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Basalt council takes crack at governing while maintaning social distancing

The Basalt town government took its first crack Tuesday night at holding a public hearing in the new world of social distancing and the coronavirus and registered a somewhat uneven performance.

The town plowed through with a joint hearing of the Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission and the Basalt Town Council to approve a land-use master plan. The document guides growth and sets the town’s priorities. Town officials have been working on it for about a year and most officials wanted to approve it before April 7, when as many as four positions on the seven-seat council could turn over.

For Tuesday night’s meeting, the mayor and mayor pro tem attended in person at council chambers while the other five council members listened in by phone. The planning commission worked out the same arrangement in an effort to keep fewer than 10 people congregating in chambers.

The council closed town government buildings in a special meeting last week.

Poor sound quality for the people listening by phone results in awkward pauses and hiccups in the meeting, but they worked through it.

“I’m just grateful that everyone has patience as we try to work through this,” planning director Susan Philp said.

The meeting was broadcast live on GrassRoots, as it always is, and the public was given a chance to call in and email questions. Nobody took the offer.

Both boards ended up approving the master plan unanimously.

The meeting provided a template for how Basalt and other elected bodies will proceed with their meetings for the foreseeable future.

During a break in the meeting, Town Manager Ryan Mahoney updated the council on several COVID-19 issues. He said he inquired with officials at the Colorado Department of Local Affairs what resources businesses and employees can tap into to offset the impacts of vast layoffs.

“We’re trying to get some answers about what’s next,” Mahoney said.

In addition, business owners are being asked to go the Basalt Chamber of Commerce website (basaltchamber.org) to fill out a survey about the anecdotal evidence of the shuttering of businesses to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Mayor Jacque Whitsitt urged viewers to order meals to go from the many restaurants in town that remain open for takeout.

Ballots for the April 7 election for mayor and three council seats were mailed Monday.

“We are working to ensure that our election is held without interruption, and Town Clerk Pam Schilling can be contacted directly at 970-279-4381 or pams@basalt.net if you did not receive a ballot or have any questions,” the release said.

Ballots should be mailed back to Town Hall or deposited in the drop box on the north side of the hall no later than 7 p.m. April 7.

Mahoney also assured town residents in the news release that while facilities are closed to the public, town employees are working. The Public Works Department is prepared to clear the roads when snowfall returns later this week.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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