A pat on the back

It has been easy to criticize the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners. For the past four-plus years, the board has painted a target on itself — with members fighting, some deserting their public duty to pursue personal interests, the commission missing a disastrous financial meltdown at the county level, with often less than transparent board activity and action.

It is as easy to praise the commission when things are done right. Despite negative public opinion regarding the manner in which the BoCC has handled the planning commission situation, the current board has done several things right — very well, and notice must be paid.

We criticized the board recently for a lack of attention to the spirit of the Colorado Open Meetings Law but, last week, the BoCC turned around and performed admirably. The La Plata County Board of County Commissioners requested a meeting with our BoCC to consider “legal advice on specific legal questions” relating to implementation of SB 194 — the Colorado Public Health Reauthorization Act. That act requires counties to “establish a public heath agency or be a part of a district public health agency organized under a local board of health … to provide public health services.”

Since 1948, Archuleta and La Plata counties have funded San Juan Basin Health Department, with a board appointed by the BoCC of each county. La Plata County has funded San Juan Basin health only through June of this year — near a deadline set in SB 194 for action on a public health plan.

The La Plata commission requested an executive session with our board and, when questioned, the La Plata County BoCC responded that information about the specific legal questions had not been sent to Archuleta County for review due to the fact La Plata officials were unaware our county had a county attorney.

Blather. The La Plata board has something in mind concerning the health department, and did not want to discuss it openly.

And that is what our commissioners thought of the request. The bottom line: talk about this in the open. Commissioner Moomaw made it clear there would be no executive session, that our BoCC, given the available information, chooses to do its business in the light of day, in an open meeting. Any plan La Plata County has regarding the bill and the arrangement with San Juan Basin health would have to wait if it is to be undertaken with help from Archuleta County.

La Plata County responded this week with a different tack: “Determining negotiating strategies and positions and instructing negotiators” and an executive session will be held in Durango today. Whether the legal justification is in harmony with the meeting content remains to be seen, since we are not told the nature of the “negotiations” — as in, with whom?

Meanwhile, our BoCC is on the right road in other ways, as well.

First, read this week’s SUN story concerning county finances. Steps are being taken to shore the dike that was breached the past four years. Second, the board voted to send out two requests for proposals: one for 35,000 tons of gravel destined for use on at least five county roads this season, the other for work on an expanded Park Avenue paving project —long overdue, on one of the worst sections of road in the county system.

The county has Ballot Issue 1A monies carried over from 2008, as well as this year’s road money allotment, and is ready to go. Crews will begin applying mag chloride to roads as soon as possible, with two applications possible this season.

The key: there is a plan. Unlike last year, when little was done, and little of it timely, due to a lack of a plan, this year the scenario is different. Commissioners and staff deserve a pat on the back, with more to come once the projects are conducted successfully.