On Tuesday, May 19, the Las Animas County Board of Commissioners met for their regular meeting and discussed moving forward with a variance developed between Mount San Rafael, the local health department, as well as the city and county. The variance would be bi-county between Las Animas and Huerfano counties and restaurants, places of worship, recreation, and fitness facilities would all be addressed in the variance according to Commissioner Felix Lopez.

“My understanding is that these variances are approved anywhere between three to five days so we’re hoping that it’s going to be the lesser of those,” said Felix Lopez. “We did have a round table discussion with the City of Trinidad representatives and also had ensuing dialogue with the city and county of Walsenburg. This is going to be a bi-county variance because the local public health director who oversees both counties is going to be requesting approval for both counties.”

At the same meeting, Moose’s owner Nancy Lackey shared how local restaurant owners were getting frustrated with the lack of communication coming out from the county.

“We don’t know what to do or what to plan for,” Lackey said, “because staying open takes time and inventory. My only concern and biggest point of frustration, and I’m sure it’s frustrating for this commission also, is that there hasn’t been any public communication. By not knowing, we have escalated on an emotional level from patience and understanding to now there’s anger, frustration, and civil unrest.”

Commissioner Luis Lopez addressed this by explaining how, during a state of emergency, there are statutes already in place that puts a specific emergency manager in charge. In this case, the commissioners are at the mercy of the health department and Kim Gonzales.

“The reason for some of the discussions not being put out is during a declaration of emergency, to make a public statement it needs to come from the commander during the emergency management plan,” said Luis Lopez. “It’s difficult in the position we’re in to be making public statements because it’s very well versed in the emergency operation plan that it should come from the commander and it does every morning at 10 a.m. when Mrs. Gonzales holds her meetings. That’s how that information goes out and I believe the City of Trinidad and Chamber of Commerce are on those calls every day and that’s how that information should be getting out to our business owners as well.”

Ultimately, Lackey said she was concerned with where the county stood with developing the variance to allow for reopening. According to county administrators, the variance would allow for alcohol to be served at a table setting in a restaurant that serves liquor, just not at a bar.

Also at the meeting, Chief Deputy Clerk Joseph Mestas provided an update for the upcoming primary and said they’re pretty much ready to start allowing people to come into the Clerk’s office in June.

“We will have to be open to the public in the elections office from Jun 22 through June 30,” said Mestas. “Our safety upgrades are all underway and we’re doing everything possible to make it safe and follow all the guidelines.”

Mestas also added that overseas and military ballots went out last week and regular mail ballots will go out between June 8 and 12.

Additionally in the Clerk’s office, ARCA Research recently finished scanning for the county’s digitization project and had a representative pick up aperture cards to begin phase two of the two-phase process.

At a previous commissioner meeting, representatives from Trinidad State Junior College (TSJC) were present and brought up discussion of bringing a Building Trades four-week course to their offered programs. During that discussion, they also mentioned the program being an opportunity for TSJC and the county to partner together to help the community with something seen by many as necessary. Commissioners agreed.

The subject was again brought up at Tuesday’s meeting following a preliminary walkthrough of a space at the County Fairgrounds the college feels would work ideally for their needs.

“We went out to the old shop at the fairgrounds and they thought there was a spot out there that would work for them,” said LAC Administrator Phil Dorenkamp.

Dorenkamp added that the next step would be getting the county and TSJC attorneys together to begin discussing a usage lease for the space at the county fairgrounds that works for everyone.

“I believe this is a great way to move forward in partnering with TSJC,” said Luis Lopez.

Commissioner Felix Lopez added that when they did the walkthrough with representatives from the college, TSJC representatives mentioned they may have the opportunity to do some upgrades to the facility as part of the program but they didn’t want to move forward without approval from Commissioners. Both entities realized there would have to be some legal language for usage, but TSJC believed they had some funds to be able to do some of those upgrades in the future.

With the pandemic taking a big chunk out of the state’s budget, local officials claim it’s likely that Fishers Peak State Park development funds may be less than originally expected. While understanding the reasoning of this likelihood, Commissioners also approved a Letter of Support for Fishers Peak asking for whatever the state could muster to continue developing some basic amenities for the park in order to begin letting the public recreate at Colorado’s newest state park, claiming this could also help in revenue income. Also included in the letter was an impact report stating how the area has been affected as well as how it would be affected moving forward.

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