COUNTY BEAT: Rector to resign as commissioner

RBC | County commissioners conducted a series of interviews for open board seats Tuesday, including an Extension Advisory Board that will work closely with Extension Agent Linda Masters in collaboration with Colorado State University. According to commissioners, the seven-member board is “supposed to be in place, but hasn’t been for some time.” 

During the regular meeting, commissioners appointed six to the board: Lenny Klinglesmith, Alden Vanden Brink, Angelo Theos, Callie Hendrickson, Kathy Nelson, and Sean Dimitz. 

Meeker doctor and educator Bob Dorsett was interviewed for a seat on the board of health. Diane Mobley was also interviewed and reappointed to a seat on the board of health. 

Jan Zuber, who moved to Meeker in 2020 to be closer to her son, was interviewed for the Historic Preservation Board and appointed along with Teresia Ruckman-Reed during the regular meeting. Reed was also appointed to the Meeker Cemetery Board. 

Ed Coryell, Melissa Dembowski and Quentin Smith were appointed to the Fair Board, which still has one open position. Mike Morgan was reappointed to the Rangely Library Board and Ellen Conrado was appointed to the Meeker Library Board’s shared seat with the Town of Meeker. 

Appointments to the Area Agency on Aging were postponed.

Public Health Department Director Alice Harvey updated the commissioners on reporting for covid statistics, saying in the next few weeks the department will have the capability to track reinfections, breakthrough and booster breakthrough cases on the “report card.” 

Harvey said the prescription transfer program, set up while Pioneers Medical Center’s retail pharmacy is still under construction, is “working seamlessly.” Prescriptions — primarily for Medicare and hospice patients — are filled by the Rangely Pharmacy, transported to RBC Public Health in Meeker by RBC deputies from the Sheriff’s Office, and made available for local pickup. 

“It’s definitely sustainable for the short term,” she said. 

Influenza is present in the county, with no hospitalizations reported, although co-infections with covid are “making people very sick.”

Sales and Use Tax Director Deb Morlan said county sales tax revenues for 2021 were “all up,” with sales tax revenue up by about 40%, construction-related use tax revenue up more than 90% from 2020, and motor vehicle sales tax up about 14%.

She said the sales tax revenue for the towns is also up from 2020. “Shop at home really does make a difference.”

Budget and Finance Director Janae Stanworth updated the commissioners on expanded uses for federal coronavirus relief funding from the American Rescue Plan. The county has to report on what the funds — $1.2 million — are designated for, after April 30. The county has received half of the $1.2 million, with the other half expected in June. 

The rules and requirements for the funding are “very gray right now,” Stanworth said. 

Public Information and Program Director Carly Thomson sought direction from the board on pursuing an Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado grant with a $5,000 match for a feasibility study to repurpose the jail as a law enforcement training center, which has been discussed previously.

Commissioner Gary Moyer expressed frustration that the board had not discussed or brainstormed all options for the building’s potential use and that he didn’t want the county to be limited to one idea. “We haven’t, as commissioners, decided what to do,” he said.

The deadline, however, for presentations to the Northwest Colorado Development Council, which will determine what projects in the region get funding from the Office of Just Transition, is right around the corner. Commissioners Gates and Rector agreed that the board previously gave staff direction to move forward on the proposal to fund the law enforcement training center through the state’s Office of Just Transition. 

“We have to make a decision or get a direction,” Gates said. “That presentation is due.” Gates and Thomson have both been working with the Northwest Colorado Development Council. The Town of Hayden has requested $1 million for a business park near the Yampa Valley Airport. The City of Craig has requested $450,000 for a solar array. Almost $2.8 million is earmarked for the tri-county region (Rio Blanco, Routt and Moffat) for economic development projects in areas set to lose coal mines and coal-fired power plants as the state transitions to cleaner forms of energy.

During the regular meeting, the board approved a letter opposing Senate Bill 16, which would change the state transportation commission from 11 appointed members to nine elected members, one from each congressional district and one from the state at large. That would make the Western Slope one district, reducing representation on the commission.

Road and Bridge Director Scott Marsh said the monitoring system for spring load restrictions is not functional “and has not been for more than a year.” They’re watching the roads, and will implement restrictions if needed, “but there’s not much traffic out there,” he said.

Marsh also notified the commissioners he has a meeting set up with the gas companies regarding repairing a hole on CR 25 above a high pressure liquid gas line, and said the infrastructure funding in the Build Back Better program may provide more funding for bridges.

In commissioner updates:

Moyer said he testified at the state capitol against the mountain lion, bobcat and lynx hunting ban bill. That bill failed in committee with a 4 to 1 vote, but Moyer said backers are planning to get the item on the 2024 ballot. 

Gates said he had meetings with Colorado Parks and Wildlife on some proposed changes, and a meeting with the interim CEO of Mind Springs left him “even more discouraged” about the state of the mental health center that provides services to a 10-county region and is searching for a new CEO. In positive news, he said, a press release from the governor’s administration indicated CDOT is planning more work on rural roads and the Garfield County side of Highway 13 is on there. “Hopefully we’ll get something accomplished on that side now.”

Commissioner Rector thanked the county and staff for their support, and announced his plans to resign as soon as the Rio Blanco County Republican Party finds a replacement to fill his seat. “It’s time for me to move on,” he said. 

The board went into executive session with County Attorney Don Steerman at the end of the meeting to discuss matters that may require negotiation or regarding pending litigation.