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Glenwood Springs to split CARES funding into thirds, impose water-usage violation penalty

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Glenwood Springs is slated to divide its CARES Act funding into thirds, with one part reimbursing city expenses, one part going to community support and the last part put into reserve. 

Of the approximately $5 million distributed to Garfield County via the CARES Act, Glenwood received about $864,000, but the federal allotment has spending restrictions, many of which are still being decided, City Attorney Karl Hanlon told the City Council on Thursday.

“We see updated guidance every couple of weeks right now,” Hanlon explained. “I can’t tell you definitively today this or that is in or out.”

Councilors directed staff to only spend two-thirds of the money before November, in part because of the uncertain guidelines.

City Manager Debra Figueroa presented councilors with a list of potential expenditures during a special City Council meeting, requesting guidance on how the money should be spent. If the city does designate or spend all of the money by the end of the year, it will lose the unspent funds. 

“This is the only source of funding we’ve received from anybody to help the city get through COVID-19,” Figueroa said.

The funding could pay for a number of expenses the city accrued during the pandemic, such as $70,000 for personal protective equipment, $40,000 for public restrooms downtown and $170,000 towards city salaries for staff who worked on pandemic communications and coordination, according to Figueroa’s list.

And, portions of the federal allotment could pay for community support programs, such as $100,000 to additional rental and mortgage assistance programs, $125,000 toward additional business grants and $40,000 to food assistance. 

Aspen Community Foundation representative Gretchen Brogdon said government agencies and nonprofit organizations have distributed $14 million in economic assistance throughout the region so far, of which $1.4 million went to families in Glenwood Springs. 

Of the $1.4 million, 95 percent was funded through nonprofit organizations and philanthropy, but those revenue streams only accounted for about 34 percent of the overall $14 million distributed throughout the region with government funding sources providing the rest, she reported.

Brogdon said with $200,000 from Glenwood’s CARES funding, her organization could possibly get a second round of assistance to the city’s most vulnerable, which she calculated to be nearly half of the residents.

“Almost half our region is living paycheck to paycheck,” she said.

Many of those households received an average one-time economic assistance allotment of about $800, but those payments were often in the beginning of the pandemic. Without federal assistance through unemployment or eviction protections, the families could be susceptible to further economic woes. 

“Families and young adults are already moving away,” Brogdon said. “We’re losing that work force.”

Councilors were initially divided about whether the CARES funding should be put toward community endeavors or paying city costs to ensure basic services would be funded through the next year.

Mayor Jonathan Godes alluded to the city’s previous food assistance programs, business grants and community support efforts, saying the city should ensure its coffers didn’t run dry before doling out more community support funds. 

Mayor Pro Tem Shelley Kaup said she believed the reverse was true.

“I would like to lean toward putting more money toward the community,” Kaup said. “Our community is really hurting, and we have a lot of people living on minimum wage, and those people are vital to our service economy.”

Rather than deciding the issue Thursday, all the councilors agreed to direct city staff to split the funding into thirds: one-third would be applied to city expenses, one-third would be applied to community support initiatives and the last third would be set aside until November, when the council would make a final spending decision. 

Figueroa said Brogdon would take the lead on determining the best ways to use the one-third designated for community support.

Water usage penalties

Glenwood residents who don’t abide by the city’s water-usage regulations could now face a sliding fee scale.

During the council’s regular session, councilors voted 6-1, with Councilor Tony Hershey voting against, to approve the consent agenda, which included a fee scale for violating the water usage restrictions put in place as a result of the Grizzly Creek Fire. 

First time offenders could pay $50, second offenses could be fined $100, third offenses could be fined $250 and any offenses beyond three could be taken to court, city documents state.

Due to the impacts from the fire, water usage within the City could be restricted into 2021 and potentially beyond, city staff reported previously. 

After the meeting, Hershey said he voted against the consent agenda, which contained the fee schedule, because he didn’t agree with imposing penalties.

“I don’t understand why we’re always looking to penalize someone,” he said. 

ifredregill@postindependent.com


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