COUNTY BEAT: June 14, 2022

RBC | During work sessions Tuesday morning, the Rio Blanco County Board of Commissioners heard second quarter updates from Maintenance and Facilities Director Eric Jaquez. The department has been busy with spring cleaning and planting, updates to signage, OHV trail maintenance, repairing drainage issues, and attending trainings, among other activities and projects.

Jacquez discussed relocating the inflatables usually placed on the courthouse lawn during Range Call to a different site, because they are very harsh on the lawn. Jaquez also asked the board about the pickleball court in the downtown plaza. “There’s getting some broader requests,” from the public, he said, as pickleball continues to grow in popularity. “I think it’s going to be something that’s brought up to the board.”

Jacquez also spoke to the board regarding the Meeker Airport waterline. “There’s many, many steps before we get this project shovel-ready,” he said, beginning with moving forward on engineering and design. Jacquez said he believes there are contingency funds in the budget from the Meeker Outfall project that could be applied toward waterline engineering.

“It’s worth noting that we’re not doing this just to accommodate the ‘rich people’ upriver. This is for something to grow our airport into something bigger and it’s something that we need because we don’t have adequate fire suppression for what we have now,” said Commissioner Ty Gates. Commissioner Jennifer O’Hearon said she agreed, noting the importance of the safety issue.

Budget and Finance DIrector Janae Stansworth said the county has received its second distribution of ARP funds. Projects underway for those funds include replacing accounting and budgeting software and systems. Up for further discussion are HVAC upgrades for various county buildings and emergency backup power at the Fairfield Center.

Communications and IT Director Trevor Nielsen and Visionary Broadband representatives notified the board the Visionary is leaving the county’s broadband network as a service provider. Customers have been notified and the county and Visionary are working to transition those customers to a different VAR. Nielsen said the county is “actively seeking” other VARs. Cimarron Telecommunications remains in place as the other VAR for local broadband.

“We don’t plan on disrupting any service,” Nielsen said. “We’re going to transition everybody and not disconnect services.”

Nielsen also mentioned that the broadband program is not funded by tax dollars — a question he said he hears from members of the public. The income for broadband comes from the project itself through a county enterprise fund.

In a continuation of a previous discussion about changing the schedule for Chuckwagon/White River Roundup, it was agreed that Meeker is OK with changing to a Monday-Thursday plan, but Rangely seniors have specialized doctor appointments scheduled on Thursdays that require use of the Radino Rambler. Commissioner Jennifer O’Hearon said the request from the Rangely side was to “leave Radino alone.” Changing the schedule on the Meeker side would free up the commercial kitchen at the Fairfield Center for weekend events.

Local contractor Luke Reninger spoke to the board about returning plumbing inspection to the county, instead of handing it all off to the state, as was decided in 2019.

“I would personally like to see it come back to the county,” Reninger said. “We’re just looking for a way to bring it back to the county and make it simpler on the contractors.” Contractors are dealing with delays and additional fees in trying to work with the state’s plumbing inspector. Reninger suggested RBC needs to consider having a full-time building inspector, not a part-time one. “We’re two years out on building right now and turning work down,” he said. “This county is not a part-time building inspector county.”

The board agreed to revisit the topic during budget workshops later this summer.

During the regular meeting, commissioners moved to approve the $13,800 maintenance cost for the Dominion Voting Systems that commissioners previously removed from the budget. The item would be included in the supplemental budget with other items for the June 28 meeting.

Commissioner Jennifer O’Hearon said her concern is that the county is only looking at one voting system [Dominion] when there is another certified system [Clear Ballot] approved by the state.

County Attorney Don Steerman said they received an estimated cost from the state of $145,000 for the Clear Ballot system, plus training and maintenance.

Commissioner Gates agreed that the county could review the differences between the systems, but said he didn’t think there was time to get a new system in place for this year with elections coming up, as well as finding an additional $145K in the budget.

O’Hearon voted nay on the motion, Love and Gates voted to approve.

The board agreed to offer the position of Director of Human Services to current Deputy Director Nabila Mason. Four candidates were interviewed last week by the commissioners, RBC HR Director Laura Smith, Steerman, and representatives from the school district.

Commissioner Ginny Love said they had “very good conversations” with all four candidates.

In other business, the board approved agreements with Paul Miller for financial audits, approved a contract increase of $22K for the dust control project due primarily to increased fuel costs, approved a grant with USDA/Forest Service increasing funding for eradication of noxious weeds by $10K, approved a cost allocation plan agreement with DHS for indirect services, finalized the Meeker Airport Master Plan projects, approved final settlement for CR 73 bridge, renewed an access road agreement for the Marvine broadband tower, renewed a right-of-way grant for the county road to Natural Soda, and approved an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to help with mag chloride dust control on forest service roads, including Ripple Creek.

A bid for three wheel loaders was awarded to Honnen Equipment for $133,233 after trade-in allowance, Wagner equipment was awarded a bid for an AWD motorgrader for $271K with an estimated nine-month wait on delivery, and Honnen Equipment was awarded the bid for a backhoe loader in the amount of $24K.

Road and Bridge Director Scott Marsh said Dave Sanford has been appointed as the new Rangely district supervisor.

In commissioner updates, Love and O’Hearon said they went on a “wild horse tour.” Both stated they see a definite need for the upcoming roundup of wild horses.

Commissioner Gates said he heard from the offices of Sen. Hickenlooper and Sen. Bennet that a grant request for approximately $350K that would be used to outfit the justice center as a law enforcement training center has made it to sub-committee.

The board went into executive session at the close of the regular meeting to receive legal advice on specific legal questions.

An afternoon work session regarding River Bend RV Park was canceled.

Commissioners and half a dozen county department heads held a lengthy discussion Tuesday afternoon regarding whether or not to move forward with hiring a county administrator, as recommended by a review of the county performed by the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA).

“I wanted to be proactive about it and decide on a direction” before getting into budget season, said Budget and Finance Director Janae Stansworth.

DOLA has a grant available to partially fund an administrator position, but county staff and leaders aren’t convinced the job is needed. Another option would be hiring help for specific departments that are overloaded with projects.

“I am very mixed on this,” said Road and Bridge Director Scott Marsh. “You guys [the current board] are approachable and that’s great, but what happens with the next election?”

The topic was left open for further discussion with an agreement to determine the best way to meet the needs of the county while making the best use of funding.

Board members and department heads also discussed the development of a strategic plan and/or master plan during the afternoon work sessions. Board members and staff agree the county needs to have a plan in place and discussed options for developing a master plan, followed by a strategic plan.


By NIKI TURNER – editor@ht1885.com

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