Cook likely choice for town manager

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MEEKER | The Meeker Town Board of Trustees met for the first time this year on Jan. 2. After routine business, the board addressed the request for reimbursement from Beverly and Dick Prosence for the loss of six mature cottonwoods on their Water Street properties associated with the Findlay Trailer Park which they own and operate. The trees were sprayed with pesticide by the town in 2012.

Through participation of the town public works crew, the county extension agent’s office, and the Pesticide Enforcement Division of the Colorado Department of Agriculture, it was determined that the trees died due to contact with Krovar (Bromacil and Diuron) spray used by the town six years ago. Once the trees were declared dead and removed, the Prosences requested recompense based on the $6,000 value of the mature trees, $1,450 removal cost, and $1,200 in replacement expenses with much younger trees, totaling $8,650. The town was fined $100 by the state for use contrary to the pesticide label.

Councilman Scott Nielsen noted that other trees in the area along the river died during the same time period, but that Public Works Director Russell Overton assured him that they have not used that chemical since that time. On a motion by Trustee Wendy Gutierrez, seconded by Melissa Kindall, the board voted unanimously to pay the Prosences the $8,650. It was made clear that the Prosences would be required to sign a release from any further claims on the matter once they accepted the payment. The recited history of the situation revealed that the greatest delay over time was by the state on results of tree tissue sampling.
In other business, the board addressed their dispatch fee arrangement with the county. They accepted an increase of $8,500 in their annual dispatch fee charge with the mayor expressing appreciation that the fee had been so reduced in years past.
In public hearing, the board reviewed their proposed franchise agreement for Charter Communications (a.k.a., Bresnan Communication, LLC) which had previously expired, and would now enable Charter to proceed with providing broadband-related cable services here. Charter representative John Lee of Denver indicated that with their continuing investment, Charter would be increasing competition in the Meeker market. Notice of the proposed ordinance is now published in the Herald Times and will be considered for final adoption at the Jan. 15 board meeting.
Acting Town Manager Lisa Cook reported that Colorado Work Force intends to have their local coordinator hired here, to be shared with Rangely, by February. She also alerted the board to expect an uptick in activity for the Town Planning Commission as there are some project ideas in the works. Meeker Chief of Police Phil Stubblefield reported that his department is now looking for two new officers.
Following meeting adjournment, trustees pursued “workshop” discussion with acting Town Manager Lisa Cook about their process and mutual perspectives on filling the Town Manager position. Cook has been the acting manager since former town manager Scott Meszaros resigned in November. In general, it appeared the council was quite comfortable with hiring Cook to be the next town manager without opening up the process to further search and review. To a person, the trustees expressed considerable appreciation of the increased and improved communications since November. There was strong agreement on Cook knowing the town and the community, and on the value of not hiring a town manager who would take months to train, and then find one just looking for a step up—and probably out—on their resume.
For her part, Cook said she’d come to believe she would like to step up to the position, but was anxious about how the trustees feel and what their visions are for the town going forward. The trustees seemed to agree that the town could use a person who would be an effective ambassador for the town out of the county. They proceeded, in frank discussion, to talk about the characteristics of a new regime at town hall they want and don’t want. They discussed being more deliberate about how each of them might assign themselves to specific activities related to the town so that staff and the other trustees could expect them to be involved in and knowledgeable on those aspects.
Trustee Kindall expressed personal frustration that the town and board don’t have a well-defined course laid out for the future. Other trustees concurred, and she appreciated that Cook wanted to help in this regard.
The collective group agreed to provide Cook with short lists of their desires and “do not wants” which Cook could compile and bring back to the board for further discussion at the Feb. 5 meeting.