Town board approves further assistance for Berthoud businesses
At the regular meeting of the Berthoud Board of Trustees Tuesday night, decisions were made regarding ballot language for an intergovernmental agreement between the Town of Berthoud and Larimer and Weld Counties regarding ballot language for the November election pertaining to opting out of a 2005 Colorado statute, commonly referred to as SB-152, which limits the use of municipal funds for enhancing broadband internet infrastructure. The board also voted to approve some further small business relief efforts provided through the federal CARES Act.
Prior to acting on the aforementioned items, the board listened to seven public comments regarding the Black Lives Matter (BLM) rally that took place at Fickle Park in Berthoud Aug. 1. The calls from residents followed a letter sent to Jim Anderson, Patrol Sergeant of the Berthoud Larimer County Sheriff’s Office, signed by many of those who participated in the public comments portion of Tuesday’s meeting.
The letter and subsequent comments from citizens, including former Trustee Brian Laak, followed a very similar tone and appeared to be a coordinated effort. Residents criticized the actions of some of the counter-protesters, which one resident referred to a group of “armed bikers,” who were reportedly taunting and harassing the BLM rally attendees, which included several town trustees.
One caller said it was a “heated and intimidating atmosphere” and that verbal threats were made toward the BLM rally participants. Complaints abounded that the “intimidating” and “vulgar language” which callers said included “homophobic slurs” were allowed to continue unfettered by LCSO deputies who patrolled the rally.
Resident Tanner Spracklen said it was, “discouraging to see the lack of protection given that there was a police presence, (we) felt as though it was an attitude of ‘if you criticize us, you’re not entitled to protection.’” Many of the callers criticized Sherriff Justin Smith, saying his “political leanings,” influenced the actions, or lack thereof, by the LSCO deputies.
The board voted unanimously, 6-0, with Trustee May Soricelli absent, to approve the ballot language for the IGA between the Town of Berthoud and Larimer and Weld counties to opt-out of SB 152. Johnstown passed a similar measure recently and this proposal was initially brought to the board’s attention by Trustee Mike Grace at the board retreat this past May.
According to information provided, the town is “not prepared to provide broadband services and do not currently have a plan to do so, one of the biggest impediments to the town enhancing broadband infrastructure is … SB-152 (which) prohibits most uses of municipal funds for improving local broadband service without first going to a vote and receiving approval from voters to “opt-out” of SB-152.” The measure, if approved in November, will not increase taxes or obligate the town to provide broadband infrastructure or services but rather remove the prohibition so such actions can be considered in the future.
The board heard a presentation from Walt Elish, Berthoud Economic Development Director, regarding plans for the use of CARES Act funding to provide relief for Berthoud businesses and nonprofits that have been negatively impacted by the pandemic and associated shutdowns.
“There’s still a lot of businesses that are struggling and we want to help them,” Elish said. “It’s an easy program for businesses to apply for and easy for the town to administer.” Town Administrator Chris Kirk was strongly supportive of the plans, which also include using funds for façade improvements at businesses and the potential for increasing outdoor dining options for businesses in central Berthoud, along and adjacent to Mountain Avenue. The proposals for this will have an impact on available on-street parking as tables and chairs will be placed along the streets, but officials said it would not be overly detrimental.
After some modifications to increase the caps on the funds available, which were based upon the number of employees, the measure passed by a 4-0 vote with Mayor Will Karspeck and Trustee Tim Hardy abstaining due to conflicts of interest.
The next regular meeting of the town board will take place Aug. 26.
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