What’s Up With the County? Staffing examined; justice center work begins

RBC I As we roll into the final quarter of 2014, the Rio Blanco County commissioners are busy establishing the 2015 budget.
One area of importance in the 2015 budget concerns the number of employees we have serving the public. The commissioners have asked all departments to analyze staffing levels.
One hundred and 25 full-time employees were employed by Rio Blanco County in 2004, and we now employ 148 full-time employees.
We feel we will be able to reach around a 12 full-time employee reduction between 2004 and 2013 levels through upcoming retirements, resignations and redistributing job duties without negatively impacting service to the residents of Rio Blanco County.
The commissioners feel it is fiscally responsible to look at the staffing situation as the severe downturn in the local economy has resulted in an already experienced 11 percent drop in assessed property valuations and an estimated 5 percent decrease in 2015.

The county has also seen a 10 percent increase in health insurance expenses during the past several years and expects an additional 10 percent increase in insurance costs in 2015.
The commissioners have agreed to split the 2014 allocation of Federal Mineral Lease (severance tax) dollars between the Road and Bridge and IT departments. Road and Bridge will use its portion of the funds as matching grant dollars to pursue DOLA grants and accomplish several key road projects. IT will use its portion of the funds to further develop and implement the county’s broadband plan.
The county has received numerous proposals from internet service providers to move the broadband plan forward, and sometime in October, IT Director Blake Mobley will have finished his evaluation of these proposals and present his findings to the commissioners.
The goal of the broadband plan is to provide critical infrastructure for service providers to be able to provide high quality broadband and cellular capabilities to the residents of Rio Blanco County.

As a quick update on other county projects, the justice center project is moving along nicely and all abatement of the existing structure is complete.
The commissioners will sign the contract for construction services on Oct. 6, and construction will commence.
The board has been discussing facilitating electrical permitting and inspections at the local level, streamlining the process currently enforced by the state. There is still much discussion needed on this before a decision will be made, but having local control of these permits and inspections will benefit contractors and businesses alike.

Lastly, Laura Smith is now the county’s human resource director, replacing Teresa Anderson.
Teresa has retired, and the board would like to recognize her 44 years of service to the county. Teresa started with the county in the sheriff’s office as a dispatcher, moved to the planning office, and worked her way up to human resources director and the board assistant.
Through the years, Teresa has worked in the majority of the departments in one capacity or another.
We all wish her well with her new page in life.

By Shawn Bolton
Rio Blanco County Commissioner
Special to the Herald Times