By Lisa Young
Paonia town board approved a street closure request on behalf of Grand Avenue businesses during a special meeting on June 30. The request submitted by Amy DeLuca had a number of twists and turns before meeting the board’s approval.
The original proposal by DeLuca called for the closure of Grand Avenue from 1 to 6 p.m. every Saturday from July 4 through the end of September to accommodate businesses looking to access outdoor space during COVID-19 restrictions.
DeLuca was not available for questions but did speak to Paonia Mayor Mary Bachran and Corinne Ferguson, town administrator, prior to the meeting. Ferguson said that all of the businesses on Grand Avenue agreed to having the street closure while not all of them would participate. Also, there are some remaining considerations for businesses including insurance coverages.
“This initial request is only for this weekend from 1 to 6 p.m. The other part of that would be an administrative approval to grant road closures longer than four hours moving forward,” said Ferguson, later stating that street closures under four hours or less are approved at the administrative level.
Trustee Bill Bear recommended that the street closure take place for the next two weekends in order to give businesses and the board an opportunity to see how the event goes and to give DeLuca an opportunity for “a better” presentation at the next town meeting.
In addition to extending the street closure to five hours, Ferguson said there was another request that the fees associated with the closures be waived for the events. The city charges $25 an hour for five hours.
Trustee Dave Knutson suggested waiving fees for the first two weeks and then reconsider at the next board meeting. He also expressed concern about giving administrative approval to close the main downtown street.
“I just want to make sure that we’re not overlooking the fees. I am a little leery about waiving fees, but I understand it’s covid. I want to be careful about waiving too many fees because it is expensive for us for the overtime for our officers and public works and for our staff to close the street,” Knutson said.
Trustees unanimously approved the closure of Grand Avenue for the next two Saturdays from 1 to 6 p.m. beginning July 4. Following the street closure approval, trustees discussed waiving the $25 an hour fee.
“It would be helpful to make the decision (on fees) going forward if staff provide an accounting of actual costs associated with the event, the actual overtime required, the time public works needs to close the street, any phone calls you’re fielding related to that and any clean up required afterwards. I think going for the first couple of events would help us decide if it makes sense to waive fees in the future,” said Trustee Michelle Pattison.
Trustee Karen Budinger asked if the waived fees could be reimbursed due to COVID-19.
“It’s not very clear ... so I can’t guarantee that it would be any fees that we could collect,” Ferguson said.
Closing Grand Avenue for 13 weekends would cost the town roughly $1,625 if the fees were waived. Bachran mentioned a grant that might cover the cost of the waived fees; Ferguson said she is already planning to look into the matter.
Trustees unanimously approved waiving the $25-an-hour fee for the street closure for the first two weeks and agreed to revisit the matter again at their regular meeting scheduled for July 14.