Glenwood Springs City Council extends mask order, passes 2021 budget
The downtown mask mandate remains.
Glenwood Springs City Council voted 6-1 to reinstate its downtown indoor/outdoor mask order Thursday night, with Councilor Steve Davis opposed.
“We should let the governor lead on this. … It’s very awkward when every community you walk into has a different set of rules,” Davis said.
City attorney Karl Hanlon made a pitch to make the order an ordinance should council decide to extend it.
“I would like to shift away from doing these one-off health orders and actually bring this back as an ordinance,” he said.
Council discussed the merits of passing a law that cannot be enforced.
“How do we enforce this?” Councilor Charlie Willman asked, saying he didn’t like passing laws that are unenforceable.
“We absolutely cannot enforce this,” city manager Debra Figueroa said.
“I hate virtue signaling and not having something be enforceable. … We do have laws that are not able to be enforced, but they do engender compliance,” Mayor Jonathan Godes said.
The discussion also detailed the benefits of the order despite difficulties with enforcement.
Figueroa estimated that three-quarters of people downtown comply, and without the order no one would. That’s important to consider as COVID is ramping up, she said.
“It’s nice to have that zone as a reminder. We may not be able to enforce it strictly … but if we get 75-85% [compliance] it’s worth it,” Councilor Shelley Kaup said.
Councilor Ingrid Wussow, at her first council meeting, said that if people are required to have masks on while outside it could possibly reduce confrontations when entering businesses.
Davis, a downtown business owner, said he hasn’t had any confrontations.
“We never, ever have anyone walk in without a mask on. … I don’t think we need a law in place,” he said, suggesting that even without the order the city could leave the signs up.
In the end, council voted to reinstitute the mask order until a time when an ordinance could be brought before the council for review.
Earlier in the evening council approved the 2021 budget.
Godes quickly made the motion to approve, with a chorus of seconds.
But Councilor Tony Hershey was opposed.
“I want to thank the city manager. Debra has done a great job with this budget, and it’s been tough times. … Unfortunately, I’m not going to support this budget,” he said.
Hershey said he criticized himself and council for not finding enough money to retain lower level staff and pay for infrastructure and that council should be going through the budget line by line.
This generated pushback from other councilors.
“I resent the thought that we are not being careful in considering all aspects of the budget when we approve it,” Willman said.
The time to go line by line has passed, he said.
“If we have suggestions as to what should have been changed it would have been good to do that as we went through each of these individual department and fund balances,” he said.
Kaup disagreed about infrastructure being neglected and listed several big-ticket projects, such as South Midland reconstruction and the 27th Street underpass.
Wussow said Hershey is focused on the right things but the budget has been pared down in this difficult year.
“Those are really good priorities going forward, and I don’t think we should lose sight of them at all,” she said.
Godes issued a statement in the morning, detailing multiple projects the city has completed recently, including Cedar Crest and 22nd Street road and utility work, groundbreaking for the new downtown recycling center and the upcoming groundbreaking for the $13 million South Midland reconstruction project.
“Any additional resources that would potentially be directed towards infrastructure would need to have a corresponding cut to another department or program,” Godes said in the statement. “Having heard no suggestions of where those cuts could come from, it is my opinion that staff has done a wonderful job constructing a budget with great uncertainty while preserving full-time staff and basic city service.”
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