Fixing frustration high on county’s to-do list

The release of the results of Rio Blanco County’s survey of residents — part of the development of a new master plan for the county — has generated quite a bit of discussion.
phjeffburkheadAnd that’s a good thing.
People need to feel like they have a voice and are included in the process.
One thing the survey showed is there is some dissatisfaction out there about where the county is headed. Forty-five percent of respondents indicated they thought the county was moving in the wrong direction.
Last week, a group of more than 30 contractors and local business owners met in Meeker to talk about how they can work with the county and be a part of the master plan process.
Margie Joy, president of the Meeker Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, was invited to attend the meeting.
“The meeting was constructive,” Joy said. “The frustration is very high, but the group is truly interested in fixing the processes.”
Joy said the chamber would like to play a role in facilitating alliances, such as with the Rangely Chamber of Commerce, and working with other community groups to help the county develop a plan for moving forward.
“I shared (with the contractors) the conversation our board had on working with the county, and that we wanted to speak as a group in a manner that can build positive relationships,” Joy said. “And that we were trying to work within the process and use the master plan as the first step.”
County Administrator Pat Hooker hopes people will take advantage of the opportunity to join the dialogue about developing a plan for the county.
“The survey and the public feedback sessions are wonderful opportunities for the people to provide input to the county elected and appointed officials on important issues,” Hooker said.
Of the nearly 2,700 surveys the county mailed out in early February, a little more than 500 people responded.
“Even though the consultants were pleased with the percent of responses, I was expecting a higher percent of responses,” Hooker said. “In fact, I’m disappointed that we didn’t have a higher rate of responses, considering how very important this project and the survey are to the citizens of Rio Blanco County.
“(The consultants) went out of their way to keep reminding us to keep things in perspective,” Hooker added. “(The survey) is only one piece of data. Also, they reminded us only about one in five households responded to the survey, so we must keep that mind as we review the results and formulate future policy decisions for the county’s master plan process.”
About 25 people attended a public meeting April 9 in Meeker, and about the same number Rangely, to hear a presentation by consultants about the results of the survey. Hooker was hoping more people would have attended the meetings, but, as the process moves forward, he said there will be more opportunities for public input.
“We will be conducting future public feedback and review sessions,” Hooker said. “I sincerely hope the citizens of this county get engaged and motivated in providing much-needed feedback and input into this very important project for Rio Blanco County.”
Results of the county survey are available on the Herald Times Web site: www.theheraldtimes.com.
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Rio Blanco County managed to escape last week’s spring snowstorm that hit other parts of the state, but county commissioners Ken Parsons of Rangely and Kai Turner of Meeker, on their way back from a meeting in Denver, were stranded Friday when I-70 was closed because of the weather. Parsons stayed over in Denver, while Turner made it as far as Georgetown, and ended up sleeping in his car in a parking lot in nearby Empire.
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Rangely High School’s track teams didn’t make it to a track meet in Meeker on Saturday because coaches Erin Greer and Jared Ballard were stuck on the Eastern Slope, due to the snowstorm. Also, Mark Jansen, RHS athletic director, and members of the math club were stranded in Denver, because of the storm.
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Sixth-graders from a private school in Denver will be in Meeker on April 27 to read poems they wrote about the town’s history.
“They are going to be in town reading their poems, and they’d like to invite everyone to come and listen,” said Lynn Lockwood of the U.S. Forest Service and a member of the Smoking River Pow Wow Committee.
The public is invited to attend the event at 2:30 p.m. in the community room at Mountain Valley Bank.
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Clifford Duncan, a leader of the Ute tribe, will be in Meeker on May 21 to read “campfire” stories to schoolchildren. There will also be an evening session, which will be open to the public.
“We’re going to try to have it at Circle Park, if the weather is good,” Lockwood said.
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Members of the Uintah-Ouray Reservation have invited the Meeker and Rangely communities to attend the reservation’s two spring dances. The Randlett Bear Dance will be April 24-27, and the Northern Ute Spring Celebration Bear Dance will be May 8-11. Members of the Smoking River Pow Wow Committee will attend the May celebration. For more information, contact Lockwood at 878-4039.
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The Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District in Rangely is looking for someone to run the seasonal Lakeside Cafe at Kenney Reservoir, which is typically open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, depending on weather. Last summer, the mother-daughter team of Pauline McPhail and Traci Files operated the cafe.
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Ran Cochran, county coroner, is “doing pretty good,” said Sue Kirkham of Cochran Memorial Chapels in Meeker and Rangely. Cochran was accidentally shot in the stomach while cleaning a .22-caliber rifle March 12.
“It will take him time to get his strength back,” Kirkham said. “He still has a drain tube in, but he’s doing better.”
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Meeker’s Fire Board is looking for a new member.
“Mike Cook resigned, leaving an opening on the board,” said Kris Borchard, emergency medical services director. “We put a notice in the paper stating that anyone interested can apply to fill the opening until the next election — May 2010 — simply by sending a letter of interest. The only requirements are that you are a registered voter and reside in the district, or own property within the district boundaries.”
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The Colorado Division of Wildlife will stock nearly 80 million fish for 2009, including stockings at Avery Lake, Kenney Reservoir, Rangely Fishing Pond, Rio Blanco Lake, Sleepy Cat Ponds and the White River.
“With more than 650,000 fishing licenses sold each year in the state, we think the public agrees that we are providing some great fishing opportunities,” said Randy Hampton, public information officer for the DOW’s northwest region.
Last year, the DOW stocked 8,000 5-inch and 700 12- to 14-inch cutthroat trout into Marvin Lakes to replenish and hopefully jump-start the dwindling population in the lakes, Hampton said.
“That was a special plant because we had to hire a helicopter to stock fish that were larger than what we typically stock into wilderness lakes by plane,” Hampton said. “DOW will be evaluating that plant this year to determine if more stocking is necessary.”
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Oops. The BMX track behind the Meeker Recreation Center was inadvertently “taken out” when excavation work began at the site of the new elementary school, east of the rec center.
“The crew didn’t know exactly where the boundary line was in that location and when they began proceedings, the heavy equipment took out the ramps, jumps and the track,” said Scott Pierson, rec director. “Neenan (the contractor for the school project) as well as the school district have offered to replace the track.”
In the short term, Pierson said, the rec district will “probably create a small track on the west side of Sulphur Creek, as a temporary fix.”
Pierson said the rec district is in the process of creating a master plan for Paintbrush Park.
“That will go a long way into finding a permanent location for the BMX track,” Pierson said. “Without knowing how that area is going to look (with the new elementary school), we don’t want to commit to locating the BMX track in the same location. Thus, we want to make sure we are putting it in a location that makes sense.”
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BedRock Depot in Dinosaur opened for the season last weekend and on Sunday had an ice cream social, giving away a free sundae or single-dip cone to each person who attended. Rangely’s Dan Fiscus and son Jordan provided musical entertainment.
“We had quite a few people, including the Radino bus from Rangely,” said Leona Hemmerich, one of the owners, along with Bill Mitchem. “Everyone enjoyed their free sundae or cone. We also sold a lot of sandwiches and a few other goodies, so it was a good day for us. I think we’ll do this again next year.”

Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at jeff@theheraldtimes.com.