County workshare program started just before stay at home order enacted by state

RBC | Complying with state and national guidelines for social distancing and reducing group gatherings, the Rio Blanco County Commissioners held their regular meeting Tuesday by telephone and online.

During the meeting, they approved the EMS Incident Objective for COVID-19 that was presented at the Rangely work session last week. The document establishes the ICS (Incident Command System) to address the coronavirus outbreak. Multiple agencies are now working together in preparation for the first confirmed cases in Rio Blanco County. Commission chair Jeff Rector was appointed to be the board representative to the EMS Council on the Incident Action Plan. The board appointed EMS Council members Shanna Kinney, Luke Pelloni and Carinda Otte to the Northwest Regional Emergency Medical and Trauma Services Advisory Council (NWRETAC). Colorado has 11 councils, consisting of five or more counties, responsible for creating regional implementation plans for delivering emergency medical and trauma care.

The board approved a $5,000 donation to Meeker Range Call from economic development. The funding is in lieu of money from a tobacco cessation grant through public health that was applied to Range Call for the last couple of years.

The aerial spraying bid for the Piceance Weed and Pest District was tabled.

Commissioners awarded bids for the County Road 8 surface treatment and the county chip seal to United Companies for $1,365,901 and $909,259 respectively.

Coulter Aviation was awarded the bid for the Lower White River Pest Control District Aerial Spray for $156,448.

Bids to be awarded for multiple small vehicles were opened last week, but County Attorney Todd Starr said an additional bid from Craig was not opened due to an oversight. That bid was opened Tuesday morning in the presence of witnesses and included in the list for staff consideration.

In awarding vehicle bids, Commissioner Gary Moyer mentioned the importance of the “local preference” in bidding, which gives the board the option to choose a local business over an out of county business in bids, even if the out of county bid is the low bidder.

Northwest Auto was awarded the bid for five of the eight vehicles.

The board also approved agreements for service for miscellaneous county projects with several restaurants: El Agave, Outfitters Diner, Mexican House and Ma Famiglia, as part of the workshare program approved last week without a noticed public meeting. The goal of the workshare program is to provide temporary employment — paid for from the county’s general fund — to workers displaced by coronavirus related mandated closures.

A press release from the county’s Economic Development (ED) Department March 18 explaining the program states, in part: “Rio Blanco County leaders have decided to implement a work-share program starting Monday, March 23. This program is meant to serve as an optional and temporary form of relief for private businesses and their employees that are included in the recent public health order issued March 16 (this includes the closure of all bars, restaurants, theaters, gymnasiums and casinos in Colorado). We understand that this program is not the answer to the widespread economic impact that we will likely see over time, but is a small gesture of assistance that we can offer almost immediately to those that are directly impacted by the public health order.  This was not a decision that the commissioners took lightly. There is always the weight of understanding that taxpayers’ funds are in play when decisions like this are made. This is an unprecedented, urgent situation and we are proud to be able to assist our communities in this way.”

In commissioner updates, Woodruff said he has been “keeping a low profile” but has his phone close by. “I hope people take it seriously,” he said.

Moyer discussed the workshare program, praised the public health department’s response to the coronavirus, and thanked Sheriff Anthony Mazzola for his response to the governor’s mandates.

Rector also praised the county departments involved in the workshare program, and those departments planning for the coronavirus.