Awaiting next public health order on next steps for summer
By Kendra Walker
As Mt. Crested Butte Town Council and staff awaits Governor Jared Polis’ next state public health order (PHO) that will help define the foundation of Gunnison County’s next PHO, the town is still in a bit of a holding pattern in anticipation of a possible reopening this summer. However, the town has made a few decisions regarding events, including cancelling the Fourth of July fireworks display on the mountain, Town Clean Up and the Town Picnic.
“Mt. Crested Butte, along with everyone else, is doing its best to handle the changes that are necessary because of the virus and moving forward with our regular business,” said mayor Janet Farmer. “We will be using whatever health orders are in force for our businesses, restaurants and lodging.”
“The town of Mt. Crested Butte’s plan is to stay in step with Gunnison County’s PHO to have a unified approach in the county,” said town manager Joe Fitzpatrick.
The decision to cancel the fireworks was based on projected loss in sales revenue with a minimal town budget, explained Fitzpatrick. The mountain fireworks display would have cost approximately $20,000. Regulations of gatherings and group sizes also played a role in this decision and for the Town Clean Up and Town Picnic.
“I had hoped we could throw the Town Picnic together on short notice, but it looks like the health orders at that point will make it impossible,” said Farmer. “I would like to do the Town Meeting virtually.”
And while Fitzpatrick confirmed only two businesses, Treasury Liquors/The Store and Crested Butte Sports, are currently open, Fitzpatrick said it’s typical for most of Mt. Crested Butte to be closed this time of year.
However, the town’s financial state does not allow for programs such as pandemic payment assistance at this time, said Fitzpatrick. “March sales tax collection was a little bit higher than I had projected,” he said, noting the collection was down about 56 percent. “The town has 50 percent of our General Fund operating expenses in reserve. However, if we totally lose summer business we will be very tight financially.
“We continue to monitor the CARES Act and any potential sources of reimbursement funds that may be available to the Town in the future,” Fitzpatrick continued. He also recommends the resources provided by the Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce and ICELab for any local businesses in need of help and guidance, in addition to Startup Colorado.
But as businesses would typically open back up with the opening of Crested Butte Mountain Resort trails and operations, Vail Resorts’ summer plans are still unknown. “I think the other businesses in the base area are waiting to see what CBMR does as to if and when they would open,” said Farmer.
While the current county public health order would allow lodging to open up on Wednesday, May 27, and Vail property management is taking reservations starting June 1, Farmer anticipates that educating guests on the county’s public health orders and social distancing protocols will be problematic. “I’m hoping the hotels will do ample communication with folks checking in. There are links on our webpage. I would think that anyone coming would be aware that every county has different orders, so they would seek out the information,” Farmer said. The town also has an electronic sign at the town entrance that will be used to inform citizens and visitors, said Fitzpatrick.
Despite many unknowns, town continues with regular business, including paving the Rasta Lot, roadwork on Gothic Road and extending the Rec Path, building the Homestead affordable housing units and participating in virtual meetings for the North Village project, said Farmer.
Currently, Town Hall remains closed to the public with some staff working remotely, and the police department officers all remain in good health and the maintenance staff is continuing work using social distancing, said Fitzpatrick.
But as far as summer, said Farmer, “I think some of what we will need to do as a town will depend upon how many visitors we get, which is still a wide open question.”