Snowmass council to vote on face mask ordinance Tuesday

A view of Snowmass Town Hall on May 3, 2020.
Maddie Vincent/The Aspen Times

Snowmass Village will soon follow suit with Aspen, Basalt and Glenwood Springs in passing a mandatory mask ordinance to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

At the Monday night Snowmass Town Council meeting, members decided to convene again Tuesday to vote on a town mask ordinance. The emergency ordinance would require people in Snowmass to wear face coverings whenever they are in a public place and/or unable to social distance at 6 feet apart.

This mandatory requirement, which could go into effect immediately, would come three days after Basalt passed a similar mask ordinance and four days before Pitkin County’s mask requirement is set to take effect as part of its version of the state’s “safer at home” public health order.

“Every day someone does not wear a mask is a potential exposure,” Councilman Bob Sirkus said. “I’d like to see everyone have a mask on so we all feel protected.”

After little discussion and general consensus on moving forward with a mandatory mask requirement, Mayor Markey Butler directed town staff to draft an ordinance that aligns with those already in place in the Roaring Fork Valley. Council will vote on the ordinance at a special meeting Tuesday at 5 p.m.

As part of the council’s COVID-19 discussion Monday, Butler also addressed the financial struggles and uncertainty Snowmass’ merchants are facing during the pandemic, recognizing public comment from several local business owners and suggesting a community-led task force made up of town stakeholders, staff and financial experts be created to come up with solutions.

“We’ve heard it from our merchants. They’re struggling, they’re struggling big time,” Butler said, noting she talked with many local business owners over the weekend. “They don’t want to go out of business, they’ve worked too hard for it and put their heart and soul into their businesses.”

The rest of council agreed that more support for town business owners is needed and that a task force should be mobilized as soon as possible. Council and town staff also generally agreed with Butler’s suggestion that the town look at potentially adjusting local liquor licenses to allow for more tables and chairs out on places like the Village Mall, promoting social distancing but also allowing restaurants to seat more people as soon as it is for them to reopen or resume in-person dining.

“This thing is not going to go away anytime soon,” Butler said. “Keep the ideas flowing.”

While several business owners submitted written comments to council Monday, Reed Lewis, owner of the Daly Bottle Shop, Grain Fine Food and 81615, called in to the virtual meeting to express what he sees as a critical need for collaboration among the town and the local business community.

Lewis said he thinks it’s going to take bold action to keep town businesses from folding but feels Snowmass has the potential to serve as a positive example of perseverance and success for other small towns in America working to get through the COVID-19 crisis, too.

“I’ve never been in a situation like this before. It’s real and I hope everyone realizes how real it is. There are days where I wonder if it would make sense just to walk away and throw in the towel and it hurts saying that. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I know a lot of other folks up here are in a very similar situation,” Lewis said.

“I don’t know what the answer is but I’m happy to brainstorm and help in any way I can to keep our village viable. … It’s going to take all of us working together to make something happen.”