Basalt town government considers $70,000 in coronavirus relief funds |

Basalt town government considers $70,000 in coronavirus relief funds

A 7-11 employee puts a pack of American Spirits on the counter in Basalt on Friday, April 24, 2020. A proposal to spend $50,000 from cigarette tax revenue has been brought to Basalt City Council, who will discuss this on Tuesday. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Basalt Town Council will be asked Tuesday night to approve spending $70,000 in three community assistance initiatives tied to the coronavirus impacts.

The proposal suggests donating $10,000 from the town’s general operating fund to Food Bank of the Rockies, which is providing groceries for midvalley families each Thursday at Basalt Middle School.

“This contribution will cover the cost of 40,000 meals for approximately 500 families attending the weekly food drive,” said a memo to the council from Town Manager Ryan Mahoney and Finance Director Christy Hamrick.

Another $10,000 donation from the general fund is being sought for the Aspen Community Foundation’s Regional Response Fund.

“This donation will support access to appropriate health care and essential human needs such as food access, rent and utility assistance, and emergency services for individuals and families impacted by the virus,” Mahoney wrote.

The staff also recommended tapping into the town’s relatively new tobacco tax fund to contribute $50,000 to the Hope Center, which operates a counseling and suicide prevention program.

“This would provide counseling for those in our community that are experiencing stress and anxiety due to job loss and other triggers that are resulting from COVI-19,” Mahoney wrote. “This would allow not only adults but families and children to receive counseling through the summer months when the school counselors may not be in regular contact with students.”

The town’s tobacco tax fund currently has about $175,000, Mahoney said.

The town government cannot realistically fund programs to provide relief to unemployed workers or businesses struggling to survive simply because it doesn’t have the budget of Pitkin and Eagle counties or the city of Aspen, Mahoney said in an interview. The town will need all its reserves to weather an anticipated loss in sales and property tax revenue, he said.

The town will plan on spending funds to prime Basalt’s economic pump once the stay-at-home orders ease and the economy returns closer to normal. Money will be stashed for marketing and events.

In addition, the town staff has got a program planned to disclose the business community’s concerns to council.

“The council will soon begin a listening tour of local businesses as part of a regional effort aimed at understanding the impacts of COVID-19 and what resources are needed to help the economy regain its footing,” Mahoney’s memo said. “We will need to rely on our partnerships with regional governments and nonprofits as we move forward in order to make successful recovery.”

The newly assembled council will vote on the funding recommendations. New Mayor Bill Kane and new council members Glenn Drummond, David Knight and Elyse Hottel take the oath of office Tuesday.