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City Manager Blog

May 13, 2020, 5:30 P.M.

Dear Citizens,

Today marks 12 days since our restaurants and retail stores started re-opening. Judge Cano issued the following press release late yesterday (https://www.cityofalpine.com/Press%20Release-%20COVID-19%20Report%20&%20Attestation.pdf ) with the attestation to allow the restaurants and retail store to expand to 50% occupancy.

Across our community there has been concern raised to our Council and Staff relative to the probability of heightened Covid-19 cases as we begin to re-open. This is a repeated concern shared by many and our Council has worked hard to balance the needs of our businesses in the community and the health/safety needs of our citizens. The following article was shared with me this week ( https://www.erinbromage.com/post/the-risks-know-them-avoid-them ) and is one of several articles out there speaking to safe ways and methods to open businesses and other public venues.

We did get the rest of the results from the initial 180+ tests between Brewster and Presidio Counties with only one positive test. That person has since recovered. Overall, this is positive news for our Counties.
This past Sunday Ft. Davis (Sunday, May 10th) had 71 people tested. Presidio had another 17 people tested on Monday, May 11th). Marfa has testing coming up Thursday May 14th.
These series of tests will continue to help give us a better picture of the infection rates in the Tri-County area.

The Governor's Order (GA-18) and report to Open Texas on April 27th spelled out the desire by the Governor to prohibit any local orders superseding his plan. Our Mayor and Council have honored that wish by allowing the City Emergency Order to expire on April 30, 2020 and move to help businesses open safely as spelled out in the Open Texas Guide. Our City has also taken the position to help people in need with Shopping and also provide a good set of local guides (provided by our LHA Dr. Ekta Escovar) to continue to help flatten the curve. Our City took a positive position on wearing masks and how that helps lower disease transmission. We've also had many industrious individuals in Alpine making masks and sharing with others (thank you for that).
Instead of waiting for higher level political figures to tell us what to do, we've taken the approach of being mindful in our dealings with others and pulling together sets of best practices. These are actions we can implement daily to give others around us the lowest probability of getting sick if this virus does come to Alpine in a heightened fashion.

Our restaurants have done a lot of communicating with our staff on best practices and we are grateful to the thought and commitment they are putting into Alpine and their businesses. Our hoteliers and short-term-rental operators are focused on their cleaning and turnover protocols to help ensure their guests have a positive and safe experience. Our retail stores have been working on spreading out merchandise and keeping their patrons to the smaller minimum. We appreciate these efforts. Is everyone perfect...the answer is 'no'. Most importantly we appreciate the effort to make changes and the consistent communication back to Chief Martin and his staff.

The question I hear surfacing more and more now is; 'when will we get back to normal?'. Beyond that, we hear questioning on what a 'new normal' will look like.
The answer I continue to share with staff is: 1. do your part, don't go to work or out in public if you are sick 2. wear a mask when in a public setting and 3. be mindful in social gatherings (distance and preferably outdoors). The summer makes this much easier for us.

Hats off to Chief Martin and his staff. They are a great team and have really rallied around our citizens, businesses and their safety. Hats off to our Mayor and City Council for pushing us to show care and concern for the safety of our citizens, while trying to construct ways to re-open businesses. Many thanks to Dr. Ekta Escovar for her timely work through this pandemic. She has taken on the role of LHA and worked hard to find the best solutions for our County and City.

The people of Alpine are witty, innovative and supportive of each other. Yes, change is tough...but being amongst people that are thoughtful and tenacious gives us the best probability for success.

Kind regards,
Erik


May 6, 2020, 9:15 A.M 

Current Test Results as of Tuesday May 5th:
 
Alpine: 41 tests resulted, 11 still pending results
Terlingua: 24 tests resulted, 3 pending results
Presidio: 32 tests resulted, 10 pending results
Marfa: 56 tests resulted, 7 pending results
 
There are MTTs set up in Ft. Davis and Presidio this coming weekend, so we will continue the testing in the Tri-County region.


April 28, 2020, 6:45 P.M.

Dear Citizens,
 
Governor Abbott issued a series of Executive Orders yesterday and a Plan to gradually open up business here in Texas. GA-18, GA-19 and GA-20 are posted on our website along with that 64 page plan (https://www.cityofalpine.com/news_detail_T10_R94.php). I would recommend taking some time to read that plan if you've not already done so.
 
With these new Orders being passed effective Friday May 1, 2020, the Previous Order will expire on Thursday April 30, 2020.  The Governor spelled out techniques and expectations to help open Texas in a way he felt would be safe for our citizens. Many of the same sheltering techniques were spelled out. Not all the businesses are allowed to open on May 1st, and those given permission will be in a limited fashion.
 
The most prevalent items to Alpine are the opening of restaurants for dining in and retail store establishments serving non-essential products.  Restaurants and Retail are allowed to open to 25% capacity. 
Bars, Gyms, Personal Service establishments and others will be addressed in an upcoming Order.
 
Those counties that have 5 or less Covid-19 cases can petition the Department of State Health Services to allow their restaurants and retail stores to open to 50% capacity. Judge Cano would need to go through an Attestation of eight key items that the DSHS would review. Those items are listed on page 44 of the Governor's plan. When the Judge is ready to go through that petition process, I anticipate he will share those eight certifications with the public.
 
Hotel Occupancy has also been an important item for Alpine. With the expiration of the Governor's Shelter at Home Order, that allows for discretionary travel again. Travelers outside of Essential Services will start coming to Alpine and the Big Bend Region again.
 
The Governor stressed several times, no business is required to open. That is still a decision each business owner will need to make on their own.
 
A larger concern that continues to be relevant is how to protect our older population as the state and country begin to open back up. There have been several local groups helping with the shopping for the elderly and we want to see that continue. Our team is also working on some great health and hygiene posters to take around town to our local businesses. We are also putting together information for the Sunshine House and Food Pantry to distribute. It's super important we stay vigilant in our utilization of the CDC practices and those recommendations of our healthcare providers.
 
The Governor also spoke to the fact that he did not want orders in the future to supersede the plan he's laid out for the State. 
 
We've continued with our website advancements and work to keep the site a great repository for local information on Covid-19. Geo, Chris and others are developing new information daily and we appreciate their energy and efforts.
 
As an aside, I was disappointed to see some of the scare messaging last week that went out discussing people's fear of being arrested for not following the Governor's or Local Executive Orders. Our local Police Chief and team have done a fantastic job at being visible and easily reachable during the pandemic. They have issued one citation for non-compliance and that's it. Citizens and business owners have done a wonderful job at communicating with our team and I thought the suggestions otherwise were not grounded on factual information. With that said, we continue to push information out on our website regularly and our teams are working diligently to have factual data and information on how to open back up effectively while keeping the health of our population in mind.
 
We will have our Special City Council meeting this week (Wednesday April 29th at 5:30pm). It will be on Zoom and the login credentials are posted on our website. We hope you can attend.
 
Thank you for your continued efforts in keeping Alpine a safe and wonderful place to live.
 
Erik


April 22, 2020, 2:00 P.M.
 
Thank you for all the questions that have been coming in since last night's City Council meeting. One of the big items that was contemplated in our Tiered Matrix Response to COVID-19 was the use of masks in public. The Asian communities have effectively used masks to help prevent disease transmission to the point where wearing a mask is more socially acceptable than not.
 
Earlier this month, the CDC came out with their recommendation (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover.html ) and they also included a nice video from our Surgeon General on a simple style mask someone can make from home materials.
 
There have been many other home-based solutions that are easily sourced on the internet with regards to making masks. Dr. Escovar also shared some wisdom last evening on how to test the effectiveness of your homemade mask (by holding up a lit candle one foot away and trying to blow out through your homemade mask - if you can't blow out, that's a good thing).
 
Here is another article on fabric types that makes a lot of sense:

The best overall materials for DIY face masks

Based on a combination of breathability and filtration effectiveness, the study recommended denim, bed sheets (80-120 thread count), paper towels, canvas (0.4-0.5mm thick) and shop towels for homemade masks.

Keep in mind, however, that paper towels are not washable or reusable.

The 0.4-0.5mm thick canvas material ranked as being easier to breathe through than a surgical mask, while still performing fairly well at filtering particles. But if thick fabrics aren’t available to you, the study’s data showed that 100% cotton T-shirts, layered up, are also still effective options for homemade masks. (More on this below.) 

In general, natural materials are a better option than synthetic ones. Because synthetic fibers (like polyester) tend to be smooth, they don’t filter out particles as well as the rougher texture of natural fibers (like 100% cotton).
ULTIMATE FACE MASKS
 
When you turn that old pair of jeans into shorts, you now have another use for that leg material.

Chris Ruggia is also working with our local businesses and citizens who are making masks for donation or sale. He will be posting that information on our visitalpinetx.com site along with our Facebook distribution.

Please remember, Level 3 of the Tiered Matrix, where Council placed us last evening, requires the use of masks in Public places. The copy of that Objective Statement and Tiered Matrix is also available on our City website.

Thank you to all the participants in last evening's City Council meeting.
 
Kind regards,
Erik


April 20, 2020, 2:15 P.M.

Dear Citizens,
 
Thank you for the continued interest in the blog and we hope it's a medium that helps convey methodology and mindset here at the City of Alpine. Our employees continue to give it their all daily and we appreciate the support of our citizens.
 
The Governor's address this past Friday (April 17th) speaks to some loosening of restrictions relative to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today we saw most of the State Parks reopen. There is also strategy for retail to-go, some elective medical procedures and an expected announcement of Monday April 27th with further easing of restrictions. The Governor is also looking for guidance from the Counties and Cities to help manage their specific needs relative to their communities.
 
Our healthcare professionals have been fantastic at communicating and working with our citizens on understanding the health implications of COVID-19. Hats off to Dr. Ekta Escovar, Linda Molinar, Rick Flores and a host of other people providing healthcare and overseeing our medical facilities. This continued guidance will be important to help us reopen Alpine in a way that balances healthcare concerns with the needs of our businesses.
 
Most of our businesses in Alpine are suffering financially. The loss of business has come in several forms (reduced student population at SRSU, no tourism, closed non-essential businesses, just to name a few). The Governor mapped out a new strategy for the non-essential retail service providers where they can begin with curbside and delivery sales starting this Friday. Our Council will address this topic at their meeting tomorrow in an effort to help enhance the City of Alpine Emergency Order.
 
Our Council will address the existing Emergency Order by outlining key objectives of the strategy and building a matrix that outlines a phased approach to re-opening. I appreciate the efforts of Chris Ruggia, several of our hoteliers, retail store owners, Marci Tuck and some of our elected and appointed officials in giving feedback to the plan. We have worked diligently to incorporate those suggestions into a plan that provides balance to our community.
 
The Alpine Golf Course has also been a topic this past week. The Governor and Attorney General came out with written outlines on expectations that need to be met in order for golf courses to be used. Chief Martin has been working with our County Club and waiting on a formal document from them indicating what the club would do to manage to the orders by the Governor. One critical item they are having to navigate through is the use of alcohol on the property and what TABC allows for. Once we have the plan from the Country Club, Chief Martin and I can review.
 
Tomorrow's City Council Meeting will be on Zoom. We have posted the credentials on our City website and believe the attendance will be robust. If you have statements for the Public Comments section, please email your name ahead of time to our City Secretary. If you have questions related to particular topics on the agenda, please email them to the City Secretary and we will get them queued up prior to the meeting. You are also able to communicate via the CHAT function during the meeting.
 
Thanks again to all of our citizens in making Alpine a special place to be.
 
Kind regards,
Erik 


April 15, 2020, 4:15 P.M.

Dear Citizens,
 
I thought it would be productive to get material out that was non-COVID-19. Certainly the pandemic has been top-of-mind and incorporated into our daily thinking, but we also have other activities to share related to the City of Alpine.
 
We are currently in the middle of the bulky trash pickup. Section 82-47 (https://library.municode.com/tx/alpine/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=COOR_CH82SOWA_ARTIICODI_DIV1GE_S82-47BUWADI) of our Code of Ordinances contemplates the Bulky Waste program and regulations. We are starting to see several items around town that are not part of the program. Adelina Bealle (Environmental Services Coordinator) will be on the radio tomorrow morning talking about our recycling and waste programs. Please take some time to listen to her and we will have the replay on our website at the staff interviews section.
 
Our building permit fee schedule is in the process of being updated. We had our first reading of the Ordinance this past Council meeting and have the Public Hearing and second reading of the Ordinance scheduled for the next Council meeting on April 21st. Please reach out with questions and thoughts on the matter.
 
Our paving work is progressing this month and we anticipate starting on the alleyway between the one-ways next week. Eddie Molinar and team are also prepping streets here in Alpine for our first batch of sealcoats (17 street blocks to be completed in April). We appreciate all the coordination from the businesses and residences. We know the traffic flow is disrupted during the work, but the end product makes it all worthwhile.
 
As Sul Ross continues their search for a new President, the City is excited about the prospects of working with our University on their short-range and long-term goals. The formation of the 'Normal College' over 100 years ago was predicated on the City providing good streets, sidewalks, sewer, trash and water services. It is what launched Alpine into the formation of a City. We appreciate the presence and impact that SRSU has on our community and look for that relationship to flourish in years to come.
 
Please feel free to reach out to our staff through email or phone with questions, ideas and concerns.
 
Kind regards,
Erik


April 15, 2020, 2:00 P.M.

Dear Citizens,

Tax Day usually drives a frenzy of final day filings and the Post Office would be hopping with traffic. With the COVID-19 pandemic, traffic patterns have changed and the activity at the Post Office is much lighter today. I am hearing that some folks are now starting to receive their individual stimulus checks, which is a good thing.  

Chief Martin continues to respond to inquiries on the shopping activities around the community. More and more people are wearing masks, gloves and looking for less busy times of the day to go and get supplies. One item that is on our radar this week is addressing the needs for haircuts and the sort. We will queue that up at our CV-Team meeting tomorrow with Judge Cano and Dr. Escovar. If the Order for Shelter at Home were to be extended beyond April 30th, we appreciate many folks would need some assistance in organizing a haircut. 

We continue to have dialogue relative to the golf course now being closed. The Texas AG rendered this opinion over the weekend: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/news/releases/guidance-letter-about-golf-courses-regarding-ga-14

We certainly welcome input on this matter.
 
We have our normal scheduled City Council Meeting next week (Tuesday April 21st). We will have a wide array of topics to cover, along with a contemplation on next steps with the City Emergency Ordinance. The meeting will be live on Zoom with a replay available on our website afterwards.
One of the topics to discuss will be the re-opening of the facets of our economy that have been closed during the pandemic.  At the Federal level, we are starting to see a second task force being formed. Governor Abbott is also planning on rolling out his plan this Friday for Texas. We encourage our citizens to read the contents of the state plan and work back with our office and your local elected officials on your ideas that 'make sense' for Alpine. Chris Ruggia is working with some of our local hoteliers and restaurant owners on a tiered approach that we can suggest to Council this next week. More to come on this topic.
 
We are reminded daily of the economic impacts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We appreciate the work that our SBDC does daily in helping business owners with the SBA loan applications. We recognize that as the economy starts to re-open, there will be a graduated level of spending and travel re-appearing. Much of this will be determined on how tourists and business travelers to the area begin to spend money again. The health and vibrancy of Sul Ross State University is also a highly impactful part of the equation. We look forward to working with their new President, past-President and Administration staff on the ramp-up of students back to the campus.
 
Thanks again for taking the time to read the blog. We appreciate our citizens, business owners and all those who care about Alpine.
 
Kind regards,
Erik


April 9, 2020, 5:00 P.M.

Thank you all who have been diligently keeping up with the City and the County meetings and postings on our websites. We are working hard to keep the information flowing to our citizens. A big thanks to Geo Calderon who is managing our City website and gets information from staff at all hours and repurposes it to the website in a very clear and concise format.

Chief Martin and I were able to jump on the radio this afternoon to discuss several items as we head into a longer holiday weekend. Please take time to listen to the replay on KVLF or on our City website. There is good information from our Chief on social distancing - specifically at retail stores.

 
Effective this afternoon, we have advised the golf course to close. This runs in parallel with Governor Abbott's clarification this week that golf is not considered an essential activity. 
 
Our City Council Meeting Tuesday evening was very productive and informative. I appreciate the Mayor doing a fantastic job at running the meeting through Zoom. The technology advancements are allowing many people to participate and engage with our Council and Staff during the meetings. The presentations on our Communities response to COVID-19 from Dr. Escovar, Chris Ruggia, Jennifer Stewart, Chief Martin and Scott Perry were all very thorough and informative. Please take a look at the video of the meeting on our website if you did not have a chance to attend. The first hour was dedicated to the presentations and the second hour encapsulated the remainder of the City business.
 
Chris Ruggia continues to work with Liz Pena and her staff at the Small Business Development Center to get good information out to the community relative to the CARES Act and how to apply for funding. Liz's staff is working tirelessly to connect with local businesses and help them through the process. Great job to all of those helping our businesses and community members navigating the programs and which ones make most sense for their particular business. Chris and Geo posted some additional updates on our website and Facebook pages earlier today.
 
We are saddened at the loss of Traci Felsot this week. Traci was a tremendous asset to our community and region and her loss will be felt for quite some time. Our hearts are heavy for Mike Scudder and the family as they mourn her loss. I will miss Traci's lively smile, warm heart and kindful consideration of others. Thank you for the 20+ years of service Traci.
 
We appreciate our communities work towards adherence to the Governor's, County and City Orders relative to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Some of the mandates put in place have been tougher to follow than others. We appreciate the continued questions and dialogue with our citizens and fundamentally see the care and concern within Alpine.
 
Kind Regards,
Erik
 

April 6, 2020, 4:30 P.M.

Dear Citizens,

As we start another week, I wanted to say thank you to all the community who has reached out to Chief, Cynthia, Megan, Chris and many others on the City Staff with questions relative to the COVID-19 virus and City response. It's through the dialogue and discussion that better answers can be sourced as we are working to stay away from anecdotal comments and responses.
 
Three great questions to ask daily with your own family or those of whom you work with:
1. Are you ok?
2. Is your family ok?
3. Is anyone or any of your family members traveling?
 
With the first positive case of COVID-19 appearing in Ojinaga over the weekend, we are engaging in further discussions with the state and federal government on implications for border communities.
Tomorrow evening's City Council meeting agenda is packed with information on COVID-19 and the City of Alpine's response across all department levels. Please tune in to ZOOM if you are available at 5:30pm Tuesday evening.
 
Be safe, mask up, wash hands vigorously and spend some time with the more scientific based articles that are readily available on the internet.
 
Kind regards,
Erik


April 3, 2020, 3:00 P.M.

It certainly has been an eventful week and we wanted to share a few thoughts with everyone before this Friday came to a close.
 
We have our Regular Scheduled City Council Meeting on Tuesday April 7th at 5:30pm. You can tune into that with Zoom and the login credentials are:

Join Zoom Meeting 
https://zoom.us/j/681174115?pwd=a0VxZVJVemJXS1lTeU50RlVRSGR3UT09
Meeting ID: 681 174 115 Password: 020531 
 
The agenda for the meeting is posted on our website and the backup material will be posted by 5pm Monday. We will have several department heads speaking relative to the City's response to Coronavirus along with Council contemplating some changes/additions to the Emergency Ordinance.
 
Several of our citizens have also noticed action that Ft. Stockton took earlier this week lowering their utility billing rates by 50% for the April billing. The City of Alpine will discuss that action Tuesday. One of the parts we do like to share is that our current Water billing rate is 65.2% of the state average for similar sized cities and our Sewer billing rate is 49.2% of the state average. We have historically worked to keep our rates in Alpine lower than our peer cities in Texas.
 
Chief Martin and I continue to get calls about compliance concerns with the current Emergency Ordinances enacted by the City and County. We ask our citizens to help us with sending in pictures along with the phone calls and emails. They help our police team as they move forward with the discussions and potential citations.
 
We've been asked about the Golf Course and why that remains open during the Shelter at Home Order from Brewster County. The golf course is a place where people go for exercise and the course has implemented new cart policies (two people are not allowed in the same cart unless they are from the same household) along with only one person in the pro-shop at a time. Players are encouraged to walk as well. The inside bar/eatery has been closed for renovations. Chief Martin and his team are at the club daily and the staff have worked hard at compliance.
 
The grocery stores are implementing a policy similar to what was seen in Midland (limiting to 10% of the approved Occupancy Rate). Trae Dutchover from Porters has shared with us this recommendation and we are helping support the implementation.
 
If you have additional concerns, please reach out with calls and emails. As shared earlier, please send pictures if available. Chief Martin and our Police team are focused on high visibility and quick resolve for any items that pop up.
 
We continue to see great information crop up on the internet (nationally and locally) on ways to deal with the stresses and challenges that this pandemic has presented. I want to give a special thanks to Chris and Geo for keeping information flowing from our City website and Visit Alpine website.
 
Congrats to Dr. Ekta Escovar on being positioned as the Health Authority for the County. On behalf of the City, your health care advocacy and common sense approach is recognized and appreciated. Thank you for your tireless efforts to support the City, County and Region.
 
Kind regards,
Erik
 

April 1, 2020, 3:00 P.M.

Dear Citizens,

As we exited March yesterday, we experienced several changes and enhanced Executive Orders from our Governor and Brewster County Judge. We posted both those orders on our website and encourage everyone to take some time and read through them. Social distancing and minimizing human interaction over the next several weeks is key to helping control the spread of COVID-19.

Chief Martin was very busy with his staff late yesterday as there seemed to be some confusion with folks about the capacities and their abilities to grocery shop. There was a resurgence of folks at the grocery stores last evening. We want to make sure our citizens know that the grocery stores will continue to remain open and it's important to keep the volume of people down within the store and spread out the shopping to help maintain social distancing. Trae Dutchover from Porter's is working with Chief and our team on steps to help ensure we limit the amount of people in the store at any given time. Porter's has also sent out guidance on having one person per household come at a time (their guidance was shared on their Facebook page).

Jennifer Stewart (Animal Control Supervisor) will be on the radio tomorrow morning (9am) to discuss our Animal Control operation along with how she, her team, the Humane Society, and our volunteers are helping manage the pet population. Please tune in to KVLF for that morning 2nd Cup of Coffee with Jennifer.

Chris Ruggia and Marci Tuck continue to work through the communication plan to help people use the tools associated with the CARES Act. We encourage business owners to engage quickly on the petitioning of these funds as they typically are a 'first come, first served'.

The following 6 minute video from Mythbusters (https://www.dmarge.com/2020/03/mythbusters-contamination-experiment.html  does a fantastic job at showing contamination and why social distancing is so important.

Thank you all for your patience and care of other community members.

Kind regards,
Erik


March 30, 2020, 5:00 P.M.

Dear Citizens,

A very busy day here in Alpine and I hope many of you were able to listen to the 3pm radio show on KVLF where Judge Cano and I gave an update on the progressions in Alpine and Brewster County. If you were not able to listen today, we are reposting the interview on our website. The Judge and I fielded discussions and questions on Shelter in Place, CARES Act, Social Distancing, Big Bend National Park, Retail stores, Restaurants and other topics. Thank you Big Bend Radio for making your studios available to us for the talk.

Big Bend Radio Interview with City Manager & Brewster County Judge, Part 1
Big Bend Radio Interview with City Manager & Brewster County Judge, Part 2

Chief Martin and I also made the rounds today speaking to several retail stores in town about further steps they are implementing to help with social distancing and controlling numbers of people in the stores at any one time. Many of the retailers have also ordered the checkout counter 'shields' and hope to have within the next two weeks. We are also asking our citizens to be mindful of keeping the shopping to small numbers. Shop at off-peak times and make it a point to 'come back later' if you drive up to the grocery store and the parking lot already has many cars. These are the little things we can do now to help minimize future problems.

Blog 3-30-20

The following link is to the SBA Loan application process: https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#/
This is the streamlined loan application.   We believe the important actions are to get this information out so that our small businesses can apply now.   There is even an area that the business can check off getting $10,000 of cash immediately if they qualify.
 
Thank you for being a citizen of Alpine, Brewster County, part of our tourism community, or just someone who cares. We live in a special place on this earth.
 
Kind regards,
Erik  


March 27, 2020, 4:30 P.M.

Dear Citizens,

Thank you all again for your patience and continued communications during this ever-changing and trying time in our community and across the globe. We hear stories daily of challenges that people are working to overcome as well as the heroic efforts of medical professionals dealing with the COVID-19 virus along with their normal run of work.

With the CARES Act going through final signatories and then implementation, we wanted to get 'Cliff Notes' out to the public to share thoughts on how this impacts our citizens. A big 'thank you' to Chris Ruggia, Marci Tuck and Megan Antrim for reading through the legislation, briefs and compiling a list for you to review. Please take time to review the attachment.

CARES ACT INFORMATION - CITY OF ALPINE

One disclaimer - this is a compilation of notes from our City team and not an exhaustive list of all the resources available. We simply wanted to help give our businesses and citizens a head-start.

We've also reached out to our County Judge Cano and EMC Stephanie Elmore to offer assistance for the available FEMA Public Assistance. Megan Antrim on our team worked with Tom Santry about a decade ago relative to the Assistance from the wildfires and has experience.

Next Tuesday (March 31, 2020) we will be hosting a Virtual Meeting with City Manager for our local hoteliers at 10am. We will use Zoom for that conference and Chris is getting the log-in information out. This conference will be designed to address questions and concerns from our local hotel and motel community. Later that day we will have a Virtual Coffee with the City Manager. The time on that will be 4pm-6pm on Tuesday 3-31-2020. Because we had to cancel last weeks Coffee with the City Manager at the Visitor Center, we wanted to add a forum back in for consistent communication in our community.

Login credentials for the Virtual Coffee with City Manager are:

Join Zoom Meeting
https://zoom.us/j/837541160?pwd=MFNJazkwQmRKWW13cUVlbzRZdnJFQT09

Meeting ID: 837 541 160 
Password: 020772

One tap mobile 
+13462487799,,837541160# US (Houston)
+16699006833,,837541160# US (San Jose) 

Dial by your location 
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Meeting ID: 837 541 160 
Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/avWI1EUUX  
 
One final note, we were able to provide some work for a couple of local employees displaced by the pandemic. As we learn of others, we are working to help connect them with others who need short term or long term work to be done.
 
Kind regards,
Erik


March 26, 2020, 4:30 P.M.

Dear Citizens,

Thank you to everyone who attended (via Zoom) our Special City Council meeting last evening. We were able to review and accept the FY 2018-19 Audit, approved the 2nd Reading of the Ordinance Amending this years Budget and approved pushing our May City elections this year to the November 3, 2020 General Election. If you would like to review the documents or video from the meeting, they are here on our website.

The core team of the Judge, Sheriff, Mayor, Chief, Hospital, Schools and myself reconvened this morning to discuss impacts of the current Emergency Declarations in Alpine and Brewster County along with discussion on several of the Shelter in Place Emergency Ordinances/Directives passed in different Texas cities.

A copy of the Ft Stockton Ordinance can be found here:  https://cityoffortstockton.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/ORDINANCE-NO-20-101.pdf 

A copy of the City of Presidio Local Emergency Directive: https://presidiotx.us/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/CItyPresidioLocalEmergencyDirective.pdf

We have continued to contemplate whether a shelter in place or curfew is needed in Alpine and/or Brewster County. I have received several comments today that many citizens are pleased to see the overall compliance with the existing Emergency Ordinance in place. We will immediately call another Emergency Meeting when/if additional action is necessary.

We continue to receive a tremendous amount of feedback on tourism impacts to Alpine, Brewster County and the Big Bend region. Chris Ruggia continues to work diligently on communication of ideas and thoughts with our local hoteliers and tourism contacts. Chris manages our https://visitalpinetx.com/ page and it is a great repository of information. Chris is also doing a great job at pulling together information relative to the Stimulus relief packages, their applicability to tourism and small business. Our goal is to help kick-start the businesses as we pull through the pandemic.

Chief Martin and I are also working on a more comprehensive plan to address Fire, EMS and Law Enforcement resources in times of crisis to ensure we identify any resource gaps and fill them. 

Please feel free to reach out to staff with additional questions and concerns. Thank you for choosing Alpine as your home and we appreciate our citizens patience during this trying time. We also love the fact that many people across the globe have picked Alpine and west Texas as a place to travel through the years. As our world and country exit this pandemic we look forward to great visits and fun activities in the Big Bend Region.

Kind regards
Erik


March 25, 2020, 11:30 A.M.

Dear Citizens,

Thank you all for using this forum for information gathering and the City team appreciates all the calls and questions we are receiving from our Citizens and others who care about Alpine. We are working diligently to get back with people as quickly as possible to help navigate through the questions.

We will be having a Special City Council meeting this evening (planned a couple of weeks ago) to go through the 2018-19 Audit readout along with three other items. The packet is online now for your perusal. We will be using Zoom for the meeting and the credentials are also on our website and below:

Join Zoom Meeting
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Meeting ID: 817 270 216
Password: 008726

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Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/avWI1EUUX  

We have received a few notices questioning compliance on the Emergency Ordinance passed by Council on Friday closing the Hotels, Motels and STR's (minus the exceptions listed in the Ordinance). We are addressing those compliance issues daily and appreciate the feedback to myself, Chief and his team. 

City Officials and Staff continue to monitor the Shelter in Place and Shelter at Home rules passed by other cities in Texas, as well as other places around the country. The Mayor, Chief and myself will meet again tomorrow with the County Judge, Sheriff, EMC, Hospital and Schools to discuss further those implications to Alpine and Brewster County. Most specifically if we were to have a positive test case in Alpine or Brewster County.

Adelina Beall has posted the following Recycle Center Update. Please reach out to her with any questions ( environmental.services@ci.alpine.tx.us) as she is a wonderful source of information.

Recycling Center Closed
 

In driving through Alpine last evening, I saw many families out on walks, spending time getting fresh air and also being mindful of the generous spacing the outdoors provides. Reminded me of my youth here in Alpine and the good times riding your bike around town, laughing and enjoying the sunshine.

With the Federal Stimulus dollars being prepared for citizens and businesses, we will be working internally (Megan Antrim, Marci Tuck and Chris Ruggia) to understand the implications and availability for businesses and the City. Most of all, it's important we stay on top of how the stimulus dollars can be drawn in to help the community, it's businesses and residents. More to come on that piece.

On a final note, Dr. Escovar has shared with us that the virus does not like heat. The hot weather for the next several days is a good thing.

Kind regards,
Erik


March 24, 2020, 11:05 A.M.

Dear Citizens,

I wanted to start off today's post with thanking all of our medical providers and first responders in Alpine and Brewster County. It is your tireless efforts that are appreciated by all as we navigate through the worlds, nations, states and local communities responses to COVID-19. As Chief Martin reminded me yesterday, there was not a printed playbook for this pandemic and we are working to be mindful of the needs of our medical community as they deal with cases across the globe.

The County Commissioners Court re-convened yesterday afternoon to put more clarity around the hotel, motel, STR and RV language. A copy of their updated amendment can be found here:  http://www.brewstercountytx.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Amended-Declaration-of-Local-State-of-Disaster-Due-to-Public-Health-Emergency-March-23-2020.pdf 

Chief Martin and his team have also been putting out their sign trailers on the edges of town to help provide messaging to residents and those folks still trying to head out this way.

The City had our Department Head / Staff Meeting this morning (all conducted on Zoom Conference) to give critical updates to peers/counterparts on actions that each department is taking. Keeping our team abreast of each others activities at this time is important for the health of our City.  Also, with many employees working from home, we are discussing different training modules staff are utilizing and sharing amongst departments.

Many of you have seen the different 'Shelter in Place' orders that some cities in Texas have enacted and some states have enacted. We are reviewing those now in case the Governor determines to enact something similar statewide. Understanding how we would implement is crucial to being able to effectively communicate with our citizens. As of this blog post we ARE NOT currently in a 'Shelter in Place' order, we are only researching and better understanding the implications for Alpine.

Stephanie L. (Billing Department Supervisor) has issued letters to our customers who are late with their March utility payment. We have pushed-out turn-offs, but need a written response if there is a hardship created by the COVID-19 pandemic and changes.  We are also taking the same approach with our Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) that are due April 20th. Chris Ruggia will be getting a letter out to our hoteliers, moteliers and short term rental businesses later this week.

Speaking of Chris Ruggia...he is very creative. Below you will see an Alpine Social Distancing Bingo sheet. We hope this provides a needed distraction for you and lightens your day.

SOCIAL DISTANCING BINGO
 
Kind Regards,
Erik


March 23, 2020, 9:30 A.M.

Dear Citizens,

The weather was beautiful in Alpine this weekend and I hope you were able to rest and continue with information gathering. We are fortunate to have a variety of resources to review and gain insight with.

Chief Martin and I spoke several times over the weekend, primarily working with the hoteliers and their questions about acceptable occupants, etc.. based on the Oridinance the City passed Friday March 20, 2020. Chief has assigned Lieutenant Felipe Fierro on his team to meet with each hotelier daily and get their counts and nature of each guest. All the hoteliers have been amenable to this approach and we believe this will be the smoothest way to handle for our community. Chief and I also listened to the Governor's call yesterday regarding the transportation of goods/freight across Texas and the country. Based on the Governor's approach, and Union Pacific and Amtrak being labeled by Department of Homeland Security as critical infrastructure employees, we are working with them on the housing. We will revisit that point with Council on Wednesday to provide additional updates (if needed) to the Ordinance. With that said, we are very focused on the lists that Felipe is pulling for us daily and know that the data will help us immensely in the continued decision making.

Chief, Scott Perry and I also met with Andrew Pierce and Shea Roberts from West Texas Ambulance this morning to get a status on their preparedness and our EMS / Ambulance Services. They gave us a status update and will work back with Chief and myself on any needs that arise (or concerns). We asked them to also give updates to the community through their Facebook page and we will repurpose those updates on our City webpage. We appreciate the added information as it is important to our community.

Texas Disposal Systems may run a little later in the evening (to 8:15p - but no later than dark) to keep up with trash pickup. They are down one person and had requested to bring in someone from Austin to keep up. We asked them to handle with their current staff instead and picking up trash until dark would be acceptable.

Thanks again for all you do to help your neighbor during this time. We are blessed to have many elderly and a lot of retirees in our community. With that population comes wisdom. Ensuring we have great consistent medical services for them and all citizens is our priority.

Kind regards,
Erik


March 20, 2020, 5:35 P.M.

Dear Citizens,

The Alpine City Council took action this afternoon to approve the Emergency Ordinance that was proposed and posted on our website. There was one amendment to the Ordinance allowing people that are permanent residents in the hotels/motels to remain.

The approved and signed Ordinance will also be posted on our website this evening. We are also posting the Zoom conference video at the written comments posed by a variety of people.

If you have any specific questions on the Ordinance, please email the Chief and myself.

Kind regards,

Erik


March 20, 2020, 11:15 A.M.

Dear Citizens,

Friday is finally upon us and we've certainly all experienced a busy week. Thanks for all the hard work by our Citizens researching the changes and developments relative to the COVID-19 pandemic and the opportunities we all have to fight this challenge.

Our Mayor has called an Emergency City Council meeting to contemplate and Emergency Ordinance related to this Public Health Emergency. The meeting will take place at 4pm today. Because of the health requirements not allowing gatherings of 10 or more people, we will also be using Zoom for conferencing purposes. Only nine people will be allowed into Council Chambers (most of those will be Mayor, Council and staff). The Zoom credentials for those who want to log-in online are:

https://zoom.us/j/658190254?pwd=MzkzTVh4Nk1PUkJETXM3Y3NOY2VrUT09

I would suggest you download Zoom ahead of time and try the application out so you have some level of familiarity with its operation.
You can also join by phone: 1 574-404-3387  PIN: 752 739 723#  
 
The primary item in the Ordinance being contemplated is closing our Hotels, Motels and Short Term Rentals (STR's) from noon Sunday March 22nd through noon Monday April 6th. Consideration will also be given to Military and Law Enforcement needs.
 
Please reach out to us at City Hall with any questions and we hope to see you 'virtually' at 4pm today.
 
Kind Regards, 
Erik


March 19, 2020

Dear Citizens,

I had the opportunity to sit in on the Commissioners Court meeting this morning as they listened to many public comments and poured over a decision to create additional restrictions to the County Judges Declaration of Local State of Disaster from yesterday.

During the Court meeting, there was an adjournment to listen to Governor Abbott's response and order: During his Thursday announcement Abbott issued an executive order that took a number of steps to combat the coronavirus:

  • Limiting social gatherings to no more than 10 people
  • Prohibiting eating and drinking at restaurants and bars
  • Closing gyms
  • Ban people from visiting nursing homes except for critical care
  • Temporarily close schools

Abbott’s executive order goes into effect at midnight Friday.

Commissioner's Court then reconvened and took action to follow the Governor's guidelines.
 
With that being said, we are working with our City Staff to ensure we follow the orders specific to local eateries, watering holes, gyms, parks, schools, etc... Becky McCutchen also immediately released a note adhering to the guidelines with AISD not opening until after April 3rd (please check with the school on any 'school-at-home' initiatives they are working towards).
 
At the City, we are also limiting staff at our offices and having as many work/train from home to provide more quarantine and self-isolation opportunities.
 
We also think heavily about our parks and ask our citizens to be cognizant of gatherings at the park. Please keep them below 10 people. Our parks are very big and can accommodate several groups of under 10 people scattered at different locations. No practicing of teams on the ballfields. Under 10 is a good number to follow.
 
We are continuing to keep plugged in to our local, state and national resources and enhance our messaging as additional information becomes available.
 
Thank you for your continued effort, patience and the help of our older persons in Alpine.
 
Kind regards,
Erik


March 19, 2020

Dear Citizens,

With the escalating concerns relative to Coronavirus (COVID-19) and continued advisement from our CDC, National, State and County governments, we are closing our lobby's at City offices effective immediately. This will be in effect through Friday March 27, 2020. We will still have limited employees working in our buildings.

Our goal is to help limit people to people interaction during this time of need and concern and use technology instead.

If you need to pay a bill, please use our dropbox outside of City Hall.

Our phone lines are open and please call with any questions. You can also email specific staff and email addresses are listed on our website.

David Hale (Building Official) and his team will still be doing field inspections. Call him or Tony if you need to arrange a permit.

Scott Perry and his Utility teams will still be working items in the field and ensuring we have healthy and safe utility deliveries.

Chief Martin will be highly visible with his team in our community.

Eddie Molinar and his team will still be out taking care of our streets and parks.

I encourage everyone to take some time to read over the national, state and local guidelines. Minimize your engagements with others to essential needs for the next week (ie, grocery shopping and groups of less than 10 people).

It's also a great time to spend reading all those books you have on the shelf and have been waiting to read. Learning is a lifelong sport.

Kind Regards,

Erik


March 18, 2020

Dear Citizens,

Thank you for continuing to look at the blog for updates at the City and current updates on the City's response related to COVID-19. 

We hosted a meeting with other community leaders yesterday morning in an effort to have a combined PSA for the community and region. I am attaching a link to that release for your reading and consideration. Please view the PSA here:

NEWS RELEASE 

Our City Council also met last evening and we discussed the COVID-19 epidemic. Notes from the City Manager report as well as the video from the meeting can be seen on our website.

As the responses continue to evolve and develop, and changes occur, we will put information on our website to help citizens get needed information. We also appreciate the Judge's willingness to help put out continued updates collectively from the rest of the community leaders.  Please also take time to review the Sul Ross State University website (https://www.sulross.edu/) for their current information and the Alpine Independent School District website (https://www.alpine.esc18.net/) for their current information.

Directly related to the City of Alpine, we are:
1. Asking citizens who come to City Hall to pay a bill, drop it in the dropbox if they have the check with the exact amount. Our lobby will continue to be open for cash paying residents and new applicants.
2. Our Visitor Center door will remain locked for the time being. Information brochures are available on the front porch of the Visitor Center and we also ask you to go to the VisitAlpineTx.Com website.
3. Our team is updating restaurant hours and openings on the VisitAlpineTx.Com website, though please remember that is subject to change daily.
4. We continue to have heightened awareness of the need to provide healthy water, sanitation, gas and sewer services. Our field teams continue to treat this as our #1 PRIORITY!
5. Chief Martin and our Police team are working to be highly visible in town and ready to answer questions and assist people. This is also true of our Animal Control team.
6. We have asked any City employees who have the capability to work from home to do just that.
7. The City has a good sick policy and all employees who appear sick are sent home for healing.
8. We ask people to be responsible in their buying behaviours at our local stores and buy what you need, but please do not hord. There are many older residents in our community that need regular satiation of their diets to help them continue with their health. IF you bought a bunch of TP, find a friend or neighbor who needs some and please share - kindness matters. If you bought a bunch of food and are way overstocked, find a friend or neighbor and share. Thank you PORTERS for updating your hours and allowing our Senior Citizens to have the first hours of shopping daily to them.
9. The CDC has good information on behaviours and guidelines related to COVID-19. Please read and follow. Social distancing, hygiene and other key topics are mapped out well in their documents.
10. If you are having any issues paying bills related to COVID-19 and loss of work, please reach out to us at City Hall for help, advice and guidance. Our team is also looking at local businesses in town who need some short term help in stocking shelves, etc...

Kind regards,
Erik


March 13, 2020

COVID-19
 

Dear Citizens,

We wanted to take a few moments to share with you our thoughts and concerns relative to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) as we continue to see more advanced measures and precautions being taken across communities in the US and the World.

Our hospital (Big Bend Regional Medical Center) under the leadership of Rick Flores hosted a workshop last Wednesday (March 4, 2020) in which all community leaders and law enforcement groups were invited. The workshop was led by Dr. Ekta Escovar and she shared information on the disease and the precautionary measures shared by the Center for Disease Control (CDC -  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html ).  We had posted that information on our website after the workshop.

The disease and precautionary measures are advancing daily and yesterday Sul Ross State University President Dr. Bill Kibler has also issued the following statement and guidance (https://www.sulross.edu/page/3273/emergency-alerts ).

At The City of Alpine we continue to communicate with our Hospital, Sul Ross, School District, plus other law enforcement and governing agencies to ensure we have a coordinated approach for our community.

Relative to the Utilities that the City of Alpine provides (Water, Wastewater, Gas, Trash) they are all operating under normal business hours and we communicate back with state governing agencies to ensure we are following the up-to-date safety protocols to best protect our citizens through this time. We have also asked our leadership team to ensure employees are following heightened health, safety and sanitary procedures. City Hall is scheduled to continue to be open.

The City of Alpine also has a robust sick leave policy and we are ensuring employees utilize their sick days to stay home, rest and recover as needed or as directed by their supervisor.

We will also have time on our City Council agenda March 17, 2020 to discuss COVID-19 with the most up to date information possible.

Please feel free to reach out to me at City Hall or email me with any additional thoughts, concerns or questions.

Kind regards,
Erik


March 3, 2020

Dear Citizens,

Welcome back to the City Manager Blog. It's been six months since I rejoined the City of Alpine and we have a lot of great things happening with our Community. 

Our website continues to grow/develop and blossom as a great source of information for all things happening with the City of Alpine. Geo has added a great 'News' section and is also busy adding the different interviews that our Department Heads have been conducting with Big Bend Radio. Also keep an eye out on the calendars that have been added to give our citizens visibility to the reservations for the Civic Center, Kokernot Pavilion, Game Fields and much more.

I also wanted to shake the dust off the Vision Plan that the City developed in 2016-17. There are links here both for the flyover video and the Vision Plan itself. We will highlight some of that plan at this evenings City Council meeting.

This comprehensive vision plan has many great elements and opportunities for the City to consider. Please feel free to reach out to me  with any questions about its content or you can come to our next Coffee with the City Manager on Wednesday March 18th (4:30pm) at our Visitor Center on Ave E and 3rd Street.

Kindest regards,

Erik Zimmer, City Manager

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