County Beat

RBC I Rio Blanco County commissioners had a busy Tuesday involving multiple work sessions and a regular meeting. IT Director Trevor Nielsen kicked off the day with an update on the Marvine broadband tower site. Union Wireless, which currently co-locates equipment on the tower, recently performed a structural analysis to assess feasibility for adding new equipment to the site, which revealed new equipment would overload the structure. Citing the cost of improving the existing structure, a few alternative solutions are on the table. Options include constructing a new, more robust tower which might allow the existing structure to be repurposed elsewhere in the broadband network. Another proposal would involve extending a nearby fiber line to hardwire the Marvine tower to the county’s fiber network. According to Nielsen, the second option would allow for the removal of some wireless equipment on the tower, thus freeing up space for Union Wireless’ new equipment. 

Nielsen also updated commissioners on some of the long term engineering goals for the county broadband network. Future improvement plans include adding fiber service to more remote locations like Powell Park and west Rangely, which were not developed in the initial network build out. Budget and Finance Director Janae Stanworth noted that these kinds of improvements could be paid for with federal American Rescue Plan funding allocations that are meant for “last mile expansions.” 

PUBLIC HEALTH 

Public Health Director Alice Harvey said the Delta variant of COVID-19 is leading the pack for new infections in the county, a trend reflected across the Western Slope. She noted a “steady increase” in cases in the last 60 days, as opposed to the larger infection spikes seen during earlier waves of the pandemic. New infections driven by the highly infectious Delta variant are resulting in more severe cases, with the percentage of cases requiring hospitalization more than doubling from 7% back in January/February to 16% in the past 60 days. Harvey said case investigation interviews show that of 300 infections, 14% resulted in emergency room visits. She also noted that the Delta variant was having a more significant impact on younger people than previous iterations of the virus. To date Rio Blanco County still has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state, nearing 40% as of Tuesday. 

Commissioner Jeff Rector asked Harvey where she thinks vaccine hesitancy stems from, as well as what the county can do to increase numbers. She noted that misinformation about vaccines is mainly to blame, emphasizing that spreading fact-based information is the main way to address the problem. She added that many people are generally distrustful and hesitant when it comes to making decisions about their family’s health, “and they have good reason for that,” she said, noting, however, that people on the fence usually change their mind after getting clear information about vaccine development, safety, efficacy, etc. 

She also touched briefly on the recent event at Kenney Reservoir, which has been thoroughly investigated both at the local and state level. The cause of the incident, diagnosed as “poisoning by fume” was not identified, however nothing new has been reported to the public health department since. 

NORTH FORK CAMPGROUND 

500 acres of county-owned land currently available for fishing, camping, and hunting access came up as a topic of discussion. Formerly BLM land, the acreage was transferred to the county in the late 1960s with an agreement that it would be improved for camping use. Hunting was also prohibited on the land as a result of the agreement, modified to “hunting access” meaning people can use the area to access surrounding areas where hunting is still permitted. The board discussed whether it would be beneficial to allow hunting on the land again, or if it makes sense to add signage identifying permitted uses in the area. Commissioners agreed to move forward to get Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Bureau of Land Managements’ take on the issue. 

LAND USE 

County Planner Leif Joy briefly discussed updating land use regulations pertaining to FEMA maps, which he noted was a minor change involving revision of a specific date. He also suggested potentially eliminating a rule in section 7-610 that says residents can’t camp in a given area for more than 120 days, excluding those in permitted campgrounds. He said the rule would be among a few others that would be brought up to the planning committee. Commissioner Moyer said he’d also like consideration of changes to the rural building exemption, specifically when it comes to minimum acreage requirements to qualify for the exemption. 

REGULAR MEETING 

During their regular meeting commissioners approved a variety of items including a final contractor settlement for $20,827.91 with Oldcastle SW Group, Inc. dba United Companies, for the 2021 Chip Seal Project. 

A representative from Visionary Broadband also asked the board to approve work that would allow the ISP to provide wireless service to some customers in an apartment complex on 12th Street. She said the building owners refuse to install fiber and have been “uncooperative” and noted that the wireless solution is a workaround. The project was not approved, with commissioners Rector and Moyer voting against it and Commissioner Gates voting in favor. The board also approved various reimbursements and grant obligations for Rangely and Meeker airport maintenance projects. 

Under MOUs, contracts and agreements the board approved a purchase of service contract for the Department of Human Services, a $3,000 agreement with Hilltop Community Resources for “structured parenting time,” and a contract modification for 2021 RBC stock pass 3 project increasing the contract amount and changing the completion date from Aug. 31, 2021 to Nov. 30, 2021. Road and Bridge director Scott Marsh R&B said the price increase is based on the addition of guard rail to the project, and the extension is based on delays in receiving the guard rail due to supply shortages. 

The board approved two resolutions, 2021-19, cancelling taxes and penalties, interest, costs and tax lien sale certificates on certain accounts that were described as “non-collectibles,” and 2021-20, cancelling a certain outstanding check. 

ROAD AND BRIDGE REPORT 

Road and Bridge Director Scott Marsh said his department has been trying to catch up on normal maintenance work after putting a large amount of time into flood cleanup on “just about every county road we have.” Examples of roads impacted by recent flooding include county roads 5, 24, 29, 22, 127, 131, 109, 113, 115 and more. Marsh reported some maintenance work has also been set back due to a blade breaking down. He also said concrete pouring work for the CR 73 bridge deck is set for this weekend. 

PUBLIC HEARING 

Commissioner Moyer recused himself from a public hearing for a request for the G & E Moyer Minor Subdivision. Planner Leif Joy detailed the property west of town is currently zoned for industrial use, and will be subdivided into five lots. The request was approved with a condition from CDOT about moving an existing access to a nearby location. Joy explained that two of the parcels in the subdivision are less than an acre, which he said “becomes an issue with septic systems,” which is why the planning commission approved the subdivision on the condition that lots 1 and 3 do not meet minimum acreage requirements for onsite water treatment systems. Commissioners Rector and Gates both voted to approve the subdivision. 


By LUCAS TURNER | lucas@ht1885.com

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