By NIKI TURNER
RBC I Representatives from multiple county and municipal agencies met with the Rio Blanco County Commissioners to provide updates on programs and projects in an interagency meeting.
RBC Assessor Renae Neilson said this is a reappraisal year. The east end of the county is “up a little” for appraisals and the “west end not down as far as we thought.”
Field Director Kent Walter said the Travel Plan and Buffalo Horn land transfer are expected to be completed by the end of the year. Despite four vacancies, “fire staffing should be on board” for the next fire season, including two new engines. BLM has requested funding to collect 700 excess horses from the Piceance Basin. He also expressed BLM’s willingness to work to meet the county’s timeline for installation of secondary broadband towers.
COLORADO PARKS AND WILDLIFE
Bill deVergie addressed the prevalence of Chronic Wasting Disease in our local deer populations, which is at 18 precent. The entity is currently at work on a herd management plan revision plan.
Gary Moyer: “I’m learning a lot, just starting to get my feet wet. It’s been fun and I appreciate the support.”
Si Woodruff: “It seems like everyone is crying for good employees countywide.”
Jeff Rector: Addressing a discussion regarding Rangely’s economic condition, Rector said, “That community will never lay down and die. I’ve seen it worse than it is right now. In 1983 it was worse than it is right now. It’s been there before. We never talk about the deficit until we’re there. When we’re on top of the world we never talk about what to do when the bottom drops out. We need to diversify.”
Director Cody Crooks said his department has 28 request for broadband service they are working to satisfy. Once the secondary towers are complete, 95 percent of the properties in the county will be able to access broadband speeds. There was a public meeting in regard to this Feb. 19. About easements between the county and private landowners for secondary towner sites. Crooks said the meeting is “crucial to move forward.”
Callie Hendrickson said the conservation districts are finalizing their scope of work for 2019 on the White River algae issue. They hope the USGS team will be able to be in the river by April, and are trying to coordinate with local residents who can take photos of the algae bloom as it develops this spring. They’re also working on the integrative water management plan process, which Hendrickson said, “will be a long process.” The districts are also heavily involved in the wild horse population problems. “In the 10 states where wild horses are protected there should be 27,000 horses. Last spring there were more than 82,000, with another 45,000 in holding facilities that cost taxpayers about $50 million a year.” The district is looking to hire a district conservation technician.
DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES
“Our numbers don’t seem to want to slow down at all,” said Barb Bofinger, director of human services for the county. As a department they are working to increase prevention programs for families with community partners with the goal of keeping the family out of the system. With no certified foster homes in the county, kids are sent out of town and sometimes to the Front Range for foster care, so DHS is “committed” to getting a home certified in Meeker and one in Rangely. “We desperately want to keep kids in our own community,” she said. Echoing Julie Drake, Bofinger said substance abuse is the source the problem in most of the cases they see. The department is also working with ERBM to bring some exercise programs to the seniors through White River Roundup.
Ty Gates is at work on a hazard mitigation plan for the county and both towns in accordance with regulations.
Executive Director Sean VonRoenn said the rec center averages 40,000 uses in a given year, and are working to further expand the trail system, implement the fishing pond at Circle Park and a second phase of planning for Circle Park that would include some additional infrastructure, connected walkways and fencing.
Finance Director Janae Stansworth said she’s preparing for annual audits in May and helping the commissioners.
Blanco District Manager Curtis Keetch said due to the government furlough the district is reassessing the program of work. “Some projects will fall off the plate,” he said. This year is the 100th anniversary of Arthur Carhartt’s visit to Trappers Lake. A celebration focusing on wilderness values and the Flat Tops is planned. Keetch praised the work done by the economic development department around OHV trails, and said there are three new outfitters who want to do guided OHV trips in the county.
GIS AND LAND SURVEYING
Now under its own department, Leif Joy’s skills combine surveying and mapping with drone and AutoCAD capabilities. “We’re hopefully saving a lot of money in-house with these designs,” Joy said.
MEEKER SANITATION DISTRICT
Board president Travis Day said the district has to redo an earth dam for the water treatment plant to comply with flood plain regulations.
MEEKER SCHOOL DISTRICT
Meeker School Superintendent Chris Selle said the district has shown strong academic growth and performance that have earned accreditation for the last three years. “The big thing for us right now is the new high school and bus garage,” he said. The district hopes to begin construction on the high school as soon as school is out.
MEEKER SPORTSMAN’S CLUB
Speaking for the Sportsman’s Club, Dave Overton said the sale of the property where the shooting range is located has endangered the range. “We’re in danger of, and probably will lose, our range; hoping we can find some help to find a place to relocate either on public land or private land.”
PIONEERS MEDICAL CENTER
CEO Ken Harman said the hospital is studying the feasibility of an orthopedic surgery expansion and will have a decision in the next two-three months. He also said the hospital board has expressed a desire “for us to operate less on property taxes.” PMC is also working toward expanding primary care, which will include the addition of Dr. Justin Grant this summer. Grant is the brother of dentist Trevor Grant, who opened his practice in Meeker last summer.
County planner Rachel Gates said her department is excited about a “large renewable energy” application worth upwards of $10 million for which she’s working to solidify a location.
Director Julie Drake said, “Substance abuse disorder is public enemy No. 1.” She’s working with ways to collaborate with partners to address public health needs.
RBC HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Speaking for the Rio Blanco County Historical Society, Bob Amick said now that Meeker has been designated as a National Historic District, property owners have access to “100 percent grants” to refurbish historic buildings.
RIO BLANCO WATER CONSERVANCY DISTRICT
Alden VandenBrink was hopeful that “by this time next year we’ll be armpit deep” in the White River Storage Project (Wolf Creek Reservoir). Currently, they are in the pre-permitting process. “The reservoir is one of the ways we can diversify; it’s a hinge pin project for a lot of other projects to develop other resources.”
There’s been much discussion and concern about drought management and the potential for a “compact call” on the rivers. At this point, if there are any demands they would be voluntary, temporary and compensated, but the Yampa and the White rivers are the “first sacrificial lambs” to be shut off in the event of a call on the river.
Sheriff Anthony Mazzola said the Sheriff’s Office has been covering shifts for the Rangely Police Department while two of their officers are on leave during an investigation into an officer-involved shooting in December 2018. “It’s a partnership,” he said. “You go help out.”
ROAD AND BRIDGE
Road and Bridge Director Dave Morlan said they’ll be focusing on several bridge maintenance projects this year.
TOWN OF RANGELY
Rangely Mayor and Fire Chief Andy Shaffer said, “Rangely is basically trying to maintain with less; we’re just kind of maintaining with what we have. The property values and the loss of oil and gas is hurting us so we’re trying to figure out creative ways to go around that.” Shaffer said new town manager Lisa Piering is doing a wonderful job, and said the police department appreciates the help from the Sheriff’s Office while they’ve been short-staffed.
Wildlife Services Officer Justin Ewing said the hot topic of discussion is wolf reintroduction. He said he believes it will be implemented by legislation instead of a ballot measure, which would require an environmental impact study and an implementation plan which could extend the timeframe up to 10 years. If Congress removes wolves from the endangered species list, no environmental assessment would be required. The Flat Tops, Ewing said, would be one of four locations on the Western Slope where wolves would be artificially introduced.
Executive Director Tim Webber said with the change to the state government, “Rangely could be in real jeopardy of losing Rangely,” adding that WRBM will have to start reducing services in the next five years without an increase in property taxes. “The rec and park district has been there since 1979 and it’s running on 4 mills.”