What’s Up With the County?: County concentrating on budget; justice center progressing; broadband update

Katelin Cook

Katelin Cook
Katelin Cook
RBC I With the start of a new year, Rio Blanco County is moving forward with capital projects, community programs and initiatives.

The Rio Blanco County Commissioners adopted the 2015 budget in December 2014, identifying the direction, areas of focus and priority projects to be accomplished in the coming year. The 2015 budget includes revenues of $35 million and expenditures of $70 million.
While it may seem strange to have more expenditures than revenue, it is important to note that revenues have been accumulating for several years and are now available for capital projects. Due to fiscal responsibility of the elected officials over the past several years, no new debt will be incurred to achieve capital project completions. The county has also been quite successful in acquiring state and federal grant funds for budgeted capital projects.
The 2015 budget includes Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) grants awarded for the Rio Blanco County Justice Center construction ($2 million), for the design phase of the courthouse remodel ($200,000), Rangely Health and Human Services remodel ($150,000), complete preparation for the County Road 5 and State Highway 64 intersection ($200,000), and County Road 5 and County Road 20 intersection improvement and stock-pass replacement ($2 million).
Rio Blanco County has applied for an additional DOLA grant in the amount of $2 million for the broadband project and will be notified of award status in the coming months.
Also noteworthy is a $4.4 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration’s Federal Lands Access program for the County Road 5 and County Road 3 intersection improvement project.

Appropriated expenditures in 2015 include $43 million in projects and $27 million in normal operating costs. The projects pertain to: public safety (38 percent of budgeted project funds); roads and bridges (24 percent of budgeted project funds); and general government projects—most significantly, the broadband project (23 percent of budgeted project funds).
Through attrition, a decrease of 7.8 full-time equivalent employee positions has been made, and this decrease in personnel will offset a 10 percent increase in health insurance and a one-time bonus for employees (equivalent to approximately two weeks of pay). No cost of living adjustment for employees will be made in 2015.
Also in December, county-wide mill levies on 2014 assessed values were set, establishing property tax revenues of $45.8 million to be collected in 2015 (as compared to $52.4 million collected in 2014).
Collected revenues will be dispersed among various entities, resulting in $21.5 million or 47 percent of tax revenues being allocated to special districts, $13.3 million or 29 percent of tax revenues being allocated to schools/college, $10.7 million or 23 percent of tax revenues being allocated to the county, and $0.4 million, or 1 percent, of the tax revenues being allocated to the towns of Meeker and Rangely.
Five entities voluntarily exercised temporary tax credits, reducing the total tax to be collected by $2.7 million, of which $2.4 million is from the Eastern Rio Blanco Metropolitan Recreation and Park District, which also paid off its bond in 2014.
The other four entities taking temporary tax credits are the Town of Meeker, Meeker Sanitation District, Rio Blanco Fire Protection District and Rangely Cemetery District.

Construction of the Rio Blanco County Justice Center is progressing.
At this point in the project, selective demolition has been completed, the deep foundation system has been installed, one third of foundation walls and grade-beams have been completed, drilling of geo-exchanger wells is under way, final design documents have been completed and final bid packages for subcontractors have been issued by FCI Constructors.
Following subcontractor contract finalization, a job fair for local craft labor will be held in February.
Once foundation stem walls and grade beam construction is completed, a winter shutdown period will start, ending the middle of March. During this time, FCI Constructors will complete interior framing and bracing of the historic portion of the existing building. Exterior concrete and masonry work will resume, weather permitting, at the end of March.

Progress continues with the Rio Blanco County Broadband Project.
Brainstorm Internet was recently awarded the opportunity to pursue $1.7 million for rural, wireless broadband deployment in Rio Blanco County via the FCC Connect America Fund. While these grant funds are for private business utilization, Rio Blanco County can partner with Brainstorm to expand broadband services to the rural residents and businesses.
A Tower Loading Study has been completed, focusing on the Pollard, Marvine, and Cathedral tower sites, proving that all locations can be utilized in this project.
Rio Blanco County’s contractor for fiber engineering spent the last several weeks driving the streets and alley roadways to determine distances and handhold placement for fiber access to homes and businesses located within city limits, and this “Fiber to the Block” (FTTB) engineering is in the final stages for Rangely and Meeker.
The county is currently in the contractual phase for determining the contractor to complete the Tower/Backhaul Wireless Engineering to serve rural areas of Rio Blanco County.
If you have any questions on the status of projects or would like more detailed information, please visit www.rbc.us.

By Katelin Cook
Rio Blanco County Economic Development Director