Basalt prepares for potential spread of coronavirus by reducing access to facilities
The town of Basalt declared a “local disaster emergency” Friday morning in response to the coronavirus pandemic, temporarily closing its buildings to the public and creating rules that allow it to conduct meetings electronically.
In addition, the Roaring Fork School District canceled classes Monday through Wednesday of next week, essentially extending spring break. The break had been scheduled to begin Thursday. It will continue as scheduled through the following week.
Also, Crown Mountain Park announced all organized sports and games on its grounds will be “on hold” until April 9, when the coronavirus situation will be reassessed.
At Basalt Town Hall, a sign was posted on the public entrance Friday morning notifying people that limited services are available for the foreseeable future. Future council meetings will be held with the public calling in or using FaceTime to provide comments. Council may meet in its usual chambers or also participate remotely. That is still to be determined.
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People with business with the town government will have to call to make an appointment. Payments for water bills and the like are wanted via credit card.
“We’re just trying to be as proactive as possible,” Town Manager Ryan Mahoney told council. “What that means to the public is we’ll be shutting down the public buildings — town hall, police department, public restrooms. We will still be available. We’ll be here working. People can call.
“We’re going to take this a week at a time and reassess where we are,” he continued. “The idea is we stay healthy as a staff so we can continue those life safety services — keeping the roads open, keeping the water plan going, making medical calls that the police department night have to go to.”
Police Chief Greg Knott said his officers will focus on essential calls. Speeders might just get the evil eye rather than a ticket, for example. The police station will be open, but officers will meet members of the public outside and practice social distancing.
Mahoney said he made the decision to make as much as two weeks of special sick time available to employees between now and April 11 to encourage employees to stay home if they are ill and possibly infected with the virus. Workers can take that time and “we won’t ding you” for regular sick or vacation time, he said.
Mahoney said an Eagle County official told him Thursday that none of the 11 presumptive positive test results for COVID-19 at that time were residents of the Roaring Fork Valley portion of the county. However, he said it is likely a matter of time that the virus spreads to the midvalley given that Eagle County has 11 cases and Pitkin County has 10.
“This seems to be changing pretty consistently,” Mahoney said. “I think people in Aspen were starting to get pretty concerned after those cases came back positive. Once we start getting that in Basalt, I see that happening (here) as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if you start getting calls, we start getting calls here.”
Basalt will have to refer people to the health departments of Pitkin and Eagle counties.
“We can’t test. We can’t provide those health care services that folks need so we need to provide that guidance,” he said.
Other midvalley organizations also are adjusting operations in response to the virus. Crown Mountain’s baseball fields and soccer fields are typically swarmed with kids a little later in the spring, around April 1. However, Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties enacted a ban on gatherings more than 50 people Thursday night. The park is in Eagle County.
The park will remain open for individuals and small groups to use despite the ban on special events and organized sports gatherings.
“Staying healthy and fit right now is the action you can take to fight the virus,” park staff said in a notice. “The park will remain open to the general public; we recommend social distancing at the park. We have closed the public restrooms to prevent the spread of the virus. Thanks for understanding.”
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Aspen residents, workers up and down the valley and area businesses could benefit from the city of Aspen’s recently passed $5 million emergency relief and economic stimulus package.