Town of Windsor facilities will close to the public beginning at midnight to protect essential services while attempting to stop the spread of COVID-19. At this time, there are no confirmed cases of the virus within town limits. Town facilities include the Art & Heritage Center, Community Recreation Center, Recycling Center, and Town Hall. The Police Department administrative offices are also closed but officers remain on duty 24 hours a day. The Public Services Campus will remain open for fill station access and have limited hours to process paperwork and equipment.
Continuity of Operations
With an area blizzard warning announced Wednesday afternoon, Town Manager Shane Hale stresses that each department has plans in place to conduct essential services such as plowing operations. Some services may be slightly modified because of protocols for social distancing and in case staff becomes ill, but all in all, residents are not expected to be inconvenienced by these changes.
According to Hale, “Most of our business transactions—such as paying a utility bill—can occur online or by phone. Some services—such as paying a court fee by check—can be mailed or placed in the Town Hall secure drop box on the west side of the building.”
While there are a few services that may need to be conducted by appointment or rescheduled for a later date, all essential town services will continue.
“While our volume at Town Hall has slowed down, we are still receiving residents who want to pay their utility bill. The vast majority of our visitors are in a higher risk category,” says Mayor Kristie Melendez. “The Town Board and I felt that this newest round of closures is in place to protect the town’s most vulnerable: seniors and those with existing conditions.”
All inspections or water meter replacements inside an occupied structure will no longer occur until further notice. There’s also a plan in place to continue processing permits and inspections. One change is that the town will now accept all building permit applications online.
Business Licenses and sales tax operations will continue, however staff will not be conducting in-person business appointments. Instead, sales tax forms can be downloaded from the website. Once complete, businesses can include a check payment and either drop it off in the secure box next to Town Hall or mail it to the town.
On Friday, March 13, all programs and activities provided by the town’s Parks, Recreation & Culture Department were cancelled or postponed until April 6. The Community Recreation Center closed to the public as well, impacting the town’s active adult programming and senior lunch.
“We couldn’t host the senior lunch on-site so we’ve re-organized how that program is conducted,” says Public Services Director Eric Lucas. “So far we have been successful in distributing around 50 senior lunches each day to those who relied on our in-house program.”
He says, “Weld County has continued to communicate that they will make meals for our seniors, so we’re pressing on.”
Some participants have chosen to take advantage of a drive-through service offered at the recreation center, others have the meal delivered.
Continuity of Government
Since town facilities are closed, advisory board meetings have been cancelled for the near future. Town Board and Planning Commission meetings will continue, with board members having the option to participate on-site or remotely. With seven board members joined by the town manager, town attorney, town clerk and additional participating staff members, it’s no longer prudent to conduct meetings that are exclusively on-site.
When needed, Windsor’s Town Clerk will collect public comment prior to meetings via special instruction. Instructions on how to comment will be included in each board packet when necessary.
Municipal Court operations have also changed. Municipal Court closed earlier this week and Presiding Judge Teresa Ablao issued an order declaring court issued classes could be completed online and giving the court clerk and prosecuting attorney authority to accept plea deals when appropriate. Individuals who need to pay a fine can pay by check or money order placed in the outdoor secure drop-box on the west side of Town Hall or they can be mailed to the town. Those who want to pay by credit card can call 970-674-2421, during normal business hours but there will be a 4% convenience fee added to the fine when paying by phone.
Public safety is still a town priority. Police will continue to have a solid presence in the community, responding to calls appropriately but in the interim, they will no longer provide ancillary services such as presentations to community groups, VIN verification or fingerprint services. They plan to accept more reports over the phone, when possible, for minor incidents and respond on scene when necessary.
“Streets, water and sewer services will continue as usual,” assures Public Services Director Eric Lucas. “If it happens, we will respond to this blizzard and we’ll respond to the next one. We’ll continue to deliver water to our customers and our wastewater plant will remain operational.”
Election ballots were mailed out on Monday, March 16, and registered voters will receive them soon. In prior election years, residents could stop by Town Hall to drop off their ballot. This year, amid coronavirus concerns, ballots will only be accepted by mail or at the county’s Ballot drop box in front of the Community Recreation Center.
Safety is About Public Awareness, Security for Some it is About Staying Home
Everyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 is being asked to self-quarantine and everyone is reminded to be mindful of social distancing, avoid gatherings of ten or more, wash hands thoroughly and remember that this is an evolving situation.
“The toughest part is that we don’t have a crystal ball that can tell us how far the virus will spread tomorrow or the next day or the next but we can be proactive,” said Melendez. “We have some residents who are a little panicked and some who are taking these changes in stride. It’s important to recognize that everyone is going to respond in a way that’s comfortable to them. For the town, that response is to be as proactive as possible.”
On Tuesday, Governor Jared Polis ordered restaurants, bars and breweries to change how they do business. Melendez stresses that this order does not mean to stop patronizing Windsor’s businesses. “You can still stop on Main Street to shop for trinkets or call into the floral shop and order flowers for delivery, just be mindful of crowds, stay home if you or a loved one is ill and practice safe social distancing.”
“We are working to keep our public informed that we understand the COVID-19 virus could be an issue as well as the steps that we’re taking to prevent the spread,” said Melendez. ”We have been updating our website to include information and we launched a new public hotline this week.”
The town also launched a coronavirus response page with resources for guiding small businesses.
Two Weeks Leading Up to the Closure
In the two weeks leading up to the closure, town leadership met daily with staff to review and organize how to continue services for the public. Hale also began meeting with agency leaders from the Town of Severance, Windsor Severance Fire Rescue, Weld RE4 School District and the Clearview Library to discuss changes to their operations as well. Windsor Severance Fire Rescue, Clearview Library and Weld RE4 School District are individual voter-approved special districts that act as political tax subdivisions established to govern and provide a single service. The town does not collect taxes for special districts nor does it provide governance over them, although because each provides important services to town residents, it was important to have them meet.
“This has been a quick-moving target with conditions constantly changing so knowing how to support each agency and understanding what they are doing during this time is helpful” said Fire Chief Kris Kazian.
Each special district has curated information for the public on their websites and for some like the Windsor Severance Fire Rescue, their Facebook page.
The town is working to execute an emergency declaration through its town board during next Monday’s work session, to be adopted at the ensuing town board meeting, which will ratify the decision to close town facilities and maintain essential services while operating with limited resources. Board members will also discuss how the town can best support local businesses.
Additionally, Mayor Melendez will host a virtual meeting at 4 p.m., Friday, March 20 with plans to collect questions from the public prior to the meeting. The meeting may be viewed on the town’s television station, the town website, and the @windsorgov YouTube channel. Questions from the public need to be submitted prior to 3 p.m. on the day of the meeting and can be emailed to Communications@windsorgov.com or left on the town’s hotline at 970-674-6691.
As a way to update residents about Windsor-specific COVID-19 updates, information will be posted to the town’s website at windsorgov.com/Coronavirus.