County Beat: Oct. 14, 2021

You can watch RBC commissioner meetings live on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBicnhlMpB47tzL_NjN0FIg.

RBC I The following topics were covered at Tuesday’s commissioner meeting.

PUBLIC HEALTH

COVID-19 cases have surged in Rio Blanco County and surrounding areas, stretching healthcare services thin. Public Health departments are feeling the squeeze too, including in Rio Blanco County. RBC Public Health Director Alice Harvey informed the board this week that her department staff was at full capacity testing, answering phone calls/emails and contact tracing new COVID-19 cases. To lighten the load, commissioners this week approved Harvey’s request to hire an additional administrative staff member. The new position will be entirely grant funded.

Harvey said COVID is now circulating broadly in the community, which has led to an increase in hospitalizations locally. Part of a larger trend, smaller hospitals are having a hard time transferring critically ill patients to places that can care for them. Both Pioneers Medical Center and Rangely District Hospital are experiencing these challenges. RDH CEO Kyle Wren said Tuesday they have “a couple beds open still” and are implementing the Colorado Hospital Association’s transport plan when they need to transfer patients to higher-care facilities. 

INTEGRATED WATER INITIATIVE

Liz Chandler, coordinator of the Planning Advisory Committee (PAC) for the ongoing White River Integrated Water Initiative (WRIWI) updated the board and community this week, sharing a general overview of the committee’s goals, progress, and future plans.

Emphasizing the broader importance of the White River to the local economy and community as a whole, Chandler described the initiative as “a community driven, stakeholder effort to find tangible things we can do to keep the river healthy, practical and useful.” Examples of this include assessments to identify diversion/riparian projects that could improve fish habitat and develop new recreational opportunities, among other goals. The PAC consists of 16 members, representing various interests including municipal, recreational, agricultural and industrial. Following community engagement efforts, the PAC makes final decisions about the initiative, its goals, and strategies for moving forward. Chandler encouraged community members to attend the next meeting on Nov. 9. The meeting will cover instream flows, and what Chandler described as “a dramatic push to keep water in rivers” by the state of Colorado. You can check upcoming meeting dates and read more about the initiative at https://wrcd-dccd.colorado.gov/projects/white-river-integrated-water-initiative.

For further coverage on water issues in Rio Blanco County, read our State of the River series.

REGULAR MEETING

RBC Commissioner Ty Gates gave kudos to Public Information and Program Manager Carly Thomson for leading efforts with the Colorado Department of Child Services to participate in a childcare center “design lab.” A five-month process involving multiple entities will generate insights for planning and later applying for grants to fund the development of a childcare facility. The success was also highlighted during the Town of Meeker Board Meeting by town Manager Mandi Etheridge.

The board discussed options to mitigate heckling and technical issues created by the existing conference call-in line for county board meetings. IT/Communications Director Trevor Nielson suggested using Google Meet for call-ins, which would allow staff to mute people who forget, and prevent music playing back from callers who put the meeting on hold. He noted this option would mean a different call number every week, and would also require callers to have a passcode to join. Nielsen said people who want to listen to the meeting and do not intend to participate or provide comments should be doing so by watching the live YouTube stream.

RBC Attorney Don Steerman pointed out that other entities have been returning to pre-COVID rules for meetings, requiring in-person attendance for public comment. Commissioner Moyer said he supported the idea of in-person comment requirements to reduce anonymous heckling and other technical issues. Whether or not commissioners and other staff members would also be required to attend meetings in-person was not discussed.

The board approved various expenditures including final contractor settlements for dust control ($9,440.13) and road striping ($3,055.72), and a capital improvement grant of $6,000 to the Rangely Cemetery District for a backup water pump.

Rio Blanco County’s Board of Commissioners meet on the second, third and fourth Tuesdays of each month. You can view the meetings live or in recorded form on the county’s YouTube channel: youtube.com/channel/UCBicnhlMpB47tzL_NjN0FIg

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