City of Trinidad adjusts to coronavirus, approves hemp ordinance and MOU with creative district

by Bill Knowles


TRINIDAD — During a closed chamber meeting streamed live through a Go to Meeting app, the Trinidad City Council began conducting business over the sterile environment of the internet for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak. And the first order of business was for the city to release an update about what’s open and what’s not.

With Mayor Phil Rico and Interim City Manager Mike Valentine streaming from the council chambers at City Hall, along with Tom Murphy who was taping the meeting for posting on his YouTube channel, the meeting was mostly staged from kitchens, home offices, and living rooms.

Valentine gave an update on the progress of the virus, showing where the state statistics were at by 4 p.m. March 18; last Wednesday. At that time there were 213 cases. As of Saturday, March 21, the state website of showed 475 cases in the state, with 49 people hospitalized. So far, the virus has spread to 29 counties and 4,550 tests have been administered and five deaths have occurred. No cases have been found in Las Animas County. Among city operations, the Colorado Welcome Center, library, the community center have been closed. Business at city hall will be conducted by appointment only. Utilities can be paid online, over the phone, or at the drop box. Fees for using either a credit card or debit card have been waived until emergency orders are in effect.

The Trinidad Police Department issued a statement saying … “As a precaution to the coronavirus, people are encouraged to conduct business online and by phone as much as possible. To help with that, the Trinidad Police Department now has an online reporting option for victims of non-violent crimes.

“To file an online police report, go to Once the report is submitted, an officer will review it and contact the reporting party by phone or email with a report number.

“To request a copy of a police report, including accident reports, go to Report requests are fulfilled during regular business hours. It takes 5-7 business days for reports to be ready for release.”

If 9-1-1 Dispatch is called, the caller will be questioned concerning the health of other individuals on the scene. That information will be relayed to the first responders that have been called to the scene so the responders can take adequate measures to protect themselves.

Valentine looked at the emergency declaration issued by Governor Jared Polis last week. That order shut-down restaurants and bars. The city is in touch with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the Las Animas-Huerfano Counties Public Health Department (LAHUPHD) concerning questions on cannabis dispensaries for guidance on them.

An unofficial survey of the cannabis businesses in Trinidad showed that the dispensaries are observing social distancing both verbally and with posted signage by allowing only so many customers at a time in the lobbies. Bud tenders and customer service employees are wearing masks.

Closure of the dispensaries is something the city would prefer not to do. Rico spoke on the issue, tying it in with a flow of revenues into the city that will help keep it afloat. The other issue looked at was keeping the dispensaries open, especially the medical side of the business.

Wally Wallace, the city’s economic development director, looked at programs that would help local businesses stay afloat. He said that the Office of Economic Development and International Trade and Startup Colorado along with the Small Business Administration will be available to work with local businesses.

Wallace also spoke about the state working to make unemployment filings and claims move quicker. However a larger than normal volume is slowing down the process of filing for unemployment.

According to the report, the City of Trinidad is taking a financial hit because sales are down across the business sector and this is dragging down city tax revenues.


Hemp as a regulated substance

The city council passed on a 5-0-1 vote with council member Aaron Williamson not voting due to loss of internet, the second reading of an ordinance that will prohibit hemp cultivation operations and other hemp agricultural operations within the corporate limits of the City of Trinidad.

As with the first reading, the reason given for the ordinance is that there is a potential for male hemp plants to pollinate female marijuana plants being grown for the city’s dispensaries. However council member Karen Griego said that it looked like the city council was attempting to regulate something outside of the city. She then asked City Attorney Les Downs if the city could place all hemp cultivation outside the city. Downs said that in a way the city was regulating something in the county. By banning hemp cultivation in the city, that activity would have to take place in the county if someone were to cultivate hemp.

But Downs also looked at the possibility of an exemption for anyone proposing to cultivate hemp indoors. Council member Erin Ogletree observed that as long as there are no male plants, cross pollination isn’t possible. Downs replied that no assurances could be given that all male plants would be pulled. “So the ordinance is necessary,” Downs said. “There are currently no hemp cultivation facilities in Trinidad.” The city currently has a moratorium in place on hemp cultivation.

Doug Peterson approached the city council asking support for a proposal on extraction business in the city. He noted that such a research facility would need to clone and grow different varieties of hemp and test them for commercial use for farmers out in the county to produce crops with.

Again Downs: “Growing clones in the city for cultivation would need a regulatory toe-hold. The city could say it would be possible for hemp clones grown for export to the county. We need to be sure of no cross contamination of hemp to marijuana in city.”

Typically the city will pass an ordinance and then carve out an exemption to later when or if the need might arise. Griego made the motion to pass the ordinance with a second from Anthony Mattie. The vote was 5-0-1.


Space to Create

The city approved, with a 6-0 vote, a Memorandum of Understanding with the Corazon de Trinidad Creative District. The document calls for a completion of the build-out of the Commons through the receipt of the Certificate of Occupancy. For the procurement of lessees of the commercial spaces in the Commons.

The city is also obligated to consider leasing or providing some additional space for expanded coworking venture, and delegate certain management and operating functions – and appropriate associated resources – for the Commons to the district, including those functions listed in the ordinance forming the Space to Create Commons Oversight Board that state will: “ … when complete, oversee the management of Community Space (The Commons) including, but not limited to commercial/retail leases, events and other activities.

“ … City staff assigned to this project will serve as … the primary point of contact with the local community and the media. …” All of this in the first phase, which is where the development is currently at.


Consent agenda

With a 6-0 vote on the consent agenda the council approved a special event permit for the A.R. Mitchell Museum for March 28, April 18, May 24, May 30, July 18, October 31, and December 2, 2020.

They also re-appointed Gabriel Moreno to the Las Animas County E911 Authority Board. Other board appointments made are the appointment of Janet Clark to the Carnegie Public Library Advisory Board. The appointment of Garrett Watson and Chad Kraft to the Space to Create Commons Oversight Board. And the appointment of David Barrack to the Trinidad Urban Renewal Authority Commission.

The city council adjourned at 7:25 pm.

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