What is the city of Durango doing during the coronavirus slowdown?
Same thing as a lot of Americans: trying to limit expenses while catching up on chores.
Road and pedestrian traffic have been significantly reduced throughout the city, especially in downtown Durango, as businesses and residents observe a statewide stay-at-home order. For city government, some critical employees continue to report to work, while many others work from home. The slowdown is helping some projects move forward while others have come to a screeching halt.
“Looking forward, our focus is on maintaining critical infrastructure and services, and maintaining what we have,” wrote Amber Blake, interim city manager, in an email to The Durango Herald. “This is a challenging time for our residents and businesses ... for every one of us.”
City staff is also preparing for what could be a difficult economic future. Staff members are developing a list of capital projects that may be deferred, which will be brought before City Council once complete, Blake wrote.
The city did not immediately respond to questions about whether a controversial, $4.1 million pedestrian bridge near Emerson-Parks Bridge (32nd Street) would be delayed.
The city is also monitoring COVID-19 among employees. Blake reported the second positive case Friday during an update video. Officials continue to urge people to stay home.
“To me, that means that social distancing is really critical,” Blake said. “If we can truncate the spread at one person, we can save lives.”
But for some city departments, the slow time is a chance to get ahead while traffic is light and residents stay home.
The Durango Community Recreation Center is working on maintenance, lighting upgrades and face-lifts for the pools. The now-empty swimming pools will soon have their drain grates replaced and stains removed from the Diamond Brite surface. Durangoans can expect to see new paint jobs, tile work and plumbing repairs in the locker rooms.
“Generally, this work is completed during the annual maintenance week in August that is being moved up to be completed now during the current closure,” said Cathy Metz, director of the Parks and Recreation Department.
Chapman Hill is preparing for warmer weather by removing the ice from the rink, painting and doing end-of-season maintenance projects.
Parks and Recreation staff members are de-winterizing parks and starting irrigation, while placing signs about social distancing.
At Durango-La Plata County Airport, staff is getting ahead on maintenance, particularly for vehicle parking and terminal facilities, according to the airport.
It is moving forward on plans like reconstructing part of the commercial aircraft parking apron and “rehabilitating” restrooms in the terminal.
The airport has delayed two capital projects until forecasts for passenger traffic – and airport revenue – improve. Those include plumbing repairs in the terminal and wastewater collection system cleaning.
It is still providing support for critical services, like airline traffic for essential travel, emergency medical flights, air-cargo flights and others.
If Durango sees a busy travel season this summer or fall, the airport facilities will be ready for an “immediate ramp-up” of operations, Blake wrote.
Durango Public Library is preparing to migrate its internal system, which stores patron and material information, to a cloud-based system on April 30. The aging server crashed in December, so staff members are using the lull to complete trainings and devote more time to the migration. Once the stay-at-home order is lifted, library staff will continue some interior painting and repair projects, said Sandy Irwin, library director.
For others, business is carrying on (almost) as usual.
The street, trash and recycling crews are going through their normal workdays, but including social distancing precautions, according to the city operations department. The annual Spring Cleanup will start as planned Monday. Durango residents can discard yard waste, furniture, large appliances and other trash items during designated curbside pickup times.
Utilities are also mostly unaffected by the slowdown. Maintenance projects are continuing at the Grandview water pump station and Florida headgate. Crews have been cleaning sewers and adding pipe in areas that are normally hard to reach because of traffic control.
Utilities crews face one extra challenge at the Santa Rita Water Reclamation Facility: They are seeing reduced flows, which make it more difficult to balance the “food” for the “bugs,” or essentially the waste to micro-organism ratio.
They’re also flushing water lines while doing extra efforts to maintain the chlorine residuals needed to avoid viral or bacterial issues within the water system.
Durango School District 9-R is running a child care program for health care workers and first responders at Needham Elementary School, supporting essential services unaffected by the slowdown, said Superintendent Dan Snowberger in the update video. The school district also serves breakfast and lunch to less than 1,000 students each day. Although schools are closed until April 30, he encouraged community members to keep sending feedback.
“It’s not our intent to overwhelm families ... but we do want to make sure that we keep our kids academically engaged during this time,” Snowberger said.