Council rejects expanded alcohol zone downtown

Downtown Yuma will not become an expanded zone for liquor consumption.
The Yuma City Council at last week’s regular meeting decided against pursuing an ordinance proposed during the previous council meeting.

Trent Bushner of Tumbleweed Brewing and Wine Co. made the proposal at the October 6 meeting. He explained that Steamboat Springs’s council had passed an ordinance this year in which certain parts of town were open to patrons walking around outside with their drinks. He said he would like the Yuma council to consider a similar ordinance.
Bushner said it was not just for his business as there are a few others within a two-block area that serve alcohol. He explained it was a COVID-related move as it allows people outdoors and spread out more.
He also quoted legislation from 1991 that allows year-round entertainment districts. He noted other municipalities have done it, such as Littleton, Blackhawk and Central City.
“It gives us an opportunity to utilize our businesses even more,” Bushner said.
With the ordinance, establishments would not have to get a special events permit to block off the street, but rather it could be done whenever the city felt it was appropriate.
Council members revisited the issue during its regular meeting last week. Councilman Dan Baucke was the only member that did not participate in the virtual meeting.
Police Chief Jerry Thompson was asked his opinion. He said he did not see a need for it, and it would create an extra burden on the police department that already is pretty busy without something like this also in effect.
Mayor Ron Swehla noted Yuma does not have an abundance of establishments close to each other. He said towns that do have such zones are bigger communities with many establishments within close proximity.
“Here it would be blocking off Main St. for at least one block,” he said.
The mayor said he had researched the expansion of areas for liquor consumption. He said it is an involved situation as the establishments have to carry liability, pay a licensing and other fees, file forms, hire security guards, and set up an organization.
Councilman Daniel Ebersole said he saw it as something for big events, and would be a boon for at least a couple of businesses.
Councilman Marc Shay said he did not see a need to incentivize allowing patrons to go outside with their drinks. He said special events permits already are available if the need ever arose.
Swehla said it would be a hassle for city crews to have put up barricades, and one of the busier intersections in town, S. Main and Second Ave., would be closed to motorists.
Other downtown establishments did not provide any feedback since the October 6 meeting.
An informal poll of the council members showed they were in agreement not to move forward with the proposal.

Ambulance at football games
City Manager Scott Moore had a conversation with the council about the practice of the Yuma Ambulance Service having an ambulance and personnel at Yuma football games at no cost to Yuma School District-1.
He asked if the council wanted to continue at no cost. He said it does cost the city some money, roughly $1,500 to $2,000 per year for staff, which he acknowledged it was a huge amount, but every dollar counts in these tough budgetary times. Moore said he went to the school district and was told they don’t have money in the budget to pay.
Ebersole noted the ambulance service already has people on-call. Moore said it does not require additional staff, but they are paid for being there and it can go into overtime.
Shay asked if it was required to have an ambulance at games. Moore said he was not sure.
Ebersole said he thinks it is a good practice and is in favor of continuing it since the cost is relatively low.

Shay and Councilman Tim McClung asked about possibly splitting the cost with the school district.
Moore noted the city does have a facility-use agreement with the school district for the city’s recreation programs, and could discuss negotiating with the district.
McClung said every $1,500 counts at this point, and Shay said it would be a good idea to try to negotiate. Councilwoman Marylu Smith-Dischner said she liked the idea of seeing if the district would consider splitting the cost.

More meeting
The council unanimously approved moving the December 1 meeting to December 8, and not have the December 15 meeting.
Prior to the vote, City Clerk Karma Wells explained a December 1 meeting would be too soon to get the final assessed valuation numbers from Yuma County, which is key to the final passage of the budget and mill levy ordinances for next year.
The council approved a proposal for the fuel farm to be installed at Yuma Municipal Airport. The proposal from American Environmental Aviation for $295,155. Most of the expense is covered by the Federal Aviation Administration and Colorado aviation funds, and the cost is part of the 2020 budget. Since the council approved it, the city next was sending a contract to American Environmental Aviation.
The council also approved the budgeted payment of $10,000 to Yuma County Economic Development Corporation, though seemingly with some reluctance. Smith-Dischner asked if Yuma was realizing the value of the donation. Shay said that will be a discussion for the 2021 budget, and other council members agreed.
Council members gave updates on the various committee meetings they have attended recently.
Councilman Steve Hoch made a statement that he hates wearing a masks like everyone else, but he does in public out of respect and concern for others.
An executive session was held to get legal advice concerning termination of a city contract. The meeting was adjourned without further action after reconvening in public.