The girls literally are on the phones throughout the whole day doing renewals and other stuff. Even as we’re on the calls, the voicemails are still coming in. We are answering as many calls as we can with what we have but the voicemails do fill up really quick.”
As agenda items, commissioners discussed and approved a Notice of Intent to participate in November’s election. County Administrator Phil Dorenkamp said this was required in order to be able to include ballot items on the upcoming ballot.
Commissioners also approved a public declaration letter for the Stonewall Fire Protection District that helped to solidify the organization. According to Dorenkamp, this would allow them to get a pilots license necessary to fly a drone over the surrounding area to monitor conditions.