Why the red tape?
The Monday evening La Junta city council meeting was full of questions, concerns and debate about coronavirus restrictions in the city of La Junta.
Council members read letters from their constituents regarding the potential reopening of the La Junta Jr/Sr High School pool and Council Member Ed Vela raised questions about how it was decided to fence off the basketball courts and playground equipment at La Junta City Park.
City Attorney Phil Malouff also distributed draft guidance forms from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to the city council that he said needed to be addressed by Wednesday. The health department, Malouff said, is seeking comments and suggestions from the city council regarding guidances for city pools and parks.
The first order of business following citizen comments was the second reading of a new garbage dumping ordinance first read at the May 18 city council meeting. The ordinance upon second reading had been amended with additional wording to the legislation's recital clause that Malouff said did not affect the actual law or the way it works.
Vela asked what the minimum-maximum penalties for illegal dumping would be under the law. Malouff said penalties can range from $0 - $2,000 in fees and 0 - 135 days in jail time. The council unanimously voted "Yes" to adopt the amended ordinance.
Vela made two motions at the Monday city council meeting about fencing at the city park, although they were reiterated several times in order to correct his phrasing.
Vela first motioned to "have you as the mayor to communicate more thoroughly on these pandemic orders that you made." Council member Jim Goodwin seconded the motion.
Vela said he took issue with the fact that city council had not been consulted or informed that roping or fencing would be placed around basketball parks, playground equipment and like public areas that have had health restrictions placed on them by the state.
During discussion, Mayor Jeffri Pruyn said that the state-imposed health restrictions on businesses and pubic areas were not subject to local input. Under Safer at Home restrictions and guidelines, contact sports in public such as basketball or football were strictly prohibited. The council ultimately voted down the first motion.
Vela's second motion was much in line with his first.
"My motion is to have the mayor instruct the city administration to pull down that fence off at the basketball court at the city park," said Vela. "This is a government overreach on my estimation. We have to count on people being able to be responsible for their children who mostly will play there.
"They've been locked up for two months. Locked up away from school, locked up away from friends. So I think we don't need to do that to them: They play at their own risk. Besides that, the more air you have in a place where people are congregating, the less likelihood of any kind of virus impacting them. If it was a closed building like a gym, I could see that."
Pruyn doubled down. She said Health Department Director Rick Ritter made very clear to the city that if it wished to pursue any variances that would loosen state or county restrictions, it would need to seek and receive approval, first. That motion ultimately failed as well, and Pruyn said "the snow fence stays, at least for now."
But it could be taken down faster than one might expect, depending on how the state decides to move forward with draft guidance for places of worship, personal recreation and outdoor industries.
As Malouff addressed later in the Monday city council meeting, municipalities across the state had until noon on Wednesday to submit their comments and suggestions regarding new guidance for places such as pools and parks. In the state draft guidance for outdoor recreation, the only reference to parks was that they would fall under local regulations.
In other news, the Woodruff Memorial Library is continuing with curbside services until the city forms local regulations as permitted by the state's current Safer at Home restrictions. City bus transit is still being limited to no more than five passengers at any one time, said City Manager Rick Klein. Klein said he understood some people are upset by that restriction, but that it's being enforced in the best interest of commuters' health and safety.
La Junta city council also unanimously voted to approve Arkansas Valley Regional Medical Center's request to reinstate Joe Pentlicki to the board of directors.
Tribune-Democrat reporter Christian Burney can be reached by email at email@example.com. Help support local journalism by subscribing to the La Junta Tribune-Democrat at lajuntatribunedemocrat.com/subscribenow.