There is one topic dominating our minds, families, schools, businesses, community, state, nation and world today as we all shift our practices to slow the spread of coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. This is an unprecedented time of stress for all of us as so many people around the world are becoming ill and dying from this virus, and we are fundamentally changing how we live in an effort to keep COVID-19 from spreading.
At La Plata County, we are working in lockstep with our partners at San Juan Basin Public Health, the agency that provides the county’s public health function for our community and Archuleta County. Together, we are encouraging, promoting and practicing social distancing, working to secure much-needed test kits for our community and advocating for resources that will help get our community through this incident.
The county is supporting San Juan Basin Public Health however we can, and we are pleased that they were able to arrange a drive-up test site last weekend. Though it was far from enough testing, it is a big step in a necessary direction for our community to get a sense of the virus’ presence here.
We know how impactful social distancing is on our community. With closures causing so many to lose employment, and businesses seeing their revenue streams reduced to drops if anything, this virus is causing unparalleled economic trauma.
We are working hard to find assistance for those who have been affected. Locally, the Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado has reactivated the Community Emergency Relief Fund, which was initiated during the 416 Fire. For those who can make a donation, please do so at www.coloradogives.org/cerf. Community stakeholders will prioritize the funds’ distribution to provide immediate relief.
La Plata County is also committed to providing the services the community relies on us for – though the way we provide those services is changing. You may have noticed that all La Plata County buildings and departments have sharply reduced public access, moving toward online and telephone service where possible, and appointment-only visits in limited circumstances. But rest assured that La Plata County is open for business and will do all we can to be sure you are getting the services you need from us. Please visit the La Plata County website – co.laplata.co.us – for a complete list of offices, departments with information about how to do everything from renew your vehicle registration to apply for state benefits; to get a building permit or inspection; to submit a planning project; to request GIS data; and more. We are here to serve you!
We are also shifting the way we conduct public meetings so that we can practice social distancing while still conducting county business.
Now, La Plata County Board of County Commissioners and Planning Commission meetings are accessible to the public using an online meeting platform for commissioners and the public to access via computer and telephone.
Public participation at relevant meetings will be handled through this platform, and information for joining the meeting will be distributed with the commissioners’ weekly press release. Regular meeting practices will resume after the high-risk COVID-19 pandemic.
On April 1, we will have a joint special meeting of the Board of County Commissioners and Planning Commission to discuss the draft table of contents for the new land-use code and take public input about the table of contents. Find out how to access this meeting remotely, make public comment and view meeting materials at bit.ly/BOCCPC.
At this and all meetings where public comment is taken, residents can offer it via the online meeting platform.
There is also a new online comment form – an electronic “pink slip” – that can be used to submit a comment that will be read onto the record of the meeting by a commissioner. Find that form at forms.laplata.co.us/Forms/BOCC_PC_MeetingComments.
As always, you can email any comments to any of the commissioners, as well as contact any of us by phone to share your input.
We recognize that this is a significant shift in how we do business, but we are committed to continuing our work as our community and the world moves through this pandemic.
We appreciate the community’s ability to adjust and adapt as we all innovate to continue providing services, transparency and public participation options in a dynamically changing environment.
Stay safe and well and be kind to one another during this challenging time for every one of us.
Clyde Church is chairman of the La Plata County Board of County Commissioners. Reach him at 382-6219.