County Beat: June 10, 2021

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RBC I Rio Blanco County commissioners met June 8 to discuss the following public business.

DHS UPDATE

With caseloads for DHS staff at around 400 cases each, the RBC Department of Human Services requested permission to use American Rescue Plan funds to hire a full-time eligibility technician. All caseloads — for medical assistance, food assistance, etc. — have been on the increase, partly due to backlogs caused by COVID. 

PUBLIC HEALTH

Rio Blanco County hit an unfortunate new milestone this month, with four hospitalizations due to COVID and one death. 

“It lines up with what’s happening regionally,” said RBC Public Health Nurse Alice Harvey. The Indian, or Delta, strain has been identified in surrounding counties and Harvey said her department is fairly sure based on close contact with positive cases that it’s in Rio Blanco County as well. The strain is considered more contagious. 

A more contagious strain of COVID, coupled with Rio Blanco County having one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state — at about 35% of eligible people — could mean continued growth in new cases and hospitalizations. 

Asked by Commissioner Moyer if the vaccine is effective against the variant, Harvey said the data indicates the vaccines are effective. 

FACILITIES UPDATE

Eric Jaquez updated on current staffing and completed projects. Completed coroner’s office relocation and remodel, done in-house. The maintenance department also worked to update the connections for the town’s PA system to improve connectivity. “They can announce from Fourth St. to Sixth St., wherever they want to,” Jaquez said, without moving costly equipment in and out of the building. 

To reduce utility expenses at county buildings, Jaquez said his department has been resetting schedules for heating and cooling cycles. The efforts have reduced expenses by about $1,000 a month. Commissioner Jeff Rector said he has been in conversation with James Talley who said installation of solar power could reduce costs by up to 80%. 

“It’s worth the conversation,” Rector said, though he anticipates cost reduction to only be about 40%. 

TREASURER’S OFFICE

RBC Treasurer Rhonna Waldref said there was some confusion about property taxes stemming from an agreement made in 2017 with the commissioners to waive fees to help the property owner clean up some old mobile homes. The owner believed property taxes were also waived. He has since paid the back taxes, but Waldref asked the board to make sure any further agreements clarify what is to be waived and what is not. 

Waldref also told the board there are three oil and gas companies that still have not paid last year’s taxes and “it doesn’t look like they’re going to pay this year’s taxes.” The total amount still owed to the county is about $375,700. 

In the regular meeting, commissioners: 

• Approved a permission letter for Meeker Lions Club to serve alcohol during Range Call events. 

• Approved an advertisement for hiring an eligibility technician for DHS utilizing COVID funds, good through 2024 or until the funds are not available. 

• Tabled discussion for funding to WRBM for 4th of July Fireworks, Septemberfest and Range Call. “I think we have some different money we can use to pull these events off,” Rector said. 

• Approved an advertisement for a registered nurse for the RBC Detention Center. 

• Approved final reports for the Rangely Airport drainage project. 

• Approved a letter of support for the Town of Rangely for Congressionally Directed Spending for some solar projects. Last week, in a special meeting, commissioners approved a letter of support for spending on the Wolf Creek Reservoir project.

• Approved an advertisement for a part-time Rangely 4-H coordinator/administrator.

• Tabled a request by Cimarron to provide multiple addresses service for a single fee at 550 CR 54 to allow for emergency services. It’s separate addresses, but a single owner, requiring an exception to county policy. Approving the request would set a precedent, and commissioners asked for additional discussion and review before making a decision that affects policy.

• No bid awards for the Meeker fairgrounds campground concessionaire were received, leaving the commissioners with the decision to amend or extend the contract or not offer any fairgrounds camping. 

• Approved federal and state funding agreement amendments related to public health totalling . 

• Approved agreements for the Airport Coronavirus Response Grant Program for the Rangely and Meeker airports for $9,000 each.

• Approved an increase in federal funding for increasing or maintaining immunization coverage for vaccine-preventable diseases.

• Approved a modified cooperative agreement with the RBC Sheriff’s Office, USDA and USFS for 2021 to provide forest patrols for $3,900.

• Approved agreements with Colorado West Regional Mental Health for intensive family therapy and sexual abuse treatment services, and day treatment alternative, preventative intensive family therapy and preventative sexual abuse treatment services totalling $9,500.

• Increased the not-to-exceed amount for the Meeker Airport Outfall Project to $7,003,220. The amount is a running total with HDR Engineering over a 10-year period.

ROAD & BRIDGE REPORT

New Road and Bridge Director Scott Marsh said Buford Road, Ripple Creek, Dunckley Pass and the road to Meadow Lake are all open, about a month earlier than usual. 

Improvements to CR 17 in conjunction with the Forest Service are expected to begin in mid-July.

Construction on CR 8 began yesterday. Paint shortages due to the freeze in Texas may necessitate extending the timeline. 

In Rangely, repairs and cattleguard replacements are underway.

CDPHE’s inspection of the landfill found them in compliance. 

PUBLIC COMMENT

Frank Huitt of Rangely shared information about the second annual Freedom March in Rangely to honor law enforcement and first responders on June 24 at 6 p.m. at Elks Park. The event includes a speaker, a short march and a barbecue. “Last year we fed about 400 people,” Huitt said. 

COMMISSIONER UPDATES

Jeff Rector:

• Said there’s no intention to do away with Rangely 4-H. 

• “This 30×30 thing, some people are really for it and some people are really against it,” Rector said, after a phone conference with the National Association of County Commissioners. 

Ty Gates:

• In discussion with a prescription consortium group about opioid treatment and prevention. “With all those meetings with mental health, opioid crisis, prescription drug abuse, it’s going to progressively get worse. In my meeting with the hospital they are happy they have the funding to put in a dual-treatment facility,” Gates said, but the housing shortage is prohibitive. “They estimate they could fill up 50 houses.” 

Gary Moyer:

• Commissioners signed a letter supporting Rep. Lauren Boebert’s (R-Rifle) proposed legislation in a special meeting last Thursday to address both the 30×30 program and wolf reintroduction and “the definition of conservation.” 

• Moyer also attended a virtual Club 20 national meeting about forest management and protecting water sources. 

At the close of the meeting, the board went into executive session to receive legal advice from County Attorney Don Steerman and former county attorney Todd Starr regarding pending or threatened litigation.


By NIKI TURNER – editor@ht1885.com