Council reopens public restrooms, continues animal shelter funding

By Jesse Moya jmoya@taosnews.com
Posted 6/29/20

By Jesse Moyajmoya@taosnews.comAfter months of closure, the town of Taos has reopened public restrooms near Taos Plaza following numerous complaints from visitors and downtown business owners about …

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Council reopens public restrooms, continues animal shelter funding

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After months of closure, the town of Taos has reopened public restrooms near Taos Plaza following numerous complaints from visitors and downtown business owners about the lack of facilities.

During a Tuesday (June 23) town council meeting, town manager Rick Bellis discussed the restroom situation with the council and said the plaza facilities will be open from 8 a.m. to at least 7 p.m. daily.

The town closed the restrooms following the governor's emergency health order in March that sought to keep people home and prevent the spread of a novel and highly infectious coronavirus.

As the governor lifts restrictions on businesses and visitors return to Taos, town crews will be opening and stocking the restrooms in the morning and cleaning them in the evenings before they are locked for the night.

During the meeting, Bellis said the modular and portable town restrooms, which were set up near the plaza and used for special ellis, the doors were broken and the restrooms were spray painted with "antitourist" graffiti.

"They were all trashed," Bellis said during the meeting. "They have been taken to the dump."

Curfew extended

The council also extended the nightly curfew of midnight to 5 a.m. in place for the next two weeks.

Taos Police Chief John Wentz said calls for service have dropped from this time of year from 2019 but that the curfew would still be effective.

"I believe that most of the citizens are honest people and the fact that the curfew is there I believe it does deter honest citizens from going out," Wentz said.

Town officials are looking into more signage to inform the public about the current emergency order and curfew in place.

Informing tourists

Bellis is hoping to secure video message boards alerting visitors and locals about the curfew and the state's mandatory mask rule. According to Bellis, visitors are entering Taos unaware of the emergency orders in place.

But the signs cost $80,000 each. Councilor Nathaniel Evans expressed some hesitation about the cost, saying there were other projects the money could be used for such as the multiuse disc golf course at the south end of town.

"They can pay for themselves," Bellis said of the signs. "You can put advertising on there if you want to do that."

Bellis said the cost could be eligible to be covered under the emergency money the town has earmarked for the pandemic. The signs have not been purchased yet.

Animal shelter

The town's consent agenda also had an item extending an existing contract with Stray Hearts Animal Shelter.

In 2019, the council voted to increase the annual contract to $100,000 from the original $75,000 contract. During Tuesday's meeting the council agreed to continue the contribution of $100,000 for another year through June, 2021.

Revenue losses, combined with the pandemic, promoted the closures of the Taos Youth and Family Center and the Taos Public Library. Bellis said the town is working on solutions to possibly open both buildings. The town's public library is looking at using sanitizer to be able to check books in and out safely and town staff are exploring option to possibly open the town's aquatic center in the future.

Tuesday's meeting was interrupted several times due to an afternoon storm that intermittently knocked out internet service.

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