City council meeting

Last week, amid a string of mandated closures from the state in addition to health department requests for social distancing, both the Las Animas County Commissioners and the Trinidad City Council held rescheduled regular meetings via online conference platforms from remote locations. While there were some delays getting everyone in, both meetings did eventually proceed without a hitch barring some intermittent Internet connection difficulties.

City council meeting

At the Trinidad City Council regular meeting, Interim City Manager Mike Valentine said they are temporarily changing some of the normal operations of the city due to COVID-19.

“Credit card fees have been waived for those wanting to pay bills online,” said Mike Valentine. “We’re asking for guidance and protocols on the Cannabis dispensaries. There is also guidance being sought for medical cannabis patients who rely on that to avoid opioids Valentine explained. There’s been questions about businesses and what they’re going to do with their employees and the state is working for quicker unemployment application turnaround.”

To this point, Economic Development Coordinator Wally Wallace was present to explain that he is working closely with the SBA and staying up to date with what the state is offering in terms of help for small businesses.

“I’ve been reaching out and trying to get everybody linked in together,” said Wally. “SBA and SBDC are offering emergency crisis loans with expedited applications. Right now we’re just waiting to see what the state and federal government is going to offer to help businesses. We’ve been working with Nicia at the Chamber of Commerce to get restaurant information out to the public. In the long run, I don’t know how long term this will affect us and at some point we might need to provide some support for these businesses that are struggling.”

Also at the meeting, council read the second reading of an ordinance to prohibit the growing of hemp within the city limits in an attempt to prevent cross pollination of the multitude of already established cannabis cultivators. The city expressed they were still in support of the blooming industry but that because of the dangers associated with cross pollination it had to be done outside of city limits.

“What we are suggesting is that all cultivation should take place outside of the City of Trinidad,” said City Attorney Les Downs.

That said, with one resident speaking to the potential of allowing hemp growers that can ensure growing only female plants or clones indoors, Downs also said they would hear out any business that could show proof that contamination would not happen.

“We will be more than accommodating to do anything we can to hear a fledgling industry,” said Downs, “so long as we can get regulations in place to insure we do not have cross contamination of cannabis.”

The council also moved to approve a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the city and the Creative District Board, the latter of which would be tasked with operations of the commons area located on the ground floor of the Space to Create building on Main Street.

Trinidad Police Department Chief Charles Gloriosso was also present for the meeting to discuss the approved purchase of two additional vehicles for TPD. One will replace the animal control vehicle.

“The other one is going to be added for the added position in the detective agency,” said Gloriosso. “There is some added expense for those two but they’re not as expensive as the patrol units to be ready.”

Items on the consent agenda which were approved included a special event permit for A.R. Mitchell Museum, approval of re-appointment of Gabriel Moreno to the Las Animas County E911 Authority Board, approval of appointment of Janet Clark to the Carnegie Public Library Advisory Board, approval of appointment of Garrett Watson and Chad Kraft to the Space to Create Commons Oversight Board, and approval of appointment of David Barrack to the Trinidad Urban Renewal Authority Commission.

County commissioners meeting

On March 20, Commissioners congregated via computer and phone to hold their regular meeting and efficiently covered a variety of consideration items despite many being physically isolated from one another. Commissioner Felix Lopez offered some words of encouragement during unique circumstances.

“It is times like this is when we have to be strong and come together,” said Felix Lopez.

Commissioner Luis Lopez also discussed that Care and Share will still be working to find ways to get foods distributed to people who need it.

Among new business approved by commissioners was a change order for crushing services at two county crushing facilities. County Administrator Phil Dorenkamp stated they wanted to increase one site and reduce another and prices would adjust accordingly.

Consideration of declaring a local disaster emergency was also discussed in order to curtail an impact of COVID-19 in the Las Animas community.

Other considered and approved items included a request from the Sheriff’s Department to purchase items and equipment for upgrades and improvements to the front area of the Justice Center, a resolution for adopting procedures for emergency meetings, and a Census Proclamation followed by commissioners urging residents to take this time to complete the census.

“Please, while we’re at home and have time, get those census forms done,” said Luis Lopez.

Joseph Mestas explained that there is a huge financial benefit to the county, thus the community, with getting everyone to take part in the census.

“In most people’s mind it may not be a priority but it really is,” said Mestas. “There’s millions of dollars on the line. Every person that doesn’t get counted, the county looses out around $23,000 that they could be getting. We could also get another congressional seat and possibly some redistricting.”

Commissioners, along with Trinidad City Council noted that they would be continuing to meet regularly via video and telephone conferences moving forward until further notice in order to help prevent potential spreading of COVID-19.

Local governments among many workplaces finding creative social distancing solutions to prevent spread of COVID-19

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