Listen to this post
MEEKER | The November board meeting for the Eastern Rio Blanco Metropolitan Recreation and Parks District began with requests from several local entities. First, BLM White River Field Office Recreation Planner Alan Czepinski requested official support for new open OHV areas near LO7 mountain and north of Rangely. These will be part of BLM’s Resource Management Plan updates, which have been in the works for several years, and will be funded by state grant money. The board instructed Executive Director Sean VonRoenn to write a letter of support for the OHV areas.
Rich Merriam requested continued support for Meeker Fire and Rescue’s Fourth of July fireworks display, which costs between $7,500 and $8,000 per year. According to Merriam, Rangely’s fireworks display costs $15,000. ERBM recently reinstated a more formal request process, and Merriam was asked to submit the required paperwork for a $1,500 contribution to be tentatively reflected in ERBM’s discretionary spending.
Kyle Hooks, representing the Rio Blanco Golf Association, presented the final annual report for 2019. ERBM has contributed $20,000 a year to the golf course since 2017. Hooks stated the Association ended the year in good shape, mostly due to equipment remaining in good working order and a lot of volunteer hours and hard work. “Thankfully nothing blew up,” Hooks said. He suggested ERBM cut their support to $10,000 for 2020. “I think cutting it in half would be a good performance test to see how we do. A dog that ain’t hungry won’t hunt.”
Board member Dan Chinn stated “everything looks good” and is on par with last year with regard to the district’s financials and insurance expenses. Under the November check register, health insurance premiums made up the largest expense and “a lot of things exceeded cost,” including Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) permitting for the Circle Park pond project (more below) as well as some emergency maintenance projects.
In other business during the November meeting, the board:
– adopted minutes from Oct. 8, 2019 after correcting the recorded start time to 5 p.m.
– approved reports, balance sheet, revenue and expense statements and vouchers
– Approved a 75-page fiscal policy resolution, the only significant change being cutting VonRoenn’s non-budgeted capital expenditure power without prior board approval from $15,000 to $5,000.
The Circle Park pond project is on hold for the winter, but preliminary and legal work will continue behind the scenes. The final projected cost, according to the December board packet, is $624,646 for Phase I, with an additional $60,000 set aside for the design and engineering of Phase II. The project was originally estimated at $335,000.
“There’s a lot of other designing and permitting costs that we’re incurring that we didn’t plan for. I guess my concern is that we don’t have an open checkbook,” board president Kent Walter stated during a November discussion.
VonRoenn countered the project has been, “far more expensive than we anticipated,” especially with regard to the water rights. “We didn’t know what the water right would cost us and the technical on it couldn’t have been anticipated. The water right itself has gone back and forth between the water engineer and the water attorney and the Town. There have been requests from the Town, for instance. We had to engage the attorney in that. Each of these add to that legitimate cost.”
“I’m not saying anything’s being done wrong, we just have a ‘need to know,’” Walter said.
“Things come up whenever you’re dealing with water and federal regulation,” Chinn stated.
“A lot of the unforeseen costs are just bureaucratic and legal,” board member Rob Baughman added.
VonRoenn said the district would have a press release prepared for “here’s when we plan to be doing construction, here’s what’s going on behind the scenes.’”
ERBM spent $15,385 in 2018 on surveying and water rights, and $126,261 in 2019 on ‘due diligence’ — pond design, water rights and legal — as well as $51,870 on preliminary pond construction and $7,554 on concept plans.
2020 estimated costs for pond construction are $420,000 with a 15% construction contingency of $63,000, totaling $483,000.
ERBM anticipates $200,500 in funding will come from grants and donations from public and private entities.
The November meeting ended with an executive session to discuss the executive director’s final performance valuation. A recording obtained after the meeting confirmed the board approved a 2% pay increase for VonRoenn, whom the board declared “exceeds expectations.” This takes VonRoenn’s salary to just over $112,000, plus benefits.
In December, the board adopted the 2020 budget with changes, including added costs for the replacement of a failed pool boiler at an anticipated cost of $60,000. Final expenses will not be known until engineering reports come back. One of the pool’s boilers was replaced in 2016 and one was replaced in 2018. The system is rapidly deteriorating, according to Parks and Facilities Manager Rodney Gerloff. He stated they are “not seeing the lifespan” they usually do with this type of system.
Baughman was concerned that none of the work would be warrantied. “It just bothers me that the failure is so rapid,” he said. According to Chinn, the legal cost required to pursue a warranty claim would not be worth any amount received.
The board discussed changing out the system completely. “If this was engineered incorrectly when it was built you’re kind of hosed,” board member Travis Mobley said.
Director Chinn said it, “seems like a no-brainer to go with a different system.”
The $60,000 estimate will hopefully cover replacement of the system with a different type. “The engineering is really going to tell us the details of the cost,” Chinn said. “What we anticipate is jumping into engineering like first thing tomorrow and once we have final costs we’ll come back to the board,” VonRoenn stated.
The board also:
– Established 2020 holidays
– Approved 2020 board calendar
– Approved financial reports for November 2019, amended and adopted minutes
– Discussed recent emergency pool closures due to maintenance issues. VonRoenn commended the maintenance department for their quick response.
– Board members Walter and Mobley will be up for three-year terms in the May 5 election.
– Said goodbye to Leah Hanson after praising her marketing work for the district. “We won’t be immediately filling the position. We’re going to disperse duty and kind of see how that goes and interfaces over the next three to six months. Of course that position is still in the budget but we really do believe that this is worth vetting again because of where we’ve been and where she’s taken us,” VonRoenn said.
– Discussed the latest district roundup and strategic action plan items
The next ERBM board meeting is Jan. 21.