Dillon, Frisco push to speed up marina openings
DILLON — Officials in Dillon and Frisco are wishing to open their respective marinas to the public as soon as possible in hopes of jumpstarting their economies for the summer and providing residents with some normalcy amid ongoing social-distancing efforts.
Dillon staff presented the town council with a COVID-19 financial contingency plan during a work session Tuesday evening, walking officials through a number of cost-saving measures to help weather expected shortfalls in revenue. Officials also discussed their strategies for getting the town’s major amenities open to the public, even if it means reduced capacities or other operational tweaks.
“We’re trying to be as aggressive as we possibly can with things like opening the marina and the amphitheater,” said Nathan Johnson, Dillon’s town manager. “Right now, the marina is labeled by the public health order as a high-risk area for COVID spreading … but we don’t feel like that is necessarily accurate. So we’ve partnered with the town of Frisco to work on a plan together that we are going to submit to public health to advocate for why it needs to be reclassified.”
Dillon is forecasting about a $2.1 million hit to its revenue in 2020 based on an estimated 25% drop in sales tax for the year. Though cuts in spending — including delays to $400,000 of street overlay work and Town Park improvements — along with excess revenue from 2019 will help cushion the blow.
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The town is also anticipating a reduction in revenue at the marina near $500,000. Marinas, including Dillon and Frisco’s, are listed as “high-risk recreation” in the county’s COVID-19 Roadmap to Recovery — meaning they’re required to remain closed during the current stabilization stage one.
Dillon Town Council members voiced their support for “aggressively” pushing for quick openings, noting that extended closures to the town’s main attractions could hit Dillon harder than larger, more diverse mountain communities. Officials have been working with their counterparts in Frisco in early discussions with the county and to develop a proposal to try to move up potential opening dates.
“It got classified as high risk, and I think there are some elements of boating in general that I’m not so sure are high risk,” said Diane McBride, Frisco’s director of recreation. “The goal is to come up with a document the county feels comfortable with. … We want to follow the public health guidelines. But we also want (county officials) to know that we’re really doing everything we can to make this a safe operation for all of our guests.”
McBride said the document would include guidelines for how marina operations could change to help protect the health of visitors, including prohibiting congregating on the docks, limiting the number of boat rentals, new social-distancing and face-covering policies, and more.
Officials in Dillon and Frisco noted that the county appeared receptive to the pitch, which could be officially submitted as early as Thursday, May 7.
“We are researching any guidance available associated with appropriate precautionary measures related to marinas,” said Julie Sutor, the county’s director of communications. “And we are certainly open to discussions with the towns, and coming up with strategies for how they can maintain proper social distancing and operate safely.”
In addition to marina talk, Dillon officials also voiced a strong desire to see other amenities up and running this summer, including the farmers market and amphitheater. And while the towns seems determined to try to provide a free concert or more this summer, guests should be prepared for a different look — whether that means limiting occupancy, letting people set up along Lodgepole Street, facing speakers out toward boats on the marina or other solutions.
“Our amphitheater and our marina are a disproportionate part of our economy here in the summer,” council member Brad Bailey said. “The bigger towns … have multiple other amenities and avenues for people to enjoy and pay sales tax. But (we should do) anything we can to talk to the county commissioners and Denver Water Board to let them know we would be disproportionately affected if that amphitheater or marina wasn’t operating.”
“I think it would be such a wonderful thing for our community if we could have a free concert,” council member Jen Barchers added. “Even if everyone is 6 feet apart, it would be an awesome way to give back.”
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