COUNTY BEAT: Feb 23, 2021

Listen to this post

RBC | Commissioners began Tuesday’s business with work sessions on the following topics.


Rio Blanco County Engineer Van Pilaud updated the board on the CR 73 bridge. A September 2020 inspection report recommended the bridge be replaced, though it has been allowed to stay open due to a change in width restrictions. Potential replacement alternatives could include installing a pier in the river for approximately $350-400,000. Pilaud noted that such a project would also involve NEPA and other permitting processes. He also spoke about some of the flaws in the existing bridge, noting that some of the existing bolts and steel plates used in construction were not suitable for that type of structure. Pilaud said he would like to see the bridge replaced this year for an estimated cost of $1.9 million. The board decided to make a final decision on replacement at their next meeting on March 9, 2021.


The board heard comments about the proposed sale of Seely Ranch up the Williams Fork. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has expressed interest in purchasing the land, and recently asked the board to sign a letter in support. Melton Sullivan told the board that he normally “wouldn’t stick his nose into his neighbor’s business,” but made an exception since he said the sale would affect his property. Sullivan called the existing property line “not manageable” and expressed doubts that CPW needed the land for wildlife management purposes. Three other neighboring landowners shared similar remarks opposing the sale. Reasons specified included the potential for increased public access to negatively impact wildlife habitat, CPW’s ability to manage the land effectively, and the belief that there should not be more publicly-owned land in Rio Blanco County. Commissioner Rector said “I don’t understand how much ground they [CPW] need to own in this county.” Commissioner Gates expressed some concern over wildland fire danger from having more people in the area. Commissioner Moyer said his biggest concern was the county’s declining tax base. Moyer stated he “didn’t know if it makes sense to restrict citizen’s ability to do productive things that will benefit Rio Blanco County.” Moyer also said he was leaning towards signing a letter opposing the purchase.


County IT Director Trevor Nielsen shared updates with the board on potential improvements to broadband infrastructure in an effort to achieve more reliable service to customers. In the near term, the county will contract services from One Technology Corporation for $9,980 to replace some equipment with outdated firmware that was affecting the speeds of some customers who purchased gigabit-speed service. Nielsen’s department has been unable to replace the equipment to this point due to a barrage of maintenance work that has been required to keep county broadband tower sites online.

Nielsen said the outages were a result of “site design issues” noting that some of the county’s broadband tower sites were not initially designed with enough solar generation and/or storage capacity. He proposed solutions including replacing existing batteries, adding more panels, and installing propane generators. Total costs for the fixes could cost anywhere from $11,000-50,000 for each of the 11 sites where the improvements are needed. Nielsen also expressed concern that “next year it could be different sites” in need of the same types of improvements.


During their regular meeting the board approved a Letter of Support for the reappointment of Marie Haskett to the CPW Commission. They awarded a bids to GMCO Corporation not to exceed $321,503.14 for the 2021 dust control project, and $116,713.06 to Van Diest Supply Company for weed and pest herbicides. The board approved work orders for Meeker and Rangely pavement and maintenance projects for $57,291.48 and $49,201.76 respectively. They also approved a consulting services agreement with One Technology Corporation for $9,980 to install new equipment mentioned by Nielsen.

During public comment, Meeker resident Mona Avey addressed the board for nearly eight minutes regarding “social media comments” about the board. Avey said she “didn’t like hearing dirty laundry out in public,” and spoke against future recall efforts. She also emphasized her support of the commissioners. “Under the circumstances, you all are doing a great job, and it’s not an easy job,” said Avey.


Commissioner Moyer commented on a letter to the editor from former Road and Bridge Director Dave Morlan published in the HT last week. Moyer said he wanted the public to hear the “entire story,” not just Morlan’s side. “Because much of our discussion was held in executive sessions, we are prohibited by the law from disclosing those discussions,” said Moyer. He invited Morlan to sign a “waiver and release” that would allow the county to disclose the contents of the executive sessions and “inform the public of what was behind the board’s decision.”


Public Health Director Alice Harvey shared updates on new CDPHE metrics, case counts and vaccination numbers. Harvey said there have been 33 positive cases and two hospitalizations in the last two weeks, with a case positivity rate of 5.88%. Assuming positive cases don’t spike, RBC could enter blue-level restrictions on the state’s new COVID dial in the near future. Harvey also reported that state vaccine allocation numbers were “very good.” So far 1,260 Rio Blanco County residents have been vaccinated. Harvey said the public health department vaccinated 215 residents at a recent clinic, noting “that was in two hours; we think we even could double that.” Harvey said her department is fully prepared for the next vaccination tier, which is set to begin on March 5. She said “a lot of people” in RBC will qualify, including people aged 16-65 with two or more high-risk conditions, and frontline essential workers.