Gilpin County virtual Town Hall

Held on Wednesday, January 20th

By Esmee Halsted

In the most recent Gilpin Town Hall held on January 20 from 6:30-7:30, residents were invited to join Judy Amabile, Representative-Elect, Colorado HD 13 and Senator Tammy Story for an important conversation about our Gilpin County community. Special guests included:

– Gilpin County Commissioners Sandy Hollingsworth and Linda Isenhart

– Central City Mayor Jeremy Fey

– Gilpin County Emergency Manager Nate Whittington

– Gilpin County Public Health Coordinator Bonnie Albrecht

– Deputy Director of Jefferson County Public Health Jody Erwin.

They were joined by fire experts and public health personnel online via Zoom to talk about Covid and other questions.

Discussion around Covid and Gilpin County from JeffCo Public Health 

Colorado’s dial framework has six color levels to provide guidance to counties. Counties can move back and forth between levels, depending primarily on three metrics. Levels are based on the number of new cases, the percent positivity of COVID-19 tests, and the impact on hospitals, as well as local considerations. Jody Erwin, representing Gilpin/Jefferson County Public Health spoke and reported that Gilpin County is jumping between yellow and orange which he found to be “very positive, it’s very optimistic to look at this, to see the numbers coming down.” He also noted how well Gilpin is doing compared to others in the state. Still, Jody expressed the need to stay safe. “We have kids going back to school in-person. We have colleges and universities going back. We have business opening up. I want to make sure that two weeks from now we don’t have to change things on them again. Just keep sharing that message, continue to wash hands, practice social distancing, and always mask up.”

Vaccine Shortage

Furthermore, Jody stressed the lack of vaccines available. As such, JeffCo Health Department is waiting on vaccines to be available. As a solution the second dose meant for those who have already gotten the first vaccine, is being used to vaccinate first-time people. Manufacturing will create enough vaccines for those waiting to get their second shot.

To improve the vaccine distribution, JeffCo Health has asked the state to push forward the vaccines whether that is at a Federal or State level. They are working with elected officials to navigate the vaccine system.

Bonnie, from the Gilpin Health Department shared more information. Gilpin is in Vaccine Phase 1a and the first part of 1b – for first responders and residents over 70. There have been over 400 shots administered so far. There is information on the Gilpin Health Department website to register for a vaccine.

Concurrently, County Commissioners and elected officials are working to get vaccine distribution to Gilpin County.

5 Star Program for Gilpin Businesses

On the brighter side, the Gilpin Health Department applied for the 5 Star Program which allows businesses to operate beyond current regulations given based on the color level status, if they voluntarily implement enhanced safety procedures beyond what the state requires. Once it is approved by the state, a local administration will review the application from the business. This does not include casino table games.

Casino and Table Games

Jeremy, a local casino walker, pointed out how safe everyone is at the casino. He is getting requests from his neighbors to open the table games back up. He is requesting that elected officials work to open up the table games.

In response, health official Jody recommended the 5 Star Table Program. Bonnie from Gilpin Health explained to Jody that the table games would still not be allowed because they do not keep a 6 foot distance between persons. Maybe this needs to change?

Bill on Distribution of Gaming Impact Funds 

Since Gilpin County was the hardest hit county in the state with the COVID-19 pandemic, State Senator Tammy Story and State Representative Judy Amabile want to make sure that gaming funds are equitably distributed.

Wildfire Mitigation 

There are some state programs at work for fire mitigation, but Colorado is running on a much smaller budget than usual. Consequently, passing legislation with a fiscal responsibility is very difficult currently, so passing fire mitigation efforts may be difficult. The State congress is working closely with Joe Neguse and other congressional leaders to prevent wildfires. A bill may be introduced into congress to allow money for fire mitigation.

Locally, Gilpin has a very strong community wildfire preparedness plan. Gilpin leaders are wanting to revamp the hazard administration plan to include federal aid. Next to the fire department there is a state crew that will help with wildfires. Between Central City Fire, Black Hawk Fire, Timberline Fire Protection District, and Department of Fire Prevention and Control, there’s plenty of protection for the folks in Gilpin County.

Seen in 2020, a local man commented on the Federal forest closure we saw this year. Local officials commented on the impact COVID had on the forest closure. Due to the closing of businesses, many city people retreated to the mountain parks, drastically increasing the chance of human started fires, as well as hiking accidents and need for emergency responders. They are not sure if that will happen again in the future.

Another local person inquired about a tax deduction if they did wildfire mitigation on their property. She was wondering if they could get 100% of the cost as a tax deduction. In response, officials advocated for state and federal partnership, since Colorado is limited on money making tax deductions difficult to allow.

The CSU Gilpin Extension Office also promised to look into mitigation grants.

Legislation after COVID

Senator Story and Representative Amabile plan to focus on healthcare and socio-economic security after the pandemic. “One of things I am really looking forward to is the implementation of paid family leave, so if needed people can take paid time off from work. The people who are working the lowest paid wages are many times the essential workers. We need to make sure we elevate the lowest paid workers because we are relying on them every day in every way and they’re barely getting by,” said Rep. Amabile. “However, there is a concern for transportation and housing issues that are tied to the pandemic.” Both Story and Amabile stated that they are open to suggestions and concerns regarding future legislation.

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