Neighborly Change

A nice November dusting for us; a whole new way of life for new neighbors.

We have new neighbors who may be waking up this morning to the first real snowstorm of their lives. On yet another Social Saturday, I met new neighbors, soon-to-be-neighbors, and two sets of established neighbors. As well as waved to Kiley, the realtor who sells most of the lots out here, on her way to remove yet another “for sale” sign.

Oz and I crossed paths at their new driveway with Stephanie and her blind 14-year-old Boston terrier Macy. We didn’t meet, but could hear, her husband Jeff, up the road aways with their pair of beagles. Stephanie and Jeff are from Dallas, and while they’ve been spending time in Gunnison for the past 10 years, this will be their first winter weather.

Initially, this was planned as a second home, but Corona changed their minds, and they’re going to make this their only home. Stephanie said she has been working from home and Jeff has already made the acquaintance of Fred who lives here, owner of a plumbing company that does the sort of work Jeff does. They will spend most of this winter back in Dallas, getting ready for the move and selling their house, but she was grateful that I had the name of someone (Kara’s husband) who could plow their new driveway.

Shortly thereafter Oz and I ran across Candace and Cynthia, sisters-in-law who are the distaff pair of a foursome, longtime valley residents, building their retirement home just across the road from Stephanie and Jeff. They are doing what Lynn and I used to do, coming to their new neighborhood to check on house progress and walk their two dogs, adopted a year ago. They hope to be in their house, which has walls but no roof for today’s snow, in June.

We also saw Mrs. Leonard out with Maggie, which came in handy because she is on the mend from the same shoulder surgery that Lynn was told last week she needs. Mrs. Leonard called Lynn “young” and assured she should sail through recovery just fine.

After waving at Kiley, who has been busy, busy out here these last couple months, I stopped to talk to Lisa, married to Fred and the finance person for their business. It’s nice to have a fellow business owner to talk to. Lisa was trying to decide whether to go into work where workers’ comp and unemployment insurance awaited her, or stay home and “supervise” Fred, putting up lights on the garage that is so large Lisa refers to it as “Fred’s house.”

After complaining about insurance, which is one of my favorite topics, we then discussed the passage last week of a Colorado ballot proposal that will probably break any number of small businesses in the state, assuming covid and next year’s unemployment rates don’t get to them first. Coloradans decided it would be a good thing to require all businesses — Lisa thought it was those with 50 or more employees; I thought it was 10 or more — to offer up to 12 weeks each year to each employee of paid family leave.

While that sounds really great, that is so far out of the realm of possibility that if my business had to offer even a third of that to one employee, that could be enough to pull us under. Lisa spoke to someone who voted for it on the basis that it seemed “anti-Republican,” which left Lisa trying to explain how to this young woman about how business shutdowns don’t serve anyone, Democrats included.

There’s already mandatory paid time off that starts next year — Lisa tells me this new legislation kicks in later — that will double the amount of sick time Pat’s has to pay, and I think our limited benefit is more than many local businesses offer.

It sounds great to make businesses take better care of their workers, and when we are all, every last one of us, working for Amazon, it will come in handy, but I would like the voters to at least attempt to understand the burden they have placed on the likes of little Pat’s Screen Printing and even the larger Alpha Mechanical.

On the plus side, the Gallagher Amendment is now gone, which I didn’t think would ever happen, which should help smooth out the imbalance between commercial and residential property taxes in the state. Without going into complexities that make one’s head hurt, the practical effect of Gallagher was to minimize residential payments while sending commercial taxes soaring — yet another burden on businesses.

Businesses that may find themselves going backward yet once again, here in Gunnison County as our covid numbers ratchet up rapidly. The bar down the street went through months of trying to get back open, aided by a functional pizza oven that allows him to open because he can serve food.

George, the owner, was extremely grateful he owns his building, although he did say he’d had to borrow money from his ex-wife just to survive. Apparently — I’m not a patron — we only have three bars in town, as opposed to restaurants that serve alcohol, and the other two are not open. George thought one was likely done, done in by months of back rent.

But his capacity limitations — no one allowed at the bar itself — mean he is barely covering costs, and if our case numbers grow his is one of the businesses that will be immediately impacted, with additional restrictions.

If I counted correctly, the county has had 35 cases in the 10 days dating back from Nov. 6 (with numerous tests yet to be returned). I’m not sure it’s a direct correlation, but Western Not State has posted a total of 30 cases for the same time frame. The main culprit, according both to the campus website and the county, is travel, either residents leaving and returning, or people inbound.

The state is airing endless ads urging us to socialize in person only with members of our own household throughout the month of November. The not-college sent out a message saying the time for “suggestions” was over, and then “recommended” that students not travel out of the county for the next two weeks prior to returning home for the remainder of the semester at Thanksgiving.

By Sunday, campus had decided to go all online for the next two weeks as well as the rest of the semester. I have heard variously that the virus is circulating among athletic teams, and that some student hosted a heavily-attended mask-free birthday party.

I don’t know if today’s news will help or hinder, but Pfizer, working without government funding (or so it says; some in the outgoing but still stamping their feet in a massive temper tantrum administration are assuring us it was all their doing), feels it has a 95 percent success rate with its RNA-based vaccine to combat covid symptoms (meaning we can all still get it, but hopefully won’t get as sick).

But maybe if we feel a “cure” is just around the corner, we will all toss off our masks prematurely. I hope not; I need Pat’s to remain open and viable in the short term so that I can go out of business later under the crushing weight of employee benefits and rebuilding the state’s depleted unemployment fund.

Speaking of viability: there’s a Go Fund Me campaign out there to try to revive the Majestic Theatre in Crested Butte. The “Children of the Popcorn,” which I think has to be one of the greatest names out there, hope to raise $3.3 million (!) to buy the building and deed it over to the town, putting an end to the endless hikes in rent that served as one of the main reasons for not re-opening following a pandemic-induced closure. They said they’d take $5 donations, should anyone feel like helping them out.

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