County Beat: May 25, 2021

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RBC | The board of county commissioners met this week to discuss the following public business.

CANNABIS AND “CULTURE”

Representing outdoor cannabis cultivation business MRW Colorado, Chris Moulton and Brandon Richards spoke with the board during a work session Tuesday. They sought input on the possibility of a grow operation along County Road 5. Moulton noted the property had been used to grow around 40 acres of hemp in the past, and said MRW hopes to grow marijuana there next. Richards noted that they were also set to develop an outdoor cultivation operation in nearby Garfield county near the Town of Parachute.

“We’re interested in potentially growing on the site that our business partners own, the MTW Ranch,” said Richards. He said licensing requirements would limit the proposed operation to 2300 plants, and would also require strict security measures such as tall fences and security cameras on site.

Following the passage of Amendment 64 in 2012 legalizing the use, cultivation, and sale of marijuana in the state, RBC commissioners passed a resolution prohibiting the plant’s cultivation and sale in the county.

RBC Board of Commissioners Chairman Gary Moyer expressed hesitancy about changing the county’s existing prohibition stance, stating, “I think we better do our own research on what the consequences culturally are of that.” He emphasized that allowing either commercial cultivation or retail sales would represent a “major change” and is something the board “wouldn’t do on a whim.” Moyer also said former economic development staff said marijuana prohibition was “part of the draw” of RBC, adding that legalization would go against the county’s historical culture.

EXTENSION OFFICE

CSU Extension Director Linda Masters updated the board on the departure of Rangely 4-H Coordinator Jayda Lewis, who is leaving the position to work in the county’s public health department. Masters stated she’d like to advertise to fill the position and would like to try it as a half-time role moving forward. Referencing county budget trends and projections, Masters said she didn’t want to offer a full-time position to someone only to have it cut back in the next year or two. She also emphasized her view that a half-time position would be adequate to support the needs of Rangely 4-H participants.

Commissioner Moyer said the board has historically committed to “treating both sides of the county equally” in terms of 4-H, and noted any new hire will still be county employees and thus subject to priorities of the board. He said they will look for more input on the subject before moving forward.

With Lewis leaving her position as Rangely 4-H Coordinator this Friday, Masters said she wants to hire someone new as soon as possible, but can’t do so until she knows how to advertise the position. In the meantime she said staff members in Meeker will take turns traveling to Rangely to make sure someone is available in the 4-H office as needed.

WHITE RIVER ROUNDUP

Public Information and Program Manager Carly Thomson shared an update on White River Roundup, stating the program saw a 47% increase in use as a result of COVID. Meals served by WRR increased from 2,896 meals in 2020 to 4,252 meals in 2021. Despite the increase in service, spending on the senior nutrition program has actually decreased, due in part to decreased portion sizes.

Commissioners noted that they understand the importance of the program, calling it “a priority,” despite its cost to the county. In reference to the overall cost, Thomson pointed out that reimbursements from the Area Agency on Aging are set to increase by an additional $20K, which could allow for potential budget increase for purchasing food items/supplies. The increase in reimbursements also means the county will only be paying about half of the nearly $250K per year cost of the program.

AIRPORT UPDATES

Rangely airport manager Jason Krueger gave an update on last year’s projects including a roofing job and a drainage project, both of which he said looked good and held up over the winter. Kreuger also asked about getting some equipment for specific projects around the airport including dust cleanup.

Meeker airport manager Lanny Coulter said there was very little snow plowing over the winter, which was “good news” for the newly re-shouldered runway. He also discussed upcoming projects, noting first that the plan to pour concrete for a new fuel farm could be postponed till next year. Coulter said he was waiting to hear back from TDA on a cost estimate for installing a new water line. He noted the new line would be necessary to accommodate the new owner of Seven Lakes Lodge, who Coulter said is planning to construct a new 14,000-plus square ft hangar at the airport.

BROADBAND UPDATE

IT & Communications Director Trevor Nielsen said his department needs to work on rate updates, as the cost of communications and IT equipment has increased. Nielson noted that intense global demand has contributed to the price increases. With the guidance of the county legal and finance departments, rates will be re-evaluated on a yearly basis, with any increases passed by ordinance. Moyer noted the rate changes will apply only to supply-related costs, not monthly rates the county charges as the wholesale internet provider. Nielsen also noted the completion of new core switch installation on the county broadband network and ongoing network redesign work that will increase speed and reliability for everyone.

REGULAR MEETING

  • Approved a new liquor license for Corner Market, the gas station outside of Meeker formerly known as Kum & Go.
  • Approved purchase of two night-vision systems for RBC Sheriff’s office search and rescue, totaling $28,946. Commissioner Gates noted the cost will be covered with Title 3 funds.
  • Approved a road race event application for Rally Colorado to be held on June 5 and 6 in Rangely.
  • Approved Scott Marsh as road and bridge director.
  • Approved notice of award to and agreement for services with IHC Scott Inc. for County Road 5 Stockpass 3 replacement project, not to exceed $402,991.10.
  • Approved an agreement with Hilltop Community Services for day treatment alternative services, not to exceed $7,200.
  • Approved an MOU with Colorado Department of Human Services Colorado Childcare Assistance Program for the Colorado Works Program and Child Care Program.

PUBLIC HEALTH

Public Health Director Alice Harvey discussed a recent uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations, but said county hospitals had not reached capacity. Harvey also discussed efforts to hire a full-time public health nurse for Rangely, noting that no one from the town applied for the position. Public health ended up hiring a part-time nurse who lives in Meeker instead. Harvey said between her and the new hire, the department should be able to cover all nursing related needs in Rangely. The department also hired Rangely resident Jayda Lewis, who has been helping with shot clinics, contact tracing and testing. Harvey noted the two new part-time positions would help to better serve Rangely’s public health needs. Lewis will continue managing food safety training programs and Food Bank of the Rockies under the umbrella of the public health department, which Harvey noted would get rid of some duplicative programs.

COVID-19 vaccination rates have increased in the last two weeks according to Harvey, who said more residents expressed being more comfortable with the vaccine now that it has been available for a few months. Public health is vaccinating an average of 60 residents per week, split evenly between Meeker and Rangely.


By LUCAS TURNER | lucas@ht1885.com

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