Silt trustees ‘demand’ Garfield commissioners petition to allow town businesses to reopen
The town of Silt is beyond asking.
In a letter, town trustees “demand” that the Garfield County commissioners request a variance from the state of Colorado to allow businesses to reopen ahead of the limited, phased approach public health officials recommend in the ongoing effort keep the spread of the coronavirus in check.
In particular, Silt restaurants should have the ability to operate at 100% capacity “without significant COVID-19 restriction,” town officials state in a letter that’s before the county commissioners for consideration Monday.
“We understand that the state’s local variance process is intended to allow communities that are currently not experiencing a high rate of COVID-19 transmission to tailor social distancing policies to local conditions in order to promote community wellness and economic stability …,” reads the May 6 letter penned by Silt Town Administrator Jeff Layman and approved unanimously by the trustees at their May 4 meeting.
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At the May 4 meeting, the Silt board heard from a handful of business owners asking that the town press the county to file for a variance to reopen as soon as possible, and not wait for the state rules to be loosened.
“I need to reopen,” Miner’s Claim restaurant owner Christian Harra said. “I have 35 employees who count on this restaurant, and I’m doing the best I can serving food in plastic boxes.
“I want to do what’s right, and I don’t want to go against the Garfield County Health Department,” Harra added. “But this letter needs to be written yesterday. We have to get this going.”
Salon owner Sherronna Bishop said her business depends on the “celebration season,” including the traditional June bridal season.
“We need to be free to get back to work,” she said during the town trustees’ video-conference meeting.
“It’s frustrating, and completely unconstitutional,” she said of the forced business closures brought by the state in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. “…The proper role of government isn’t to keep people safe; it’s to get out of the way so we can be productive people.”
Trustees voted unanimously “to demand” that the county commissioners seek the allowed state variance to reopen businesses with fewer restrictions than the state public health orders call for.
Trustee Sam Walls said that limiting restaurants to 30% or 40% capacity is not realistic. “Their mortgage and electric bills aren’t 40%,” he said, adding that Silt is “not a hot zone” for COVID-19 cases.
According to county public health statistics, just nine of Garfield County’s 110 confirmed cases to date of the sometimes fatal disease — for which there is no vaccine and which has been declared a global pandemic — have been in the Silt area.
Mayor Pro-Tem Kyle Knott pointed out that neighboring Mesa County was able to get a variance to reopen more fully than the state restrictions allow. So far, Garfield County has maintained that it will follow the state public health guidelines. Mesa County has had 51 COVID-19 cases through Friday, according to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment statistics.
A variance request does not mean that other Garfield County municipalities and governments have to follow Silt’s lead, the town’s letter also states, adding “… those wishing to be more restrictive in their approach may do so.”
The letter goes on to state, “The town’s businesses are prepared to continue to observe the guidelines of the ‘Safer at Home’ model, to include promoting people staying and working from home, when possible, and appropriate social distancing and other disease prevention strategies, but with a thoughtful loosening of restrictions.
“… It is clear that the economic costs of continuing to stay ‘closed’ is not proportional to the situation presented.”
County commissioners are slated to discuss the letter and consider the variance request at the start of their regular 8 a.m. meeting on Monday. Viewers can tune in or sign up to speak here.
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