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Holiday tree will be cut down in October

The Grinch who stole 2020 delivered another unwelcome surprise during Tuesday’s Claremont City Council meeting when it was revealed the tree that is the centerpiece of the Holiday Promenade and Tree Lighting Ceremony would have to be cut down.

During her city manager’s report Tara Schultz, who is not the Grinch but just the messenger, said that city staff had been monitoring the tree for some time and had come to the conclusion that it posed a public safety hazard.

The tree will be removed on Thursday October 15, however, Ms Schultz did say a new tree had been donated to the city and would be planted sometime in the spring.

The holiday celebration will be of the virtual variety this year, but city staff will still decorate prominent areas in the Village including the lawn in front of the Claremont Depot.

The city council passed an urgency ordinance imposing fines for not wearing a mask in Claremont during its August 11 meeting. The council also requested that Mr. Paulson prepare a report detailing enforcement of the new rule during its first month.

The urgency ordinance went into effect on August 18 with a grace period through the Labor Day weekend. During the grace period city staff including rangers, police aides and human services ambassadors distributed informational cards and free masks but issued no citations. Since September 8, city staff with the proper authorization, park rangers for the most part, were allowed to write citations for violation of the ordinance. Enforcement was concentrated in four “mask zones,” the Village, Village expansion, Thompson Creek Trail and the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park.

From August 18 to September 15m city staff made 977 contacts with people not wearing masks including 566 by police aides, and 411 by rangers and ambassadors. They handed out 363 cards and gave away 341 masks. Seven-hundred-and-fifty-five people were contacted, and 77 percent complied with the ordinance when approached by staff, while 13 percent refused. Twenty people contacted were exempt.

In the eight days of enforcement following the end of the grace period, compliance increased by one percent, but no citations were issued.

Over 58 percent of the contacts were in the Village. Police aides, who wear a uniform, achieved 84 percent compliance. Mr. Paulson did note that the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park, which was expected to be a high enforcement area, was closed for 12 days during the time when the data was collected.

Enforcement of the emergency ordinance has cost the city $14,276 so far. The human services department spent $11,482 including hours worked by the park rangers, ambassadors and a program coordinator as well as signage. The police department spent $2,794 to pay police aide and community service officer wages. Aside from the signs, none of these costs represent additional expenditures for the city as the employees shifted their duties to assist with the mask ordinance.

The city lost an estimated $28,000 in revenue due to the police aides being reassigned from their usual duties of issuing overnight parking citations. The estimate is based on an average of 560 parking citations over a three-week period.

Police Chief Shelly Vander Veen said that the police aides have returned to the task of writing the overnight parking tickets and the parking enforcement officer will now help with the mask ordinance.

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