Differing rules in Pitkin, Eagle counties create mess for Basalt construction, retail
Basalt is bifurcated on rules dictating closure of non-essential retail stores and construction projects.
Pitkin County issued a health order Monday night that closes non-essential retail shops and shuts down most construction projects in the county’s ongoing efforts to ease the spread of the coronavirus. Eagle County has avoided such stringent rules.
That creates a problem for Basalt because of county lines.
“It’s confusing to have two different orders,” Basalt Town Manager Ryan Mahoney said Tuesday.
About one-third of Basalt is in Pitkin County. The health order forces closure of non-essential business in areas such as Two Rivers Road east of 7-Eleven, Southside and around the Valero Station, according to Mahoney.
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In addition, the construction projects that must be suspended include the Roaring Fork Club, a mixed residential and commercial building by Myers Architectural Metals, the Pitkin County Whitewater Park and the Basalt Vista affordable housing project, Mahoney said. There may be exemptions for government projects.
Meanwhile, the bulk of Basalt businesses — those downtown and in Willits — are located in Eagle County. Retail shops are allowed to operate, though many have decided to close or work by appointment. Construction can continue to roll on at major scheduled projects such as Aspen Skiing Co.’s affordable housing, The Arts Center at Willits as well as numerous residential projects surrounding Willits.
“Each county does have their justifications for their decisions,” Mahoney told the council members Tuesday night.
Eagle County officials don’t believe the operation of non-essential businesses has contributed to the spread of coronavirus, based on testing, according to Mahoney.
“They don’t have any plans to change,” he said.
Pitkin County officials aim to carry out more tests and believe the more stringent rules are necessary.
Basalt has the ability to adopt the more stringent regulations implemented by Pitkin County and make them uniform through the town, according to Mahoney. However, it cannot apply the less stringent regulations of Eagle County to the Pitkin County portion of town, he said.
No one on the council supported implementing the more stringent rules of Pitkin County other than Mayor Jacque Whitsitt. She said a shutdown for a couple of weeks “could better flatten the line” of the coronavirus infection rate.
Mahoney said he would stay in touch with health department officials in both counties and report to the council if there were any developing trends that warranted stricter action in Basalt. The council can always adopt the stricter rules through a special meeting, he noted.
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Basalt’s Midvalley Family Practice saw early on in the coronavirus crisis that uninsured residents of the region weren’t getting proper care. It formed a nonprofit organization to test for COVID-19 and offer other medical care. Its funds are dwindling.