Commissioners hear updates from fair board, IT department, public health and more

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During the work sessions prior to Monday’s regular commissioner meeting, the board reviewed changes to a proposed set of bylaws for the Fair Board with guidance from interim county attorney Todd Starr.
Starr expressed concern over the use of the word “partner” to describe the county’s relationship with the Colorado State University Extension Office, suggesting “cooperate” instead.
“Partner has some legal ramifications that will concern CSU and should concern us, given the current situation,” he said.
County Finance Director Janae Stansworth will be assisting the Fair Board as treasurer, and making sure they operate in accordance with county policies and procedures. The bylaws were approved during the regular meeting.
Starr said he will host “lunch with a lawyer” on Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 11:45 a.m. to educate the commissioners and county employees on the Sunshine Laws. Because all three commissioners will be in attendance, it will be a public meeting.
IT Director Dylon Merrill recommended the town accept a bid from Venture Technologies for the purchase of new servers. The company is based in Colorado and has worked with the county before. The purchase, to the tune of $123,581.91, will provide five new servers for the county’s computer system. Asked by Commissioner Gary Moyer why the upgrade is needed, Merrell explained that support is no longer available for the old system, and that the old servers have started to fail.
“During the budget cycle Dylon told us this isn’t something he wants, it’s something he has to have,” said Commissioner Si Woodruff.
Venture Technologies was not the low bidder, but their bid included the necessary cables for making the change, which added to the bid’s value. The board approved the bid during the regular meeting.
Merrell also updated the board on changes to the county’s phone system, and said he received a call regarding a new federal requirement for disability access on websites last week.
“Ours is currently in an ‘Okish’ standing,” Merrell said, adding that he is looking over possible solutions and will update the board at the next meeting.
Human Resources Director Laura Smith updated the board on applicants for the open positions on the county’s 10 appointed panels and said there is an operator position open in Rangely. Commissioners reappointed Anna Nickson, Linda Berry, Dorothy Chappell, Zubie Devish and Doris Walters to the Council on Aging; appointed Shawn Bolton, Ed Coryell and Tammy Strain to the Fair Board; Teresia Ruckman-Reed to the Historical Preservation Board; Adair Norman, Travis Day, Leif Joy and Lee Overton to the Planning Commission; and Scott Robertson, Hal Pearce and Mark Hafkenschiel to the Weed Management Board.
There are still vacancies on the Weed Management Board, the Historical Preservation Board, the Building Board of Appeals, the Columbine Park Board and the Fairgrounds Board.
Smith said this is the first time the Planning Commission Board has been filled in awhile.
Nita Smith of Community Counts, which provides a way for community members to share concerns or questions about energy industry activity, updated the commissioners on her organization’s activity during the last year. The county has given $5,000 in support of the nonprofit group in the past, and Smith said she hoped the board would continue that support. She said calls about speeding, careless driving and other roadway issues are the most common calls fielded, and they’re working to resolve those issues. Currently Rio Blanco County has one rig operating.
Human Services Director Barb Bofinger told the commissioners child welfare services and child protective services cases have remained pretty consistent during the last six months. Currently there are 12 court cases, seven children in foster care, two finalized adoptions with the hope that three more will be finalized by the end of February, and “five kids waiting for adoption… which is a lot of kids for us,” she said. One child is in residential care on the Front Range, and there are two termination of parental rights cases underway.
Bofinger said there are so many changes in adult protection it has been difficult for staff to keep up.
The partial federal shutdown kept the department busy making sure people who are eligible would receive their benefits in February.
“We’ll see what happens in three weeks if we’re back to the same thing,” she said.
White River Roundup, which provides free or low-cost meals for seniors in Meeker and Rangely, served 2,637 meals at the Radino Center in Rangely and 2,393 meals at the Chuckwagon in Meeker, plus home-delivered meals.
The department has been working to resolve staff shortages and significant staff changes. Bofinger is hopeful that the addition of a new caseworker who has experience and won’t require all the training. Rector said Garfield County has reached out and offered assistance.
Moyer questioned the percentage of funding taxpayers are paying for directly for Human Services. Stansworth said each program has different reimbursement percentages from the state and the feds, but most are 80/20, with the county paying 20 percent and state or federal funds.
Public Health Nurse Ashley Garcia shared a presentation with the board about the county’s influenza immunization program. From 2018 to date, the department has administered 219 influenza vaccines in Meeker and 46 in Rangely. Influenza activity was high in Colorado as of Jan. 19, with 1,394 hospitalizations, 18 outbreaks in long term care facilities and one pediatric death.
The department is also working with the jail to bring their health care options up to date, qualifying deputies for medication administration, and improving the jail’s exam room.
Public Health Director Julie Drake said they are establishing a contract for an overseeing pharmacist for the medications in the clinic and have been in discussion with Pioneers Medical Center for that.
Recent changes in food safety codes at the state level have required all retail food establishments to have a certified food safety manager in the building. The department has made a way for restaurant employees to take the necessary exam here, instead of having to travel to Grand Junction.
The tobacco program will focus primarily on preventing youth from starting to use tobacco.
“In Rangely since the beginning of November to Christmas, the number of kids found vaping was seven. The entire year prior there was only one. This is a tremendous risk to our youth right now. We’re going to focus on the youth piece of it,” Drake said.
She also shared concerns that there is a theory in urban areas that rural areas involved in agriculture and mining operations are “violating the environment and impacting health around the state.” Drake would like to take the lead on changing that mindset, working with other public health directors statewide, to say that is not true.
Drake attended a substance use and opioid disorder conference in Denver and said she believes in the next three to five years money will be loosened up at the state and federal level to really take a look at addiction.
“Commissioners, just to remind you, Rio Blanco County had the second highest opioid death rate in the state because of our small population,” said Vicky Edwards, assistant to the county attorney.
The board awarded a bid for the broadband marketing project to The Think Agency out of Superior, Colo., for $20,000. It was not the lowest bid, but Economic Development Coordinator Katelin Cook explained the decision by saying the agency specializes in marketing strategy for broadband/high tech industries. There is a 50 percent grant match for the project, which will promote RBC’s broadband access.
Commissioners also awarded a bid to RPI Consulting from Durango, also a 50 percent grant match, for the Outdoor Recreation Entrepreneur Center feasibility study. RPI was not the lowest bidder, but Cook said they were chosen because they have “business incubation expertise and historic entrepreneurship work with successful track records.” RPI recently completed a market analysis study for Meeker, and are familiar with the community. The studies should complement each other.
Asked about the use of grant funding to hire consultants, Cook said via email, “Many times economic development related grants will cover expenses of using a third party consultant to accomplish planning tasks and implementation. Rarely does grant funding cover employee expenses or regular staff expenses. So, for us to accomplish multiple projects at once, with grant funding being used to offset expenses, we often need to rely on third party assistance as increasing employees within our department is not likely going to happen.”
Commissioner Woodruff requested discussion before voting to approve an agreement for services with Cunningham Swaim, LLP, Todd M. Starr to serve as interim legal counsel for RBC, in an amount not to exceed $11,500 per month.
According to the June 2018 county salary report, the county attorney was paid $11,527.15 in June 2018, plus benefits equaling 50 percent of the gross salary.
“It’s extremely favorable to the county financially and guarantees you a savings from what you’ve been paying,” Starr said of his contract agreement.
At an hourly rate of $300 an hour, $11,500 equates to 39 hours a month. Woodruff expressed concern that the county needs more than 39 hours a month.
“Social services has consumed [Kent] Borchard], all these appeals to the state court system. Barb [Bofinger] is working hard to get employees that are trained to take these cases to court. I don’t think you can do this in 39 hours. I applaud him [Starr], but in the same breath I don’t want him getting wiped out.”
“In a meeting last week I was asked by social services if I will review every document that comes through that office, and I have no intention of doing that. There’s a level I confidence I see I can put in the staff you have that I can be more supportive and less involved in the day-to-day,” Starr replied.
Commissioner Moyer said, “My understanding is that if he works less than 39 hours we get the benefit of that, but he can work 80 hours.”
Starr said his motel and travel expenses for traveling to Meeker will be his expense. Expenses from doing county business—trips to Denver on behalf of the county, for example—will be charged to the county.
“What I want is a relationship with RBC that lasts for years, and that has to be built on trust and respect,” Starr said.
“That answers my question, and I think people know where I stand with Kent Borchard,” Woodruff said.
Rector and Moyer voted to approve the agreement, Woodruff voted no.
Also during the regular meeting, the board:
– Named former commissioner Ken Parsons to serve on the Energy/Mineral Impact Assistance Fund
– Approved a letter in support of the Jordan Cove Energy Project and Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline Removal Fill Permit
– Approved DHS performance report and risk assessment
– Approved the CDOT certification of street inventory road miles report
– Appointed Van Pilaud as the representative to the Northwest Transportation Planning Commission
– Gave permission for the use of the Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds for the Meeker Summer Series Rodeo on Thursdays beginning June 6 through Aug. 29.
– Approved the purchase of a trailer mounted pressure washer from Northern Tool and Equipment for $7,549 for use at the landfill; the purchase of a Lawn Aero-Vator from Grasshopper for $5,519; and two arena groomers from ABI Attachments, Inc., for RBC Fairgrounds and Columbine Park for $12,143 each.
– Approved agreements for services with JEO Consulting for the preparation of a local hazard mitigation plan update for $36,000.
– Approved agreements with Visual Lease Services for oil and gas property evaluation for the RBC Assessor in an amount not to exceed $48,000 and ValueWest for commercial reappraisal services for the RBC Assessor in an amount not to exceed $24,720. These are third-party auditors to do oil and gas assessments so the county “is on firm ground” in case of a tax abatement claim, explained Commissioner Rector.