City of Centennial balancing safety measures with keeping businesses afloat

Centennial’s Streets at SouthGlenn houses businesses in several stages. Left to right, Trice Jewelers is open for curbside pickup, Old Navy is closed, Whole Foods has remained open, and Sephora is also closed. Photo by Jessica Roe

BY JESSICA ROE
GOVERNMENTAL REPORTER

If you live in the City of Centennial, your city council and city staff are putting in overtime to ensure businesses will open as scheduled, while also ensuring strict safety measures are in place to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Additionally, City Manager Matt Sturgeon said at a recent council meeting federal aid is on the way.

“There is going to be a significant amount of money made available to Centennial and communities of Arapahoe County to help deal with the costs incurred from the COVID-19 event,” said Sturgeon, in a presentation to City Council. 

Sturgeon projects Arapahoe County Commissioners will hold a 55% share of the Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for the county, while Centennial can expect approximately $10m in aid as its portion of the remaining 45% split between municipalities.

That amount will cover what the city has already spent in unexpected costs related to the pandemic. Any remaining funding may not be applied to anything budgeted prior to the disaster, but it must stretch through the end of December, while also assisting law enforcement with its needs.

Councilwoman Kathy Turley made a strong recommendation that funding be allocated for more access to testing. Turley herself suffered from COVID-19 in March, has since recovered and offered to donate plasma to help those needing antibodies.

“The issue of testing is very serious,” Turley said. “For me, I would feel a lot more comfortable moving forward in opening up (the city) if we were addressing this very serious issue of testing.” 

Just this week, Colorado Governor Jared Polis unveiled a new website mapping all available test sites in one location, which can be found at tinyurl.com/COtests.

At the council meeting this past Monday night, Nate Fogg, Manager of the state’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), presented numbers which showed Arapahoe County’s death rate continues an upward trajectory, now at nearly 200 deaths, despite a general public which may believe the numbers are decreasing as the ‘stay at home’ enforcement rules are set to expire. 

Several city councillors asked for more details on reports that bio-bot data from wastewater demonstrates there are likely 13-times more people with a positive diagnosis for COVID-19 in the community than officially recorded in county health records. (More info: biobot.io).

Fogg explained that the virus sheds an “identifier” in our waste, which allows scientists to  figure out a ratio – in this case an infection per person – in any given area. This is then referred to as “bio-bot” data. While he could not confirm whether the figure is a full 13-times higher, he agreed, the numbers of infected people on record are most certainly lower than actual numbers.

Stewart Meek, the city’s Economic Development Specialist, said the number one need the city has heard from the small businesses is immediate capital to sustain viability. He pointed to Arapahoe County’s unemployment numbers where 31-thousand people have lost their jobs, the majority of whom are in retail, arts, recreation, and food industries.

For restaurants to remain viable, Meek said they must operate at 75% capacity. With social distancing orders in place where no more than 10-people may gather in any one location at a time, that’s impossible.

”With summer coming, people are going to be out and about, is there some way we could possibly find a way to allow people to set up tables in part of the parking lot, along the lines of what Larimer Square does in the summer, al fresco where all the tables are set up?” said councillor Tammy Maurer at one of two recent council meetings.

Meek’s team consulted the State Board of Liquor, given most restaurants have alcohol on their menus, only to find no flexibility is being granted. All dining must take place inside the establishment’s perimeters.

Mayor Stephanie Piko pointed out there have been some exceptions made by other regulators within the state, such as businesses being allowed to allow curbside pickup, even if cars are pausing in areas otherwise previously restricted as fire lanes.

Centennial City Council meetings are open to the public and currently available to view or listen to online. Visit centennial
co.gov for agendas, minutes and links.

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