COUNTY BEAT: July 20th Meeting

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RBC I Budget discussions for 2022 will be held in the afternoon/evening hours this year to facilitate opportunities for the public to participate, following a request from Commissioner Jeff Rector. Additional reductions to the budget are anticipated for 2022. 

Commissioners discussed combining a grant writing position with a county administrator. The county has not had an administrator for several years. 

“Administrator is a bad word in Rio Blanco County,” Rector said, adding, “I think that where we’re headed down the road that’s a vital part for us to run a smooth government. That buffer would be an incredible thing. Communication would be better.”

 Emergency Manager Eddie Smercina said “one or two fires lit up” over the weekend on BLM land, but BLM was able to get those out before they blew up thanks to having access to a helicopter. He also provided a weather update. A high pressure system over the area, predicted to hold through Aug. 4, is expected to generate a stronger monsoonal flow than has been seen in the last few years. 

IT Department

Trevor Nielson said his department is working on a plan to adjust some secondary towers to improve wireless access, getting written policies in place with the local providers, and said they are working on a grant for NTIA funding. Under consideration for that funding would be increased access for the Piceance Basin area and increasing broadband reach for customers who haven’t had access. Additional federal funding through the American Rescue Plan could provide fiber to areas that were missed in the first build-out. 

TOWN OF RANGELY

Town Manager Lisa Piering requested approval of a $17,500 grant request for Rangely’s dispatch to provide redundancy for the west end of the county on Mellon Hill. Rangely dispatch covers the west side of the county, including areas that are covered by the sheriff’s office. Commissioners agreed that they could draw from CCITF funds and approved the grant in the regular meeting. 

In a lengthy work session that was continued after the regular meeting, commissioners heard concerns from Rangely resident Don Davidson and Shawn Smith, a retired Air Force colonel and former government employee, about concerns over election integrity surrounding the use of Dominion voting equipment. 

Smith is part of the Colorado-based U.S. Election Integrity Plan, established on Nov. 7, 2020 “in response to blatant election fraud in 2020,” according to the group’s website. 

REGULAR MEETING

In the regular meeting, commissioners approved the budget calendar, approved the use of the county 4-H van by the Meeker Classic, appointed Commissioner Ty Gates to the EMS council and heard the assessor’s quarterly abatement report. 

Assessor Renae Nielsen said there were “quite a few” requests for abatement this quarter, with 59 appeals. Thirty of those were adjusted and 29 were denied. 

Nielsen said the county’s valuation is down about 9% — $68 million — and that is expected to drop more due to two bills passed at the state. House bill 21-1312 exempts personal property under $50,000 from taxation. “Sixty-seven percent of our value is personal property,” Nielsen said, adding that the state has promised to reimburse that money to counties and taxing entities. The previous cutoff for personal property exemption was $79,000. 

Senate bill 21-293 will decrease the assessment rate on certain property classes, Nielsen said. 

The board rescinded RBC resolutions 2020-18 and 2020-19, reinstating a previous county policy regarding hiring of staff by elected officials and department heads. County Attorney Don Steerman said the resolutions were designed to freeze hiring or require specific approval for hiring within various departments, but instead created issues with “timeliness” of hiring people. As per county policy, new positions or increases to the budget caused by hiring would still require approval by the board. 

The board approved a contract with TDA Construction Inc., for the Rio Blanco County 2021 Airport Outfall Project, in an amount not to exceed $238,500.

Following commissioner updates, the board went into executive session with contract attorney Todd Starr for the purpose of receiving specific legal advice on specific legal questions. 


By NIKI TURNER – editor@ht1885.com