By Lisa Young
Delta County Commissioners approved 2-1 to extend the local disaster emergency declaration until June 30. The decision was made during a special meeting on May 27.
“The purpose of the emergency declaration is to activate our response and the recovery aspects of our disaster emergency plan and authorize aid under the plan,” said Kris Stewart, EOC, adding that the emergency declaration is not connected to Colorado’s safer-at-home policies.
Stewart said it’s difficult to say how counties will go about recouping money from the FEMA with so many counties and municipalities declaring COVID-19-related emergencies across the country.
Commissioner Mark Roeber said he too is doubtful about the FEMA money, but the emergency declaration does help with CARES Act funding. Robbie LeValley, county administrator, said all COVID-19-related expenses have been tracked for CARES Act reimbursements.
The county could be eligible for CARES Act reimbursements on necessary expenditures not accounted for in the budget due to the public health emergency during the period between March 1 and ending on Dec. 30, 2020.
LeValley said the continuance of the emergency declaration allows Delta County to be eligible for FEMA reimbursement and any other state funds.
Currently Delta County Memorial Hospital, North Fork Ambulance, Hotchkiss Fire Department and the towns of Delta, Hotchkiss, Cedaredge, Paonia and Crawford, either have an open emergency declaration or have extended until June or August, according to Stewart. He said that only two Colorado counties, Montezuma and Rio Blanco, are not operating under an emergency declaration.
Commissioner Don Suppes voted “no” for a second consecutive time on the extension saying he “stands where he stood the last time.”
“I truly feel we’ve reached a level that this thing has gone too far. The CDPHE can’t even get our number of deaths right in the state, none of the modeling has been correct and I still stand by the fact that the cure is worse than the disease in this case,” said Suppes after thanking the county’s EOC and staff for their efforts.
Suppes blamed the state and federal governments and the media for promoting fear among the population saying it was time to get back to normal.
“There’s ways to fix this without destroying lives and the economy, so I will have to vote ‘no’ on this.”
The resolution to extend the emergency disaster states that Delta County Emergency Manager and the Delta County Public Health Director have recommended that the local disaster be continued because among other things,“it is appropriate to further protect the local economy” and “continuance is necessary for the public health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the County of Delta.”
Roeber and Commissioner Mike Lane voted in favor of the extension that will last until June 30. The county declared its first emergency declaration on March 23 following state and national declarations.
Commissioners were also briefed on proposed changes to the liquor license process by the state.
“They are now allowing the local authorities to make the decision of whether they want to post and do a hearing. If the board decides to do a hearing, then we would have to post a minimum of ten days and do the normal procedure,” said Teri Stephenson, county clerk.
She said the state is attempting to expedite the process and reaching out to local authorities for their input. The county could have the chairman sign off on the license and forward the application to the state.
The chairman could “red flag” the application and go to a hearing. If the state denies the application, it would be returned to the county for further review. Stephenson said the state is taking the application process online and dropped the fee from $300 to $150. Locally there is no fee.
“Given the new guidelines, we would like for you all to consider that we could do this quicker than having a full hearing process,” said LeValley, “and just have the chair sign.”
“We need to be able to make this as feasible as possible, these folks have been through enough,” said Suppes making the motion to approve the chairman to sign off on liquor license applications due to COVID-19. The motion passed 3-0.
The next Delta County Board of Commissioners meeting is scheduled for June 3.