Montrose, CO — City Councilors met online for a virtual work session Monday morning, June 15, to meet six new city employees and consider a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, with Montrose County regarding coronavirus relief funds. Councilors Roy Anderson, Dave Bowman, Barbara Bynum, Dave Frank, and Doug Glaspell met for about one hour on Zoom, along with city staff. The following is a summary of the primary topics discussed during the meeting.
Watch the meeting here: LINK
INTRODUCTION OF NEW EMPLOYEES
Councilors met six new employees of the city Monday:
Donna Maurer, Animal Shelter Technician, and five new police officers: Peter Chell, Connor Gibbs, Joshua Lamphere, Jordan Hewitt, and Cameron Pensyl.
DISCUSSION ITEM: (DOLA Coronavirus Relief Funds)
City councilors were briefed about a memorandum of understanding with Montrose County regarding reimbursement funds related to the unexpected public health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both the city and county declared a state of emergency as the initial response to COVID-19 began in early March. By declaring a state of emergency, the city and county qualified to apply for relief funds to help pay for unexpected expenses during the pandemic.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act established the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CVRF) and appropriated $150 billion to be used for states, local governments, and other eligible governments to pay for necessary costs related to to the coronavirus pandemic response.
The Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) is responsible for managing the distribution of $275 million in CVRF monies. The portion of funds dedicated to Colorado counties and municipalities is $219,120,000. Each county will receive an allocation based on its per capita population. Montrose County’s allocation is $3,668,055.
Counties and municipalities must collaborate and form an agreement to distribute the allocation. Municipalities will then opt-in to the program and request reimbursement for eligible expenses directly from DOLA. Under the proposed MOU, the city will be eligible to receive $1.1 million in reimbursement for COVID-19 related expenses for the period March 1, 2020, through December 30, 2020.
Grand Coordinator Kendall Cramer, who is working on this effort on behalf of the city, told councilors due to the short timeline to file for reimbursement, the council would need to approve the MOU during the Tuesday, June 16, City Council Regular Meeting.
In general, CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars can be used for:
● Medical expenses related to COVID-19 (testing, establishing temporary medical facilities, transportation, and telemedicine).
● Public Health Expenses (Public communications, personal protective equipment, disinfection of public facilities/areas, public safety measures).
● Payroll expenses for employees substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to COVID-19.
● Expenses related to complying with public health measures (food delivery for vulnerable populations, expenses to improve telework capabilities, and expenses related to care for the homeless population).
● Expenditures related to the provision of economic support in connection with COVID-19 (grants given to small businesses as a result of required closures, a government payroll support program, and unemployment insurance not paid by other federal sources).
● Any other COVID-19 related expenses that are reasonably necessary for the function of the government.
Cramer told councilors the program is an alternative to FEMA reimbursement but does not require a 25-percent match. However, for the city and county to receive funds, both organizations need to "opt-in" to the program.
Cramer said the city’s portion of the $3.6 million will be around $1,100,419 and must be used before December 20, 2020.
The money can be used for any unbudgeted expense related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cramer said the city’s small business relief loan fund could be an area for reimbursement.
Councilor Dave Frank asked if reimbursement of the city’s small business relief loan fund would that basically result in the city getting reimbursed twice for the same monies; once by the business and once by the relief funds.
Cramer replied that city staff, including the legal department, has been working to understand a limited amount of language and regulation passed down from DOLA and the U.S. Treasury regarding what specific areas and funds can be reimbursed.
Cramer said the City Council could forgive the loans generated by the program and change it to a grant program where local businesses would not have to repay the loans issued by the city because the loans were created as economic relief to small businesses, which is acceptable by DOLA standards.
Frank requested that city staff provide more answers to questions regarding the city’s small business program and the DOLA reimbursement prior to Tuesday’s regular meeting.
GENERAL CITY COUNCIL DISCUSSION
Public Works Manager Jim Schied reported that the city is working on improving biking infrastructure, including the rebuilding of the Cerise Park pump track. He said that the track would reopen later this month.
Schied said work has begun to bring the Sunset Mesa baseball and softball fields to playing conditions before summer baseball play begins in July. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city’s summer baseball program was postponed. City Manager Bill Bell said social distancing restrictions prohibit the city from inviting teams from outside Montrose to play.
Bell said baseball field spectators must maintain social distance and the sale of concessions is prevented by state-mandated regulations.
Utilities Manager David Bries reported that utility crews are working to completely reroute a broken water line under Main Street at Cedar Street that ruptured last Friday. Bries said they are working to rebuild the affected area and could have the roadway repaired by Wednesday or Thursday.
Police Chief Blaine Hall reported that it has been "a challenging but eye-opening last few weeks in our nation and the state of policing," since the death of George Floyd. Hall said protests around Montrose have been peaceful and said he is meeting with members of the Black Lives Matter movement to discuss ongoing efforts to make sure people are allowed to lawfully gather and protest peacefully.
Hall said the proposed Law Enforcement Integrity Bill, recently introduced in the Colorado Legislature is "in some ways very good," as it relates to a police officer’s use of force, outlaws the chokehold, and mandates the use of body-worn cameras. Earlier this year, the Montrose Police Department began using body-worn cameras to increase public accountability for on-duty officers and the public.
Hall said he has concerns about the legislation as it exposes police departments and municipalities to unlimited damages in wrongful death lawsuits.
City councilors are looking to start holding in-person meetings starting with the July 6, 2020, work session in City Council Chambers. Councilors will be seated a safe distance from one another and only employees of the City Manager and City Attorney’s Offices will be allowed in the room with councilors. Due to ongoing social distancing guidelines, the public will be invited to watch and participate in the meeting online. City staff has been directed to find the best way for the public to interact with the council before in-person meetings begin.
All City Council meetings are recorded and made available online via on the city’s website and cable channels 191 for Charter subscribers and 970 for Elevate subscribers. Replays of council meetings are also broadcast at 6 p.m. on the same channels on days that the council is not in session.
In addition, each regular meeting is archived on the City of Montrose’s YouTube channel.
Residents can watch all regular City Council meetings and work sessions live through the city’s website at CityOfMontrose.org/Video.
For more city news visit CityOfMontrose.org.