Pitkin County commissioners: Keep RFTA running | AspenTimes.com
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Pitkin County commissioners: Keep RFTA running

Staff report
RFTA lead mechanic Will Fabela, right, and Patricia Rosales Trigo disinfect a bus at the Aspen Maintenance Facility on Thursday, March 12, 2020.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Pitkin County commissioners made it clear Thursday that they do not want to see public bus service suspended in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Commissioners George Newman and Greg Poschman, who also sit on the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority board, said Thursday they were ready a week ago to support a proposal to suspend service altogether because of low ridership and fears of spreading the coronavirus. The proposal failed because it required a supermajority of board members, which didn’t occur.

However, after a discussion Thursday with their three other colleagues on the board, it was clear the board’s position was to keep at least bare-bones service going, which is consistent with recommendations by the team managing the valley’s coronavirus response.

“I’m not supporting the suspension of service,” Commissioner Patti Clapper said.

She cited a survey of essential businesses indicating that at least 90 essential workers rely on RFTA to get to work, while also pointing out that other residents use the service to obtain those services, like groceries.

Clapper also said that buses, which now ask people to board through back doors and stay away from the driver and front of the bus, allow people distance, as opposed to private cars that might be used in the absence of buses. Finally she pointed out that the board has spent years trying to get people to take the bus and that now isn’t the time to stop service.

Commissioners Kelly McNicholas Kury and Steve Child agreed with Clapper, and Poschman said he would support some level of service though he allowed that it could be reduced further.

The RFTA board is scheduled to meet again Friday to discuss service levels again.

INITIAL COUNTY RELIEF TO RESIDENTS ABOUT $700K

Pitkin County officials expect that the first round of applications for county-provided assistance will likely cost between $665,000 and $700,000, county manager Jon Peacock said Thursday.

Officials had received more than 1,200 applications for assistance as of Wednesday, and were ramping up staff to be able to soon process between 75 and 100 applications per day, he said. Volunteers — many from Aspen Skiing Co. — have completed about 350 interviews of applicants, while those who have received money have gotten an average of $944, Peacock said.

Eighty-seven percent of the money is going toward rent or mortgages, he said.

Peacock also warned commissioners to be ready to consider another emergency resolution for more money in the near future.

Commissioners have approved $850,000 so far to go toward assistance for county residents, with another $150,000 held in a separate emergency fund. The city of Aspen has contributed $200,000 toward coronavirus relief efforts, while Snowmass Village has kicked in $100,000.


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