County Beat: Pharmacy closure causes a stir

PHARMACY

The closure of Meeker Drugs, the town’s only pharmacy, has left many residents wondering where they would get medication. Pioneers Medical Center isn’t expected to open their own pharmacy until sometime in the spring, which leaves a months-long gap in service.

Seeking to address the issue until the new pharmacy opens officially, the RBC Sheriff’s Office, Public Health, and the Rangely Pharmacy at Rangely District Hospital are developing a plan to collaborate on a temporary solution, especially for the most vulnerable. “There’s a need that needs to happen in this community,” said Sheriff Anthony Mazzolla during a lengthy work session with the Board of Commissioners Tuesday. “We’ve got a vulnerable group out there that can’t drive to Rangely. We’ve got end of life patients that need medication,” he added.

After a flurry of calls from concerned citizens Public Health Director Alice Harvey sought help in developing a solution. A few meetings later, Commissioner Ty Gates, who was involved in the process, shared info about how said solution would work.

In simple terms, it would create a courier/transportation service as a stop-gap until the community has a new pharmacy. Essentially:

• Rangely District Hospital will fill prescriptions for participating PMC patients

• an RBC deputy will collect, secure and transport the medication back to Meeker

• RBC Public Health will hold medications for pickup

Commissioner Moyer expressed misgivings about liabilities for the county regarding privacy, among other concerns. “I’m not opposed to it, we just can’t do it with our eyes closed,” said Moyer. According to representatives from RDH, Colorado’s state board of pharmacies has already approved the general plan, which could move forward sometime soon. In the meantime, vulnerable residents will have to continue getting medications from out of town.

JUSTICE CENTER/OJT GRANT

The justice center could become a specialized, multi-purpose training center for first responders, emergency management personnel and others in the future. 

While the concept has thus far been discussed only loosely in public meetings, county staff brought it to the foreground this week while discussing a grant application from the state’s “Office of Just Transitions” or OJT. Due to some demand for special law enforcement training in the region and state, Sheriff Mazzola says such a location could generate revenue if marketed correctly. Commissioner Gates added that a training facility would also bring in people to stay in local hotels, eat at restaurants, etc. County staff plan to pursue the OJT grant, which is due in April. 

OIL & GAS

RBC Natural Resources director Eddie Smercina shared the latest on oil and gas rulemaking in the state. Regulations coming out of the COGCC and AQCC create additional requirements, like financial assurance, as one example.

Additionally, due to recent studies showing the sage grouse population is “below the 25th percentile,”  Colorado Parks and Wildlife is reevaluating habitat areas for all wildlife. According to Smercina, CPW is looking at “new high-priority areas in Rio Blanco County for future maps.

COMMUNICATIONS, AIRPORT

IT and communications could spend slightly less than expected to create a specialized fiber-splicing vehicle for maintenance, repairs and new installations on the county’s broadband network. “We have the skills in-house to do the work, we just don’t have the equipment,” said IT Director Trevor Nielsen who explained that relying on contractors for splicing work causes major delays since all the companies able to do it in the region are usually too busy to do something right away if a line is broken, for example.

There is still some uncertainty about the possibility of a new hangar at Coulter Field in Meeker, and who will ultimately pay to install a new water line in the area. The board plans to meet with potential hangar owners to get more clarification.

REGULAR MEETING

During their regular meeting, the board passed a flurry of procedural, first meeting of the year-type items, like new appointments:

• Ty Gates – appointed Chairman of the Board of Commissioners for 2022, board member for the e911 board and representative for the Northwest Transportation Planning Commission

• Gary Moyer – appointed as RBC Chairman pro-tem for 2022 and representative for AGNC

•  Jeff Rector – appointed as County Investment Policy Committee Member

And reappointments of county employees:

• Attorney – Donald Steerman 

• Budget and Finance Director – Janae Stanworth 

• Road & Bridge Director – Scott Marsh 

• Director of Human Services – Tia Murry

RBC Commissioners also approved dates for this year’s county fair, including a County Shoot on July 23 and a Horse Show on July 29 and 30. Fair week is scheduled for August 1-6.

At the end of the meeting, the board went into executive session to discuss threatened or pending litigation

FRACKING WASTEWATER RECYCLING FACILITY 

The board approved a limited impact review for Terra Energy Partners (TEP) to build a produced-water recycling facility which would be located “just south of the Enterprise Gas Plant.” This means TEP can now move forward on the NEPA process. Natural Resources Director Eddie Smercina said the facility “opens the door for more development” and allows TEP to recycle more effectively, instead of hauling produced water around in lots of trucks. 

Depending on geological formation, chemicals used to hydraulically fracture (frack) a well, produced or “flowback” water can contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals, carcinogens and radioactive elements. These contamination factors, along with the significant volumes of water produced by each well every day create costly challenges for operators to ensure safe disposal, hence the justification for elaborate water storage, transportation, treatment and recycling facilities all over the Piceance Basin.


By LUCAS TURNER | lucas@ht1885.com