County Beat: High participation numbers for senior nutrition program continue

By NIKI TURNER

editor@ht1885.com

RBC I During work sessions Tuesday, RBC Commissioners Ty Gates and Gary Moyer heard updates from various county departments. Commissioner Jeff Rector was not in attendance. 

IT DEPARTMENT

IT Director Trevor Nielsen said upgrades to secondary broadband towers are ongoing, with plans to have work completed on three towers by the end of the year, weather permitting. 

Problems with the county’s phone system reported Monday appear to have been the result of problems with the “upstream” provider and have subsequently been fixed, Nielsen said. 

WHITE RIVER ROUND-UP

White River Round-up Program Director Carly Thomson said the senior nutrition program that provides meals through Chuckwagon in Meeker and Radino in Rangely continues to see significantly higher participation numbers. 

“We’re still serving way more than we did last year,” Thomson said. In the second quarter of 2021, the program provided 4,328 meals countywide. The addition of a “grab and go” option for residents who don’t want to congregate for meals has been a popular choice for many, Thomson added.

The county is partially reimbursed for the cost of meals through the Area Agency on Aging, but it’s a static number not based on the number of meals provided.

RBC SHERIFF’S OFFICE

Sheriff Anthony Mazzola asked the board to consider temporary changes to the bid process for getting new vehicles. “We have not replaced any vehicles this year due to the supply chain issue,” Mazzola said. 

Going outside the regular bid process requires board approval. Mazzola said it’s “almost impossible” to find vehicles right now, a situation that forced the Meeker Police Department to look outside the state. “There’s vehicles out there, we have to look harder.”

Asked about cars available for sale at area dealerships, Mazzola said those vehicles are “fancier” than what they would order for law enforcement. 

“We’ve got until the end of the year until we get really short on vehicles,” Mazzola said.

The board agreed to look at possible options. 

EXTENSION OFFICE

Extension Agent Linda Masters asked about changing the Meeker 4-H coordinator position to a CSU agent position on a contract basis with the county. According to Masters, it would be a “level up” for the program, as the position would be able to network with other agents around the state. The previous coordinator has accepted another position.

The board asked Masters to confirm the costs involved, after changes that have already occurred in the program.

HUMAN RESOURCES

The cost of insurance for county employees is a significant budget item. The county participates in an insurance pool with other government entities, RBC Human Resources Director Laura Smith said, and that pool overall is expecting increased costs in 2022.

“RBC did very well,” Smith said. “Our claims are down and have been.” That said, the cost of medical insurance is increasing by 1%. Dental, vision, and life insurance costs remain the same. The increase amounts to slightly less than $100 per year per employee on average. The total annual cost for medical insurance is $2.35 million. 

REGULAR MEETING

In the regular commissioner’s meeting, the board approved an engagement letter with the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to complete a feasibility study to determine if having a county manager or administrator would benefit RBC.

The board also approved a letter of opposition to CDOT regarding proposed standards for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in transportation. Commissioner Moyer said the proposed plan does not take into account the differences between the urban and rural areas of the state.

The board also approved a letter to the Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission to advocate for the Western Slope and Rio Blanco County in the congressional redistricting plan. The final map to determine changes in congressional districts was due on Tuesday, Sept. 28. 

Commissioners approved a resolution opposing vaccination as a condition of employment for county employees, and stating the county does not have the resources to enforce state or federal vaccination or mask mandates.

“Our position hasn’t changed,” Moyer said, stating the county has maintained its “right to choose” position since the beginning of the pandemic. 

COMMISSIONER UPDATES

Commissioner Ty Gates said he met with the Rangely and Meeker police chiefs regarding relocating inmates to Moffat County, had a meeting with CNCC President Dr. Lisa Jones, and met with DHS staff to review future plans. He also attended the EMS Council meeting. 

Commissioner Moyer said he attended Colorado Counties, Inc., committee meetings, the Club 20 caucus (Callie Hendrickson will be the primary representative for Rio Blanco County), and attended a meeting in Craig to discuss combined Department of Human Services activities between the two counties. 

Commissioners went into executive session to conference with county attorneys for specific legal advice and determining positions for matters that may be subject to negotiations.

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