COUNTY BEAT: Insurance rates spike for county

WORK SESSIONS

Updates from Extension Agent Linda Masters regarding plan. A 4-H agent has been hired and is in place. “It’s going great already,” Master said. Technology upgrades are underway to connect 4-H kids on both sides of the county with similar equipment. “We’re trying to get the kids on both ends to work together,” Masters said. “We’re having joint 4-H Council meetings and the kids are really enjoying it.”

Fifteen kids attended a two-day officer training this month in Rangely, which Masters said was the best training they’ve had in years. 

“That’s really our goal for this year, to have a lot of team-building and a lot of events together to benefit the kids.” 

Weekly master gardener meetings are being held. “We’ve got some events planned,” Masters said, adding that she is continuing to pursue her goal of building the local master gardener program. 

An update from Tia Murry with the Department of Human Services was postponed, as “they [the department] had a very busy weekend.”

Budget and Finance Director Janae Stanworth told the commissioners she would be preparing a supplemental budget to cover a 26% increase in the county’s insurance premiums (not including health insurance for employees). The cost climbed to $377,000 for the year for insurance to cover buildings, contents, employee-related issues, etc. 

“I budgeted for a 5% increase, I did not budget for a 26% increase,” Stanworth said.

New requirements for law enforcement insurance directly related to Colorado Senate Bill 217 and the surge in building supply costs are primary factors in the new rates, which are impacting other counties in the same insurance pool. 

Deductibles have also increased, Stanworth said, from $500 to $1,500 for a property claim, and from $10,000 to $15,000 for employee-related claims. 

Stanworth also reviewed grant applications  that have been received, are in process, or are potentially available, including covid funding and infrastructure bill funding. 

In a separate work session Tuesday afternoon, Stanworth discussed appropriation of American Rescue Act funding, to the tune of approximately $1.2 million. 

Stanworth explained the four primary categories the funding can be used for: responding to the public health and economic impacts of covid-19, broadband infrastructure, water and sewer infrastructure, or premium pay for frontline workers. County staff and others shared ideas for how the funding could be allocated in accordance with federal guidelines.

Bruce Bair, Fairfield Center manager, updated the board on the status of the Fairfield Center and the Fairfield Apartments. Commissioners highlighted the need to clearly identify roles and responsibilities for the various entities involved, including the Area Council on Aging board and the MCCIC board, as well as the county. 

“A lot of the events at the Fairfield have outgrown us,” Bair said, noting that events that were once held at the Fairfield Center are now being held at the Fairgrounds to accommodate larger groups.

REGULAR MEETING

During the regular meeting, Commissioners Ty Gates and Gary Moyer were in attendance. Commissioner Jeff Rector was reportedly in Jamaica, according to Moyer.

Commissioners approved a grant application to the Office of Just Transition that, if awarded, would provide funding to turn the county jail — empty since November — into a law enforcement training center. 

“This has been a very frustrating process,” Gates said. “The Office of Just Transition keeps changing the rules and moving in different directions. Hopefully our project will be approved.” 

The board ratified a letter to the BLM regarding the removal of excess horses from the Piceance/East Douglas herd management area. 

“That’s been a priority of the conservation districts for about 10 years,” Moyer said. “This is huge victory if this happens.”

Commissioners also:

• Approved a letter to Colorado Department of Local Affairs in support of the Meeker Sanitation District’s mineral assistance grant.

• Approved a letter in support of the Town of Oak Creek’s grant application for Sheriff Reservoir and dam rehabilitation. “We’re going to have a discussion about this when Eddie Smercina gets back from conference,” Gates said. The proposal mostly impacts Oak Creek.  

• Approved a communication use/lease with BLM for broadband related to the solar panel upgrades on wireless towers.

• Opened bids for weed and pest control via aerial and hand spraying in the Piceance Creek area.

• Approved an annual maintenance agreement with Cummins for preventative maintenance for the county’s backup generators. 

COMMISSIONER UPDATES

Commissioner Moyer said attended the National Association of Counties conference in Washington, D.C., last week and met with Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert’s chief of staff. Moyer expressed concerns about rollbacks to National Environmental Policy Act rules and potential impacts on local land use for federal lands. 

Commissioner Gates said he met with staff last week, “learned a ton about broadband” thanks to Trevor Nielsen, and attended the Northwest Colorado Development Council meeting. “Carly [Thomson]  did an excellent job putting our presentation together and representing the county,” he said.

PUBLIC HEARINGS

County Planner Leif Joy presented an amended final plat for Elk Creek Ranch/Homeowner’s Association which adds a 42 acre parcel to its Planned Unit Development (PUD), requiring a rezoning. At the same time they are consolidating one of the small lots into open space. “It’s mostly semantics,” Joy said. He recommended approval with two conditions. 


By NIKI TURNER – editor@ht1885.com