County Beat: September 14 meeting

RBC I Rio Blanco County commissioners met in Meeker Tuesday, Sept. 14 to discuss the following public business.

PUBLIC HEALTH

RBC Public Health Director Alice Harvey skipped the bulk of COVID updates for the board this week in anticipation of the Board of Health meeting next Tuesday, Sept. 21 in Rangely, noting that virtual attendance was recommended for the upcoming meeting due to high case rates. Harvey said the department was doing around 130 tests per week on average and fielding 50-100 phone calls per day, noting that CDPHE can no longer assist with surge capacity for case investigations, due to being at capacity themselves. 

With flu season rolling in, public health is again planning to offer drive-through flu shots starting at the end of this month, or early next month. Harvey also mentioned that Holly Knowles, the department’s environmental and retail food inspection specialist, has turned in her resignation. Harvey said further discussions should be held to figure out the best way to work the program with Knowle’s departure. She also noted that local business owners expressed a desire to keep the work local, instead of having to work with a state inspector.

FACILITIES

Two upcoming projects at the Meeker airport have presented additional challenges since the Board of County Commissioners awarded a contract to TDA construction earlier this month. The first, related to outflow/drainage is being held up by a delay in procurement of materials. The delay means the project will be pushed to spring, though noted materials should at least be on site and ready before the end of 2021.

Another project to expand an existing waterline at the airport was proposed to take place at the same time as the drainage project, but after further analysis of existing residential water lines and proposed costs, the expansion may be less certain in the immediate future.

At the Rangely airport, recent damage to a taxi-way by a private contractor has revealed some potential issues with ground underneath the runway. RBC Facilities Director Eric Jaquez said a piece of heavy machinery left a large “trench” in the taxi-way. During an inspection of the damage, Jacquez found the material under the asphalt was “moving all around” and upon closer look, determined the ground underneath was a soft clay. He then recommended using a credit from the contractor who damaged the taxi-way to pay for some of a geotechnical inspection of the area. He said the damaged area is not impacting current operations at the airport.

DHS

Dual-county DHS Director Tia Murry shared information about ongoing efforts to reorganize positions within RBC’s Department of Human Services, revolving around an effort to create more dual-county positions between Rio Blanco and Moffat counties. The effort would add multiple dual county positions, including one for an assistant director, and adult protection worker, which RBC currently does not have. The shift could also involve moving a current case-aide from part time to full time, and splitting the position between both counties. As a result RBC would also lose one child welfare worker. 

Commissioner Gates expressed some concerns over the plan, noting conversations with some DHS staff who said they felt they were missing communication and supervision. Commissioner Moyer noted that he had a different view, stating he was “a big fan of collaborating services.”

4 DAY WORK WEEK

Public Information and Program Manager Carly Thomson shared results of the recent community survey asking residents for their thoughts on a shift to a four-day work week. Based on 263 responses, the majority of residents from all demographics said they felt negatively about the proposed change. Ultimately the board agreed to continue discussing the matter in the future, particularly when Commissioner Rector is in attendance to weigh in.

REGULAR MEETING

During their regular meeting, the board approved a number of items, the most significant of which being a now official decision to begin housing inmates in Moffat County. RBC Sheriff Anthony Mazzola shared comments during the meeting about the decision, reiterating many points expressed in his letter to the editor published in the HT last week. 

Sheriff Mazzola’s comments centered around the concept of “fiscal responsibility” and a desire to continue offering the same patrol and dispatch services to the community despite declining county revenue. He described a decrease of inmates in the RBC jail that goes back years, a problem he said has been exacerbated by legislative changes requiring detention centers to provide more mental health and other services to inmates, and reducing the overall incarceration rates for non-violent offenses. He described some of these legislative changes as “more unfunded mandates.”

The closure, slated to happen in full by January, will result in a loss of five full time employees from the department. The multi-million dollar facility “won’t be mothballed” according to Mazzola who says it could serve as a potential training facility, and will continue to be as a holding center for Sheriff’s deputies, Meeker PD or state patrol officers before they take inmates to Moffat. 

Other major items during the meeting included but were not limited to:

• Approved a letter to Governor Jared Polis and CDPHE requesting the hospitals located within Rio Blanco County be exempted from mandatory COVID 19 Vaccinations for staff members.

• Approved consulting with One Technology Corporation for $9,980 to upgrade firmware on switches in the county broadband network.

• Approved an application for transportation and utility systems and facilities on federal lands for a right of way on County Road 23. Road and Bridge Director Scott Marsh noted his department wanted to spend its paving budget in the Rangely area for next year and needed a right of way agreement in writing.

• Approved a service agreement renewal with Johnson Controls Fire Protection for service of fire alarm, sprinkler and suppression for $13,324.70.

You can view work sessions and meetings in their entirety on the Rio Blanco County YouTube page.


By LUCAS TURNER | lucas@ht1885.com

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