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Gilpin County lets school mask mandate expire



The Gilpin County Board of County Commissioners decided that they will allow the mask mandate for Gilpin County Schools to expire at the end of the fall semester during a regular, virtual meeting on Tuesday, December 14, 2021. The Board continued the County’s Disaster Declaration, approved an extension of the GOCO Grant, and adopted the 2022 budget and mill levies.

Sheriff Kevin Armstrong reported that the County will have high wind on Tuesday. Gusts could get up to 100 miles per hour in the afternoon.

County Emergency Manager Nathan Whittington provided a COVID-19 update and said the County has had nine new cases but no deaths in the past 14 days. According to the County Public Health website, as of December 7 Gilpin County has had a total of 540 confirmed COVID-19 cases including two hospitalizations and one death.

Go to covid19.colorado.gov/ data for the most updated information.

Whittington said the County has been conducting employee testing at the Justice Center and has done more than 40 tests. The goal was to create a trend line of cases.

Commissioner Sandy Hollingsworth said the numbers keep going up, with 552 County residents testing positive, according to Weather Underground, which has a map by county. For information about clinics, testing and vaccinations go to www.gilpincounty.org/departments_ offices/ public_ health_ agency.

Gilpin County Public Health Director Dr. Dawn Comstock provided an update on the Gilpin County Public Health Order regarding the mask mandate at the Gilpin County Schools. The mask mandate for Gilpin County Schools was continued for the semester on October 26.

The goal of the Public Health Order (PHO) was to protect in-person learning in the schools, to keep students and families safe. Comstock said the PHO has been effective, and Jefferson County has rescinded their order mandating masks for schools. She believes it is appropriate for Gilpin County to let the PHO expire. Meanwhile, the new Omicron variant is changing the playing field. Officials are not sure how that will change the dynamics of the pandemic. It is more contagious, but the symptoms are not as severe.

Comstock recommended taking a couple of weeks and waiting to see until after the winter break if the County should reinstate the PHO. She recommended allowing the PHO to expire naturally and revisit it after the winter break.

County employees will still be required to wear masks indoors. All counties have a mask mandate indoors, Comstock said, so she recommended maintaining the mask mandate in public buildings.

County Attorney Brad Benning recommended letting the PHO run out naturally, and the Board agreed. Chair Linda Isenhart said that will make some people happy, but we are not out of the woods yet. If we can make life easier for people, that’s a good thing.

During his legal report, Benning introduced an extension of the Gilpin County Disaster Declaration. The current declaration expires on December 31, 2021, and he recommended an extension for three months into 2022.

“It’s important we continue this disaster declaration, which can help with continued funds. My recommendation is to extend it through March,” Benning said. The Commissioners can remove the declaration at any time.

Commissioner Web Sill suggested waiting until after Governor Jared Polis issues a statement that COVID is done in Colorado, and said that Comstock was smart to do this on the part of the schools. “We need to find out what the state is doing.”

Hollingsworth said that the governor had declared that the surge is over but not COVID. “It’s important for our budget to cover COVID costs,” she said.

Isenhart suggested extending the declaration to April 5, so the County can continue receiving FEMA money and continue with testing and associated expenses. Sill said he will vote against an extension.

The Board voted to extend the declaration until April 5, 2022, with Sill voting against it.

Recreation Director Gabrielle Chisholm presented an extension for the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant received in 2020 for the community center. The grant was supposed to expire at the end of this month for the playground, surfacing, and the ball field.

The amount of the grant is $27,000 and the construction will be done by June 2022. The County received $10,000 from the grant and $36,000 from the Department of Agriculture. Chisholm is waiting on a bid for the fence around the playground, but she needs to get approval on this and send it to GOCO. Chisholm said the proposed fence would be for events like the County fair. It will be a six-foot fence all the way around the fairgrounds, with pedestrian walkthroughs. It is in compliance with liquor laws.

Commissioners said they need to talk more about the fence. Hollingsworth said the fence is necessary to ensure that large animals will not escape the grounds.

The Board approved requesting an extension of the grant awarded in 2021 until next June.

The Board adopted the 2022 budget. Isenhart said the budget tackles items that have been deferred, such as facilities maintenance and employee pay. The Commissioners have worked together on this budget with staff and department directors and had meetings with each department. The budget will be posted on the County website.

For the mill levy, the amount of money necessary to balance this budget is $3,611,936. The valuation for assessment for Gilpin County as certified by the County assessor is $449,861,207. For the purpose of meeting all General Fund expenses of the County, the County levies a tax of 8.029 mills upon each dollar of the total assessed valuation of all taxable property within the County for 2021.

The Board approved the County mill levy with no changes, although the assessed value decreased and revenue went down. The Board approved the mill levy to help defray the costs of government for the 2022 budget year.

The next meeting of the Gilpin County Board of Commissioners will be on January 4, 2022.

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