County Beat: Sept 21 meeting

RBC I Commissioners Ty Gates and Gary Moyer met Tuesday, Sept. 21, to discuss the following business.

BUDGET

Budget and Finance Director Janae Stanworth updated the board ahead of the fast-approaching 2022 budget season. With the proposed budget set for release on Oct. 12, county staff and elected officials were asked to submit any proposals for new projects to be included in upcoming budget workshop discussions. 

Proposed for next year are a CAD upgrade for the Sheriff’s Office, capital improvements for IT and communications, facilities, and airports among others. A few projects will carryover from the 2021 budget, including Meeker Airport stormwater work, which was delayed due to problems procuring materials.

Stanworth highlighted that assessed valuations for 2021 dropped by $66 million, representing about a $605K decrease in revenue for the county in 2022. The majority of the drop is connected to declining industry/oil and gas activity in the area.

Some county departments may have to prioritize and identify areas to cut in the coming weeks due to the funding shortage. Discussions about those cuts are likely to take place in budget workshops.

Declining revenues may be offset somewhat by the county’s Federal Mineral Lease allocation, which increased to just over $1 million this year, up from $599K in 2020. Following a multi-year trend, Oil & Gas Severance payments on the other hand decreased significantly this year to $34K, down from about $335K in 2020.

Other items during the budget update included a mention of $614K American Rescue Plan funds, which have not been allocated for anything specific yet. ARP funds can only be used for certain purposes, one of which might be proposed broadband infrastructure improvements.

COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR STUDY

Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) Northwest Regional Manager Dan Hlavac pitched the concept of switching RBC to a different management structure, which would involve hiring a County Administrator. Hlavac noted that all but one other county in the region (Moffat) have county administrators.

He said the model would be “more streamlined,” allowing department heads to report to one person, who then reports to the board. The shift would also free up commissioners from more day-to-day administrative work.

Both commissioners in attendance (Gates and Moyer) expressed interest in the idea. Upon approval by the board, DOLA will bring in experts to oversee a 3-6 month study of county operations, and create a job description for the administrator position. DOLA will also assist in recruitment, and contribute a percentage of the administrator’s salary for the first 3 years. Commissioners Gates and Moyer both said they’d be ready to get the matter on an agenda and will likely vote to approve the study process soon.

BOARD OF HEALTH

Public Health Director Alice Harvey shared statistics from RBC’s improved COVID-19 update dashboard which features local information on case rates, hospitalizations, breakthrough cases and more. The dashboard now includes statistics on where residents who tested positive contracted the virus, such as at work, at home, or otherwise.

As of press time the latest data shows a steep increase in case rates in recent weeks, with the majority of new cases being reported in Rangely. Among reported cases, 10% have required hospitalization. 

In the long term, RBC has had 875 total cases, of which 35 are “breakthrough cases”– meaning they were confirmed in people who were vaccinated. Harvey noted that of the 35 breakthrough cases, only two were hospitalized, one of which was out of caution due to multiple comorbidities. 

Harvey emphasized that local vaccine and case data reflects the worldwide data, indicating the vaccines are effective at preventing new cases, and even more effective at preventing severe illness and death. According to the latest statewide data, vaccinated people are 3.5 times less likely to contract COVID, 8.1 times less likely to be hospitalized, and 5.8 times less likely to die from the disease.

Harvey also shared statistics on vaccine safety. Of more than 380 million doses administered in the United States, medical investigations have found:

• two cases of blood clots following mRNA vaccinations (0.0000005%)

• 46 confirmed reports of blood clots after Johnson & Johnson vaccinations (0.00001%)

• 854 reports of myocarditis or pericarditis (cardiac inflammation) – (0.0002%)

It is still unclear whether noted cases of myocarditis/pericarditis are caused by vaccinations, though medical researchers say there is some correlative evidence. A study published in early August tracking patients who developed myocarditis/pericarditis after vaccination indicated that patients’ symptoms resolved themselves or improved after 2-3 days. As of the latest updates, no one who has developed either syndrome has died.


By LUCAS TURNER | lucas@ht1885.com