By Lisa Young
The Town of Hotchkiss extended its local emergency disaster declaration until June 12. Trustees voted unanimously in favor of the extension during their May 14 meeting held via teleconferencing.
Mayor Larry Wilkening reported that the Delta County Emergency Operations Center has begun winding down operations. He said daily meetings, went to three days to two a week. Presently the EOC is at EF8 status informing partners only when necessary. He said the EOC change is based on the declining coronavirus numbers in the county.
While the emergency extension allows the town to recoup money from FEMA, Wilkening said Hotchkiss might not need the federal funds adding the “paperwork would be tremendous.”
Despite the EOC walk-down and the lack of need for federal funding, Hotchkiss board members decided to keep the declaration in place at the recommendation of Bo Nerlin, town attorney. Nerlin reminded the mayor that he can at any time declare an emergency and have the board ratify within seven days. However, acting on the side of caution, Nerlin recommended extending the declaration.
“We are still in a fluid situation with the governor’s safer-at-home orders throughout the month of May and there will continue to be an evolution of those orders,” he said. “So, with respect to an extension and the goal of possibly receiving federal aid, I would suggest that there be an extension of possibly up to the June meeting so there can be an evaluation as the thing evolves.”
Delta County extended its local emergency declaration until May 31.
Board members held a lengthy discussion concerning donating town funds to the Delta County Business Recovery Fund. Delta County donated $500,000 to the fund administered by Region 10 for low interest covid-19 recovery loans for Delta County-approved businesses. The City of Delta recently approved a $50,000 donation for the fund and an additional $7,500 for closing costs on 10 loans. Cedaredge is currently considering the matter, hoping to earmark money for its town. Hotchkiss trustees said they too would rather exclusively support Hotchkiss businesses.
“If we are taking our tax money, it should help out our local businesses as opposed to another town,” Wilkening said. “It gets kind of complicated... there is no set amount that the loan fund would expect. It’s up to each municipality if they want to participate or not.”
Trustees floated the idea of setting up a local donation fund to help town businesses. Trustee Mary Hockenbery recommended covering the closing costs of businesses in Hotchkiss approved for the Delta County loan. Wilkening told the board he will contact Elyse Caselberry, county economic development director, to inform her that the town is looking at an “in-house” plan.
In other meeting news, trustees unanimously agreed to approve a liquor license for Taco Hut and approved the first reading of a building code ordinance upgrade. Wilkening recommended adding a building permit for all decks built in the town. The 2018 code exempted decks under 200 square feet and less than 30 inches off the ground.
“We feel that all decks need to have a permit. I have seen in my experience over the years a lot of decks that were shaky to start with when they built them and not attached properly, not the proper bracing, not on an acceptable post base. I think for safety reasons that it would be appropriate to require a building permit on that,” the mayor said.
The next town council meeting is scheduled for June 11 at 6:30 p.m.