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BoCC agenda fraught with finance

Tuesday’s meeting of the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners included a number of financial decisions pertinent to Pagosa Country residents.

Following the consent agenda, liquor board and board of equalization matters, the first new business item on the agenda was completed sans an aye-nay tally from the commissioners.

Without a vote, the BoCC denied a request from the San Juan Basin Health Department to increase the county’s contribution to the entity.

SJBHD Director of Public Health Leon Vinci began the plea to the BoCC with highlights from the department’s last annual report, which included a 16-percent growth in service to elderly citizens, a 24-percent growth of services for women and children, and a 22-percent growth in services to teens.

Vinci said the district is seeing lost grants, adding that the finances for SJBHD look to show a loss for 2010, and 2011 “doesn’t look much better,” though, in light of the current economy, the need for services is increasing.

In the plea, Vinci noted that, while the county’s contribution to SJBHD has stayed steady over the years, the county has increased funding to other entities.

SJBHD Board Member Bill Wilson continued the request, acknowledging the difficult financial times, but asking for a moderate increase in funding of as much as $10,000, which would move the county’s contribution to the department from about $118,000 in 2011 to about $128,000.

Commissioner Bob Moomaw, the BoCC member currently appointed to the SJBHD board, highlighted Archuleta County’s financial difficulties over the years and noted that SJBHD seemed to be following suit.

“I think it is something we need to consider,” Moomaw said, before adding that he was not guaranteeing an increase would be possible.

“I don’t mean to be a wet blanket, but I usually am,” Commissioner John Ranson said before informing Vinci that the county’s General Fund has also seen a decrease over the years and that county employees had, like SJBHD’s, been denied raises due to tight budgets.

Vinci and Wilson continued their plea before hearing Commissioner Clifford Lucero speak, noting the increase in services requested and used, and the need for the district to regain stability.

Wilson said that, once funding becomes secure, the district would look at program changes.

After a commissioner question, Vinci said the district had about $1.3 million currently in reserves, which he said equates to about three months of operating expenses.

Lucero said the county was also tightening its budget in anticipation of 2012’s drop in property tax revenues, but said that, hopefully, down the road, the county would be able to increase funding for SJBHD.

“It’s just the economic times right now,” Lucero said before the discussion ended.

The BoCC then moved on to sign a number of documents to allow the Region 9 Economic Development District to administer Community Block Development Grant program loans, which help local businesses with startups.

Five counties — Archuleta, La Plata, Montezuma, Dolores and San Juan — will sign the documents for Region 9 to administer the loans, a move County Administrator Greg Schulte said in a later interview is more efficient and cost effective than each county administering grants, a task he said county staff is not keen on undertaking.

Next, the BoCC voted to allow an application for funding to the tune of $1 million to be sent to Colorado Counties, Inc. (CCI) for the West Cat Creek bridge project.

CCI and the Colorado Municipal League (CML) oversee off-system funding for the Colorado Department of Transportation, and the bridge is classified as an off-system bridge.

Public Works Director Ken Feyen said the bridge has a current efficiency rating of 27.7 on a scale of 100. Prior funding for the bridge’s replacement was transferred to the Juanita Bridge replacement project.

Because of the low rating, Feyen said the bridge’s weight allowance has been reduced, meaning heavy equipment cannot travel over the bridge.

Feyen said the county hopes to replace in the bridge around the same time as CDOT completes planned lane work to add eastbound acceleration and deceleration lanes at the intersection.

“This is, to me, an extremely important thing,” Moomaw said, noting the danger of the East Cat Creek intersection, which would be closed following the bridge repair.

In response to questions from resident Teri Frazier, Feyen said the bridge is expected to cost $650,000-700,000, while engineering costs are anticipated to fall in the range of $150,000-175,000.

If not approved by CCI, the county would continue to seek grant funding for the project, Feyen said, because using 1A roads funding would mean minimal road work elsewhere in the county for a year.

Schulte added that 1A funding is set to expire before the bridge could be completed, but said the county has a fair chance at the CDOT funding because it is limited to bridges of a 50-percent rating or less.

The county hopes to hear on the outcome of the funding request by the end of December.

Spurring angry public comment and a role call vote, the BoCC also made a decision to award an information technology maintenance contract to Mitchell and Company for the years 2011-13, as long as funding allows.

Though Mitchell was not the apparently low bidder in the process, Contracts and Procurement Officer Larry Walton explained that, through a lengthy process in which the county’s complicated computer system was taken into account, it was determined that the chosen company ranked higher than the apparent low bidder in fulfilling the county’s needs.

Following a statement from Lucero on the clear, defined and fair process used to determine quality rankings, the topic was opened to public discussion.

Kirk England, who disclosed involvement with a local company that bid on the contract, criticized the county’s methods in choosing the contract winner, noting that it was modified to identify the county’s favorite vendor and the lowest cost was overlooked.

England then requested the BoCC continue the item to give the commissioners time to personally look over the proposals.

Lucero commended Walton on the panel put together to review the proposals, expressing his desire to fix the county’s IT system and move forward, then called for a role call vote.

All three commissioners offered affirmative votes, each giving reasons aligned with fixing the county’s “piecemeal” system.

Moving on to more business concerning funding and services, the BoCC passed a resolution to solidify the county’s move from being a self-insured entity to joining County Technical Services, Inc.’s County Health Pool, which serves most Colorado counties, according to Schulte.

The BoCC chose CTSI at a special meeting earlier in the month.

While the first year likely won’t offer much in the way of cost savings due to transitional work, Schulte anticipated that, dependent upon the changing insurance field, the county could save around $200,000 a year beginning in year two.

At the Tuesday meeting, the BoCC also chose a dental plan to include in the coverage, leading resident Steve Van Horn to question the county’s inclusion of dental insurance when few employees in the private sector have dental insurance.

Continuing to deal with financial issues, the board denied a request from Emergency Operations staff to apply for a $6,000 Volunteer Fire Assistance Grant Application to include a compressed foam application system for an engine currently in the works.

Citing that the system could be added later for little additional cost, a $6,000 match from the General Fund and the fact that, in an emergency, the state would supply resources, the BoCC denied the request.

“I have no problem with Emergency Management; I have a problem with taking it out of the General Fund,” Lucero said.

The BoCC then continued down the agenda, taking on the fee for a medical marijuana license.

In the case of medical marijuana licenses, the state allows the counties to set their own fees, said Senior Planner Cindy Schultz.

Schultz said that few counties in the state regulate medical marijuana, but that Durango follows the same fee schedule and process as is required for a liquor license, which has an accompanying fee of $1,000.

Schultz proposed that Archuleta County do the same, charging the same $1,000 as it does for a liquor license.

Ranson expressed concern that the fee was low, with Lucero also questioning if the fee was enough to sufficiently cover staff time.

Citing the additional work done by Starr on a comparison of medical marijuana and liquor licensing, the board went against staff recommendations, choosing to amend the fee schedule to include a $2,000 fee.

Lastly, the county approved a letter of support for the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation in their quest to host the fourth annual Colorado Entrepreneurship Market Place in September 2011.

Michael Whiting noted during the public comment segment of the meeting that the PSCDC is looking for 50 letters of support from local businesses by Friday, Nov. 19, and that the event would bring about 500 entrepreneurs to the area.

The BoCC also proclaimed November to be Pancreatic Cancer Month.

The next regular BoCC meeting will be Dec. 7 at 1:30 p.m.