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Aspen Valley Hospital to close Snowmass Clinic temporarily, redeploy resources to fight coronavirus

To better make use of its staff and resources during the COVID-19 outbreak, Aspen Valley Hospital is closing its Snowmass Clinic on Saturday and moving its village staff into support roles at its other facilities.

The Snowmass Clinic is a year-round outpatient branch of AVH that offers physical therapy and acute illness and injury care with help from about 20 staff members, including four clinicians trained in emergency medicine.

The clinic was set to move from the Village Mall to its new, state-of-art space in Base Village in April after over 12 years operating out of a former kids activity center beneath the Venga Venga restaurant.

As of Wednesday, all of that has been pushed back to an unknown date as AVH works to prepare as best it can should it experience an influx of critically ill patients in the coming weeks due to COVID-19 — bringing on much of its Snowmass staff to help.

“We were sort of expecting it because everything is so rapidly changing so it wasn’t that much of a surprise,” said Kelly Hansen, Snowmass Clinic manager, of the decision to close the village outpatient facility.

Hansen and Dr. Jon Gibans, medical director of the Snowmass Clinic, said their daily patient numbers dramatically decreased once Gov. Jared Polis ordered all of the state’s ski areas to close March 15 due to the novel coronavirus spread in Colorado’s mountain communities.

In the first several days after the ski area closure, Hansen and Gibans said the clinic fielded a lot of COVID-19 related calls. But as most visitors have left and locals become better informed on how to seek COVID-19 information and care, the Snowmass Clinic has mainly focused on injury treatment and telemedicine services to maintain the integrity and safety of its medical facility.

“As COVID-19 amped up in our community, we changed the way we did things to better protect our staff, clinic and patients,” Hansen said.

At 4:30 p.m. Saturday, the Snowmass Clinic will close for an undetermined amount of time, reopening only “when it’s safe to do so and the hospital resources are reallocated.” When the clinic does reopen, Hansen and Gibans said they hope it will be in the new Base Village space.

Until then, clinic staff understand the importance of helping AVH respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. Monday morning, Hansen will go work with hospital oncology clinicians, and Gibans will help out in the Alternative Respiratory Evaluation tent outside of the AVH emergency room and at the Basalt After-Hours Medical Care clinic.

Other year-round and seasonal staff will fill in holes at the hospital as needed and the clinic’s nurse supervisor also will work in the respiratory tent, Hansen and Gibans said. AVH officials anticipate extending the tent hours and needing the extra personnel to do so.

Jennifer Slaughter, chief marketing officer for AVH, said no Snowmass Clinic staff members will be laid off, but the hospital is working with each individually to redeploy them.

“We’re just doing what’s best for the patients and the community during this crisis,” Slaughter said. “This was not a financial decision, it was a decision about resources and how we can best utilize them in the situation we’re in.”

While the Hansen and Gibans said they hoped the Snowmass Clinic would be able to remain open, they know village locals will have access to urgent care and emergency services through other valley medical facilities and feel it’s important to come together as a community to both be ready for and decrease the potential of a surge of serious COVID-19 illnesses.

“I think everyone is a little scared right now,” Gibans said. “Hopefully we can avoid what’s happened in other communities but all work together to best prepare ourselves as a community and a hospital.”

Added Hansen: “We plan to approach this like how we run the clinic, with a teamwork mentality so we can get through this quickly.”

mvincent@aspentimes.com

S’mass officials commit to supporting locals during COVID-19 outbreak

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 April 6 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 April 6 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.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that the next Town Council meeting is April 6.

mvincent@aspentimes.com

Snowmass Sun will still rise, but look will change

As we continue to work through these rapidly evolving times, we are committed to bringing you the news and features from Snowmass Village. With those two factors colliding over the past several days, our presentation of the news in Snowmass will look a little different moving forward but our coverage will not.

Starting this week and for an unforeseen length of time (hopefully just a few weeks), we are taking the Snowmass Sun and incorporating it into The Aspen Times as a four-page section. The Sun, which comes out every Wednesday, has played a large role in keeping the community informed, and that will be carried on with this approach.

For decades we have shown a strong dedication to covering the news of the village and we will continue that responsibility despite this change. Snowmass Sun reporter Maddie Vincent will continue to cover the heart and soul of Snowmass, and our local columnists will continue to stay in tune with the heart of the village by writing about what they and other residents are feeling and talking about.

Our Village Voices features that highlight our local people and businesses will continue. Our role as a watchdog to Town Council remains firm. Keeping residents informed is our top priority.

Although there won’t be as many stories in the print edition, our coverage will continue on the SnowmassSun.com website as well as on our Facebook page. We will continue to bring you the most important news as well as keep you connected with the community.

If you haven’t really explored the Sun in the past, consider this your invitation to take a peak. And if you’re a loyal follower of the Sun, we thank you and we look forward to continuing to serve you on our variety of platforms — in print, online and on social media. If you have any questions, please reach out to me (dkrause@aspentimes.com) or Maddie (mvincent@aspentimes.com).

You’ve heard this a lot lately and we feel it’s true: We’ll get through this together. In the meantime, we will keep you informed of what is going on in the village; it’s our commitment to you and the community.

Luck of the draw: The process behind the Snowmass housing lottery

A rainstick-like sound echoed out from the Snowmass Housing Office porch March 23 as director Betsy Crum flipped a gold-colored raffle drum from right to left, right to left.

“And the magic begins! Good luck to you all!” said Terri Everest, assistant housing director, as Crum started.

Several village residents watched intently from the parking lot as the little film canisters housing green tickets penned with their names cascaded from one side of the drum to the other. All were hoping to be chosen as the next deed-restricted owner of a 3-bedroom home in the Sinclair Meadows neighborhood.

After a few minutes of mixing, housing maintenance mechanic Matt Dutcher selected a canister from the raffle drum and declared Kyle Sauder, Abbey Dougherty and Sauder’s two children Cody and Eleonore the winners.

All four smiled, cheered and hugged.

“It feels relieving to get in,” Sauder, general manager of store implementation for Four Mountain Sports in Snowmass, said of winning the town lottery for the Sinclair Meadows home. The 17-year valley resident has been in at least five Snowmass lotteries for a deed-restricted home over the years and this was his first win.

“It’s been a challenge for sure but this is the first one we’ve gone for in over a year and we’re stoked to have won.”

MORE THAN LUCK

While housing lotteries don’t take place very often in Snowmass Village, both Crum and Everest agreed that they’re exciting when they do.

“There’s a lot of tension before that first name is drawn, but it’s fun when the person who wins is here,” Crum said.

But selecting a person for a Snowmass Village deed-restricted home is much more than just pulling a ticket out of a raffle drum. The process began several weeks prior to March 23 and involves multiple steps and checks before it ever gets to the lottery phase.

The Snowmass Housing Department manages and maintains six rental apartment complexes with 247 units and administers the sale of 176 deed-restricted single family homes, townhomes and condominiums, according to its website.

The department is separate from the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority with its own rules and regulations, giving top priority to full-time Snowmass employees.

For deed-restricted or “permanent moderate housing” sales, Crum and Everest follow a step-by-step process to ensure fairness and consistency when transitioning from one owner to the next.

With the most recent Sinclair Meadows sale, the previous owner downsized to a 2-bedroom home, the last of a series of home shuffling in the same neighborhood.

After the owner paid a $1,000 processing fee to cover the town’s inspection of the home — which is conducted by town chief building official Mark Kittle, who ensures it’s in good condition given its age — and four weeks of advertising in the local papers, the housing office put the available Sinclair Meadows home out to the public and started accepting applications.

The home’s sale price was calculated at $334,063.32, based on the Consumer Price Index. The price does not include the Sinclair Meadows Homeowner’s Association fees, which Crum and Everest said are higher than other village neighborhoods because the HOA is “fairly robust.”

Once the deed-restricted home is advertised, the housing office starts accepting applications, processing each one as they come in to ensure everyone who applies is qualified.

The minimum qualifications include working as a full-time Snowmass employee (1,400 hours over at least eight months of the year) for at least one year; or as a full-time Pitkin County employee for at least three years. Applicants also must fall below the calculated maximum net worth and maximum annual income thresholds for the available property.

However, the housing office has several lottery tiers it uses to give priority to certain qualifying people and additional requirements applicants must meet, which Crum views as three filters: location, occupancy (number of people in your household) and years worked in Snowmass or Pitkin County.

“There are so many little pieces, it can definitely get complicated,” Crum said, noting the bare bones of the process is outlined in the town’s permanent moderate housing regulations.

For example, if someone is considered “in-complex,” or already living in the neighborhood of the available Snowmass home, they get top priority. So if an in-complex person applies for a home and meets all of the other town requirements and regulations, they will get the home so long as another in-complex person does not apply as well. A lottery is not held if this happens, even if there are applicants that fall into lower lottery tiers.

The second tier, which was added to the priority list in November, is someone looking to downsize from one deed-restricted home to another. The third tier, which Crum said “gets the most action,” includes full-time Snowmass Village employees who have worked in the village for at least three years.

With the recent Sinclair Meadows home, the housing office received five applications by the March 19 due date. None fell in the in-complex or downsizing tiers, so the office held the March 23 lottery for the applicants with three or more years of employment time in Snowmass Village.

Crum and Everest said placing people neatly into the different tiers isn’t always black-and-white and sometimes the office is forced to make difficult decisions, but through the whole process they work to treat everyone evenly.

“We try to be really transparent and even-handed,” Crum said. “People may not agree with the rules, they may feel like homes should go to people who have been here the longest, but we try to apply everything very evenly and equally where we can so people feel like they have a chance.”

A CHANGING ROLE

Housing lotteries already aren’t very common events in Snowmass Village, but the March 23 lottery was one unlike any other held before.

Because of the novel coronavirus pandemic and local social distancing requirements, the lottery was held outside and all individuals and families were asked to maintain 6 feet between each other.

But outside of this procedural change due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Crum said the pandemic also is affecting the housing office’s role in the village community.

Instead of just serving as the caretaker and administrator of town housing, the department has shifted to more of a social services role, checking in on its most vulnerable tenants and hosting free community food pick-ups, like the one made possible by Gwyn’s High Alpine last week.

“This is such a fluid situation, we are just trying to keep in contact with our tenants,” Crum said. “My feeling is that people are OK now but as each week goes on they become more and more worried.”

That’s why on the same day of the Sinclair Meadows lottery, Crum said the housing office also sent out a notice to all of its tenants letting them know they will not lose their housing due to the COVID-19 outbreak, as many village employees have been laid off in recent weeks and/or are no longer working full-time.

Crum said at least 50% of the town’s year-round, full-time residents live in town housing, and that her staff is dedicated to working with both town and county governments to ensure everyone in the village has access to food and is guaranteed shelter as the outbreak continues.

“We want people to know that we are willing and ready to work with them to help in any way we can,” Crum said. “I feel like if housing is stable and food is stable then the rest is up to time and we can all get through this together.”

mvincent@aspentimes.com

Roger Marolt: Settling in on the new abnormal

If you could only have one, which would you choose: coffee or toilet paper?

That’s a tough one. Fortunately, you don’t have to choose. Unfortunately, there is no choice. Next time you have to restock the bomb shelter formerly known as your home, you will see.

We went as long as we could but Sunday we had to make a big box run to Target to resupply for this isolation period. There was not a roll of toilet paper in the place but the coffee section was completely stocked. I was a little disappointed by the toilet paper shortage, but thrilled about the caffeine situation. I can live without the former. In a pinch, you can substitute Kleenex if you’re not too aggressive with it. Worse case scenario? You have new appreciation for why toilets and showers are so close together.

As for coffee, that would be a tough shortage to muscle through. What’s the easy household substitute for wake up juice? Three teaspoons of ghost pepper hot sauce? A few drags on a Marlboro? A couple whiffs of ammonia-based bathroom cleaner? It’s not pretty.

My daughter, who has been sequestered with us throughout this ordeal, joined us on our Target trip. Can you believe the isolation has already lasted a week? It felt so good to get out in our mobile bubble to see Glenwood Springs and the sun. Once in the store, we kept our distance from the few other people there. I noticed nobody was so much as making eye contact. I said “hello” to the first couple of no nonsense shoppers I passed, at a safe distance, and didn’t get replies. It’s like they started to speak and then caught themselves. I don’t know if this all-in distancing stems from guilt of getting seen in public or is just evidence that our brains haven’t adapted to what the exact shut-in protocol is, so everything is off limits until we can cerebrally rewire for this weird time. It really is for the best.

I overcompensated for the lack of TP and bought what is about a three-month supply of Keurig coffee pods for our family of accountants in tax season working from home along with our college sophomore who is now here taking her engineering courses online. The boxes of java are stacked on shelves in the garage where the toilet paper should be. It’s not like this overkill escaped my mind in the moment, so I stopped and bought a case of wine in Willits on the way home. I figured there is no better antidote to coffee in the morning than booze in the evening. Plus, they gave me a 10% discount for buying a dozen bottles. It’s not like I ever considered not buying that much in a time of crisis. If they only knew.

Before this, we stopped at Fat Belly Burgers in Carbondale to get some take-out lunch. I looked around to make sure nobody saw us. We ordered far away from the window and the kid working the counter was just as far away on the other side. We swiped our own credit card on the reader now conspicuously placed on our side of no-man’s land and he didn’t make us sign anything. We hollered out the tip to add to the total. He set our bag of food on the counter and backed away slowly. I bounded up and pinched it by the fold at the top and we made our getaway, headed for home to indulge in the luxury of eating something, anything that we didn’t cook.

The burgers were heavenly! Afterward, I remarked how good it felt to do something normal again, even though what we had just done was anything but. If you had ever told me that one day my wife, my 25-year-old daughter and I would plan a fun outing to Glenwood to buy toilet paper in order to break out of a funk only to come home with a case of wine and a bag of hamburgers instead because they were completely out of even store-brand toilet paper, I would have sold all the stocks in my retirement account immediately.

Roger Marolt is starting to see that the easiest way to get through the darkness is to make light of it. Email him at roger@maroltllp.com.

Snowmass town briefs: Town buildings closed, Village Shuttle goes to spring schedule, list of open businesses

TOWN OFFICES CLOSED, VILLAGE SHUTTLE STARTS SPRING SCHEDULE

On March 23, Snowmass town offices closed to the public and the Village Shuttle started its spring bus schedule in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Trash pick up will continue as normal, and other town services are still available. Visit tosv.com for online assistance or call the numbers below:

-Town Manager’s Office 970-923-3777

-Finance/Accounting/Sales Tax questions 970-923-3796

-Housing Department 970-923-2360

-Parking/Transportation 970-923-2543

-Public Works Department 970-923-5110

-Tourism 970-923-2000

For detailed spring Village Shuttle bus schedule, visit villageshuttle.com or download the Transit app. Parking is free in the numbered lots adjacent to the Village Mall and in the Base Village parking garage. For up to date alerts and more information on the town of Snowmass Village’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, along with related closures and cancellations, visit tosv.com/495/COVID-19-UPDATES.

LIST OF OPEN SNOWMASS BUSINESSES

Over the next several weeks, the Snowmass Sun and The Aspen Times will keep a running list of open village businesses for our readers. As of Tuesday at 12 p.m., here’s the list of Snowmass eateries and stores open to the public. If you’d like your business added, email mvincent@aspentimes.com.

  • Ajax Supply hardware store, 16 Kearns Road Suite 210 in Snowmass, is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. 970-429-4329
  • Alpine Bank, starting Friday, is operating all of its branch lobbies by appointment only; drive- up and walk-up banking is available where provided, as well as night drop and ATMs. Digital options include online banking, mobile banking, Alpine Info Line 888-4ALPINE (888-425-7463), Online Chat and calling customer service/internet banking support (800-551-6098)
  • The Daly Bottle Shop is open by appointment. Call 970-923-4100 or send a direct message to the store’s Facebook page.
  • Grub Thai, 11 Snowmass Mall, is open for take-out lunch and dinner; 15% discount to all customers. 970-923-9558
  • Old Snowmass Market at the Old Snowmass Conoco is offering takeout starting at 6 am.
  • The Snowmass Resort Conoco is open Monday thru Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. for auto repair and closed Saturday and Sunday. Gas pumps operate with credit cards 24/7. Inside access is limited, but the station has cold drinks and snacks for purchase.
  • Slow Groovin’ BBQ in Snowmass Village has full menu takeout from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. and lunch delivery to businesses. 970-429-4761
  • Sundance Liquor and Gifts is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. There is a 10 customer maximum in the store at one time, but this number may change. Call-in orders, curbside pickup and delivery options are available. Prescriptions are being delivered to the store from Basalt Pharmacy everyday. If you have a prescription you’d like delivered to Sundance, call 970-927-3833. Call the store for more info at 970-923-5890.
  • Taster’s Pizza, 16 Kearns Road in Snowmass, is open for takeout and delivery from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. 970-923-5250
  • Zane’s Tavern in Snowmass Village is now closed, but the Aspen location, 308 S. Hunter St., is open for pick-up from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.. 970-544-9263.

A more up to date list of all Aspen, Snowmass and Basalt businesses open to the public can be found HERE.

Snowmass History: Roberto’s Run, 1982

“March 31 — it’s a day memorialized,” reminded the March 30, 2004, Aspen Times article.

“On March 31, 1982, Roberto Gasperl of the Snowmass Ski Patrol was killed by an avalanche in a chute near the Hanging Valley Wall. Candy Ass Chute has since been renamed Roberto’s to honor him.”

As recalled in the article, “Stan Tenner, a 29-year veteran of the Snowmass Ski Patrol, said he and Gasperl, along with a few other patrollers, were conducting control work” when the slope fractured above them and the slide struck “‘Little John’ Erspamer and Gasperl. Erspamer escaped with injuries to his face and leg. ‘I heard Little John calling at me to get down there, Roberto was buried,’ Tenner said. ‘Roberto tried to ski out of it and didn’t make it.’”

Letter from Snowmass Town Council: We will get through this together

Dear Snowmass Village community members,

During this scary and uncertain time, let’s remember who we as the town of Snowmass Village are. We are a resilient, compassionate, and hard-working community. What we as TOSV councilmembers love most about our Village is that we are a small town that supports each other, not only in times of prosperity, but in times of hardship.

This certainly is one of those times of hardship, as many of us face challenges to our physical health, mental health, livelihoods, and overall well-being. However, know that as a community, we will get through this together and that we, as your Town Council members, are committed to serving you.

We continue to work hand in hand with our colleagues in Pitkin County, the Pitkin County Health Department, City of Aspen, and the State of Colorado in response to this crisis. We don’t always agree on the best next steps, but we ALWAYS agree that every organization is doing the best it can with the information and resources it has.

There are no easy answers to the problems before us, but there is a lot of hard work going into trying to find the best solutions for the community. We are confident that everyone’s best efforts and best interests are being used to find answers. We strongly support the county in its efforts to increase the amount of testing available, prioritizing the limited amount of tests that are currently available, and the health department’s efforts to strengthen their Public Health Orders to slow the spread of COVID-19. While these health orders are difficult to implement, they are hugely impactful. They strive to use science to find the balance between too many or too few restrictions and to further find the correct balance between the short-term and long-term health of the community. We ALL must pay heed to the Public Health Orders and follow them strictly. It is the right thing to do for our Village.

We have already witnessed incredible acts of compassion and generosity to community members in need. Please continue to reach out to your neighbors and those who live alone. If they need groceries, or someone to pick up their mail, or just a conversation, please help them. These acts of kindness are the underlying spirit and the cornerstone of Snowmass Village values. To assist with this supporting effort, the Town of Snowmass Village has committed to partnering with other local governments and will be contributing at least $100,000 to the local COVID -19 relief fund created by Pitkin County Human Services. It will be made available to Snowmass Village residents and employees in need of economic relief and resources.

Fundamentally, we are committed to no one losing their housing at this time. The Town is working to develop methods to assist our business community and those living in our employee housing units. We are very willing to work with every individual and businesses in need. We will be compassionate and flexible in developing payment plans, in waiving late fees, and ensuring that folks are aware of the emergency financial assistance available through the relief fund. The health and well-being of our community members is our upmost 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 wellbeing and businesses. Visit www.tosv.com for links to these resources.

We are confident and thankful that the Pitkin County Health Department, Clark’s Market, local health care providers, first responders, your town government and other community members are doing all we can to keep this community as safe as possible. As you form your thoughts and views of the issues at hand, please be sure to rely on trusted and official sources for information. Rumors and bad information spread faster than any disease. We want to hear from you with any ideas or concerns you may have. Please be sure to write us and tell us what is on your mind.

We remain committed to taking care of our community safely and effectively. 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.

Sincerely,

Markey Butler, Mayor

Bob Sirkus, Mayor Pro Tem

Alyssa Shenk, Councilor

Tom Goode, Councilor

Bill Madsen, Councilor

Email Town Council at council@tosv.com.

Village Voices: Hear from Andy Fisher of Roaring Fork Fire Rescue Authority on COVID-19 response

For this month’s Local Spotlight, the Snowmass Sun sought to speak with a local first responder helping respond to and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. That responder was Andy Fisher, a longtime Snowmass resident and lieutenant paramedic with Roaring Fork Fire Rescue Authority. Here’s what he had to say:

Snowmass Sun: How long have you been in Snowmass?

Andy Fisher: I’ve been here for 15 years. I think this is my 16th winter.

SS: And have you been working at the fire station that long as well?

AF: I’ve been with the fire station for 9 years. I started at Snowmass Fire and then we merged (to become Roaring Fork Fire Rescue Authority) and I’ve been on Snowmass Ski Patrol since 2006.

SS: So walk me through what things have been like for you guys at Roaring Fork Fire Rescue over the past few weeks, how you’ve been involved in the COVID-19 mitigation response?

AF: Yeah it’s been a very crazy two weeks just like it has been for everyone else and the amount of information flowing our way seems to be updated daily, so we’re constantly adapting to federal and state level data and statistics involving COVID-19 and adapting our operation in order to keep us as responders as safe as possible and still provide the high level of service that the community expects.

The biggest challenge for us has just been staying current. You know every time you come in for a shift, protocols have been updated to reflect new data and our staffing model is constantly changing to keep exposure down. We’re also spreading ourselves out in the station, I’m at a house right now with one other person and we haven’t come within six feet of each other yet. And we’re doing daily checks on all responders working at each station to trend and hopefully rule out potential illness within our staff.

So everyone’s kind of practicing that social distancing in the district’s three houses and then with regard to our calls, we work closely with dispatch so if dispatch takes a call from a 911-caller, dispatch is going to ask them a series of questions and if their answers meet their COVID-19 protocol, they’ll notify us and that clues us in that we’re going into a potentially infectious situation, so we’re going to slow down a little bit and make sure that we are fully protected in the PPE or the personal protective equipment that we need to stay safe. That’s a gown and N95mask, eye protection and gloves.

At that point, where we normally respond with a 2-person ambulance crew and maybe more depending on the call, sometimes we send two ambulances to something that sounds serious, now we’re just sending that one person in all of their PPE in and we’re interviewing people through a barrier, whether it’s a door or glass, to ask them a series of questions. If they meet certain criteria, we talk them into self-quarantining in place, to stay home if they’re able to maintain oxygen saturation and have the ability to breathe without supplemental oxygen just due to the local hospitals potentially being maxed out. So us transporting some of these people isn’t really necessarily always the right thing.

Overall I would say that it’s completely changed the way we assess people, it’s completely changed the way our transport decisions are made and it’s almost like we view every single contact as a potential exposure.

SS: In the interactions you have had with community members, what is your sense of how the community is reacting to the potential spread of coronavirus here locally?

AF: Well what we’ve seen for the most part is you know people really taking good practice with social distancing. As I look out the window right now I can see people doing it. But we’ve seen the full gamut of people embracing what’s being asked of them from their community leaders and their state leaders to stay indoors, to limit travel, I mean as I look out the window I don’t see anyone driving down this busy street that usually would be crowded, and then all the way to the other side of the spectrum, where we’ve had members of the public approach us when we’re in our full gowns, our full PPE and masks and goggles and it looks scary. It looks like something out of a movie you would see where responders are fully isolated in all their gear and we’ve had people approach us extremely upset and that’s understandable. But I think the important thing to know is that we have very, very strict protocol that we’re following and it’s set forth by the state and we have chief level officers in our organization that are on the Incident Management Team communicating with the state so it’s not like we’re just making this stuff up. We are following protocol.

So yeah, we’ve seen kind of both ends of the spectrum with people really abiding and people being really, really scared.

SS: How have you guys worked to keep calmness and morale and sort of mental wellness up among responders during this uncertain and potentially scary time?

AF: Yeah, I think the number one thing is we are very much encouraged to when, you know we work 48 hour shifts and then we’re off for 96 hours and when we’re off we’re off. Our leaders are very supportive of us just going home and being home and not being involved, not stressing about what’s going on at work and engaging in the lifestyle, that’s the reason we live here. For me personally, my family is what keeps me sane.

But then here at work we have a Peer Support Team, we have connections to the Hope Center and most of all we’re just here for each other really on a one-on-one and crew level. The family environment inside of the firehouse is one of the best parts about the fire service.

It’s also kind of cool the way that all of our chiefs are really coming together to support us. They’re very focused on providing the level of service we always have with like an extreme emphasis on keeping staff protected and making sure that the staff is supported in their home life, too. We’re talking about a day care program and they’ve just totally adapted with our time off, you know if you’re sick or you need to be with your family. So the support from the top has been really helpful. In a time when most people are getting laid off, we’re being really supported in an effort to keep us safe so we can keep responding to our community.

SS: Is there anything else you feel like is important for the Snowmass community or the county community as a whole to understand about this time and how you guys are working to serve them while also protecting yourselves?

AF: You know we don’t really have much of a social media presence but we’ve decided that we’re going to kind of adopt this #StayHomeForUs hashtag. You know when you see the base of Tiehack look like the Highlands closing day party on a weekend and see people who are kind of not abiding by the social distancing and unknowingly spreading are potentially spreading (coronavirus), it’s putting everyone at risk.

For me, when I come into work right now it’s totally different. It’s super stressful and if I get exposed at work I could potentially be quarantined for 14 days away from my family. That’s unsettling. And so to see people not participating in the social distancing and showing little regard for community spread, that’s hurtful.

So the #StayHomeForUs means we’re doing our part, I’m coming here to do my part and serve the community and I think it’s really important that everyone plays the same role. …Let’s just make this happen now so we can move on from it and I think if everyone plays along, we’ll be through this a lot quicker, so yeah I think playing by the rules now more than ever is super important.

mvincent@aspentimes.com

Adapting day by day: Snowmass works to keep up with evolving COVID-19 outbreak

There’s been a lot of change in Snowmass Village over the past five days.

On March 14, the town was bustling with locals and visitors recreating on the mountain and spending time throughout the village.

By March 16, the town felt as if it was in the middle of the offseason, with no lifts spinning, fewer people on the snow and not many businesses open.

But this wasn’t a result of the offseason. This was the fallout of several incrementally impactful state and county orders that mandated social distancing, closed down the state’s ski areas for one week, and shut down dine-in restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters and casinos to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19.

“Everyone is working hard to support one another during this difficult time,” said Mayor Markey Butler on March 16 of the county and local response to COVID-19. “There are people who have stepped up to do grocery shopping and pick up medications for those who are vulnerable and I think that speaks very, very highly to the spirit of Snowmass Village.”

At a Town Council meeting March 16, the main agenda item was to declare a local disaster emergency in Snowmass Village, which would allow the town to seek external financial aid if needed as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to develop and evolve.

As councilmembers sat roughly 6 feet a part, Town Manager Clint Kinney explained the resolution, which notes the town hasn’t incurred any direct expenses as a result of COVID-19 as of March 16, and updated council on how the town was working alongside the county to mitigate virus spread.

Kinney said Snowmass Village is implementing all Pitkin County Public Health decisions and following the lead of the incident management team in place, which the town is a part of and working with to push out accurate information to all valley locals.

“We’re doing our best to make sure good, accurate information goes out and to answer questions when they arise,” Kinney said. “As a town staff, we’re trying to be cautious and calm.”

In Snowmass specifically, several closures and cancellations were made to limit the novel coronavirus spread, including the closure of the town’s recreation center, Snowmass Club and Snowmass Cross Country Center, The Collective as well as most of Base Village, Viceroy Snowmass and all dine-in only restaurants and bars per state public health order.

The town’s Village Shuttle schedule also was amended as of March 17 afternoon, but town buses are still running and available for on-call transportation.

According to Rose Abello, director of Snowmass Tourism, her staff was working on checking in with all village lodging, restaurants and businesses to see if they’re open and what services they may be offering March 16.

The tourism department has “pivoted” from working to get people to visit for the end of the ski season in April to almost solely focusing on its summer event planning and marketing, and will continue to adapt its operations with the state of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“From what we can tell the community and our stakeholders are in a sort of decision making mode right now,” Abello said, emphasizing how quickly the outbreak response evolves each day.

“As a team, our biggest focuses right now are how to take care of our employees and businesses and how to take care of our guests who are still here.”

At the Westin Snowmass Resort and Wildwood Snowmass Hotel, complex manager Jeffery Burrell said both hotels have gone from nearly full occupancy to just a handful of guests in a matter of days, and that he’s had to lay off a large chunk of his staff as a result of the COVID-19 spread nationwide.

Despite these setbacks, Burrell said morale seems pretty good at both hotels considering everything. He also said his staff will continue to seek guidance from the complex owners on if they need to close completely before the end of their winter season on April 19.

“Yes, this has been dramatically impactful but we know people will yearn to come back to the mountains when this passes,” Burrell said. “People seem to be in a state of shock because no one has ever seen or experienced anything like this, but we are banding together and are very much like a big family anyway.”

Burrell’s sentiments were echoed by a handful of other business managers, restaurant owners and town officials this week as Snowmass continues to navigate a path forward that protects public health and provides access to the vital services people need.

Trevor Moodie, store director at Clark’s Market on the Village Mall, said he does not anticipate changing the store’s available services much unless he has to, as he understands the market offers a vital need to the community.

“We’re doing everything we can to ensure the store is a safe place to still come and shop,” Moodie said. “I’m so, so happy with our employees and the job they’re doing and don’t see much more change going forward.”

Moodie said the Snowmass Clark’s is still getting deliveries in, expanding the warehouses it orders from to ensure it can bring in most all the grocery items locals may need, and is closing its doors at 8 p.m. so employees can spend the last two hours of the night deep-cleaning the store.

Places like Sundance Liquor and Gifts are implementing similar strategies, striving to keep their businesses as hygienic as possible.

On a big picture level, while town officials said they can’t predict the future, staff members like Kinney and Marianne Rakowski, town finance director, feel Snowmass Village is in a strong state economically to handle the negative impacts of less visitors and less local services.

Kinney said that with credit to the current council, the town’s doubled its designated reserves over the past four years and more than doubled its undesignated reserves, putting the village in good shape if less visitors come to Snowmass or if a recession hits the U.S. due to the spread of the virus.

Over 2019 specifically, the town had a really good year tax revenue wise, Rakowski said, specifically with lodging tax revenue jumping up almost 17% from the year prior.

Rakowski also said the marketing, lodging and general funds all have reserves that are 30% of each fund’s revenue, giving the town some cushion.

“We have a great start going into whatever this year is going to bring because of the coronavirus and what’s happening with the world economy,” Rakowski said. “So I feel like we’re in a really good position right now.”

Overall, many town leaders and stakeholders expressed confidence in Snowmass Village’s resiliency and a dedication to ensuring all residents who need help now and as the COVID-19 outbreak evolves receive it.

mvincent@aspentimes.com