Commissioners discuss guns, other concerns with new board of health

RBC | At Tuesday’s county commissioners’ work session in Rangely the commissioners immediately went into executive sessions totaling more than 90 minutes for both human resources and assessor updates, citing legal matters related to a tax assessment settlement and personnel matters.

Following the executive session Barbara Bofinger with human services told the commissioners that their department is “struggling” and that they are overwhelmed with child welfare and adult prevention programs which need more attention. Bolton expressed concerns about county liability should something happen to a child in the system. Bofinger expressed frustration with a staff member who was not following through with state guidelines regarding casework.

Once in their regular meeting the commissioners approved a consent agenda with seven items which included a contract modification with Phil Vaughan Construction Management, Inc. for building and planning services, increasing the amount by $6,232.81 due to an overage caused by an increase in projects. The initial budget was $45,000.

The commissioners approved two new contracts with Phil Vaughan Construction. The first contract, totaling $14,000, will primarily go towards training new county planner Rachel Gates. The second $28,500 is consultation fees for the building department.

In seven separate motions, the Commissioner approved spending $31,960 for HVAC system repair and maintenance at seven buildings around the county.

The commissioners agreed to a resolution supporting the relocation of the Bureau of Land Management headquarters to Grand Junction.

During commissioner updates Commissioner Rector said he’d gone to Denver and discussed current state legislation. Rector said he was planning on supporting Senate Bill 18-156 (Publish County Financial Statements Online Annually), which would exempt the county from the requirement to publish their financial disbursements monthly in the newspaper, allowing them to publish exclusively online and provide a “link” in the newspaper. The commissioners felt that some counties on the eastern part of the state were being, “extorted” by the papers and are having to pay too much. The rate for publishing the disbursements is currently set by state statute established in 1993.

Commissioner Woodruff met with the USDA and Town of Rangely about prairie dog and vulture control. Woodruff said rabies concerns are growing as reported cases are trending towards Rio Blanco County.

Commissioner Bolton had also gone to Denver and was pleased to share unanimous support from the Agricultural Steering Committee about Livestock Hauling Exemptions.

The new County Board of Health met following the regular meeting. The board is now made up of the commissioners and various health professionals from around the county who serve in an advisory capacity only. Previously the board had been commissioners only. Health Department Director Julie Drake said she hoped to see the board become “more robust.” Commissioner Woodruff suggested that the voting may need to be expanded to all members, as the commissioners are not experts in the health field. “Our hope is that the board of health could be the strong arm,” said Drake. Commissioner Bolton pointed out that the Commissioners as the elected officials are held accountable for their decisions and should retain the voting powers.

Drake discussed a new chlamydia cluster developing in the under-25 age category, mental health concerns expressed by local faith communities, climate change, environmental health surveillance and new laws around sexting. They are exploring the possibility of bringing in a Boys and Girls Club to both communities. According to Drake, Rio Blanco has one of the highest rates in the state for child abuse and neglect.

Drake discussed the potential of hiring a new county environmental health officer, a position  the county removed several years ago. The primary role would be retail food inspection, which is currently handled by the state. A current Department of Health employee who is interested in the role was introduced at the meeting. When permit fees were discussed Bolton responded, “This food inspection will never come close to paying for itself.” Drake was not sure how many Rio Blanco food safety violations occurred in 2017. Dr. Albert Krueger expressed support for the position.

Drake addressed her concerns about gun violence saying, “Gun violence is a community health issue. I don’t want a discussion about guns. The things that are happening now, particularly since the horrible tragedy in Florida, is we’re at the discussion about mental health. Something’s gotta give at some point. As gun owners I feel like it’s our duty to identify the risk in others. When you are at the shooting range and you’ve got someone next to you, you can identify them and connect them to mental health services.” Drake asked the question, “Is there a way that public health can impact the conversation?” Rector agreed that mental health was part of the problem. Bolton said he believes violent video games, zero tolerance policies and a loss of respect for others and consequences are also part of the equation. Commissioner Woodruff placed partial blame on a lack of communication between agencies such as schools, police and health workers.