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Raymond Taylor appointed as new county Veterans Service officer

Raymond Taylor was appointed as Archuleta County’s new veteran services officer (VSO) Tuesday afternoon at the Board of County Commissioners’ meeting.

In addition to Taylor, the BoCC created the position of assistant VSO and appointed Tom Sorensen to the position.

The VSO position was recently vacated with the retirement of Andy Fautheree.

The appointments were made in a series of three votes.

The first vote created the position of the assistant VSO and set its pay range even with the VSO, at $11.97-$16.73 per hour ($34,798 annually). The position was approved with a 3-0 vote.

Because he was out of town during the interview process, which his fellow commissioners were involved in, Commissioner Michael Whiting abstained from the following two votes.

The second decision appointed Taylor to the VSO position, with an annual salary of $37,000.

Commissioner Clifford Lucero said the county had five “very good” applicants for the position and that the commissioners learned how much the job requires during the process.

“There’s a lot that goes with this job. It’s incredible,” Lucero said.

During public comment, Jim Stone, president of Veterans Helping Veterans, took issue with the proposed pay for the new VSO, pointing out that the officer was being paid more than the previous VSO despite the steep learning curve of the job that could take multiple years.

Stone also took issue with an inexperienced person being appointed VSO while an experienced person was slated to be appointed assistant VSO, with about 12 percent of the county’s population being veterans.

Stone also pointed out previous issues with the VSO office, to which Lucero responded that the past was the past and a new team was in place to move forward.

Lucero also pointed out that outgoing VSO Fautheree thought higher pay might help the county retain a VSO for a longer period of time.

“I think this is fair and I’ll stand behind that,” Lucero said.

“This board has bent over backwards to try to address the needs of veterans,” Commissioner Steve Wadley said, adding that the BoCC would have likely been criticized for a lower pay scale, also.

Veteran Roy Vega commended the BoCC on their decision, noting that the county could potentially have 20 years of service from Taylor if he worked until retirement age and that the team approach was the “perfect solution.”

After being officially appointed with a 2-0 vote, Taylor admitted that, while he may not have experience “per se,” he has been a veteran for 20 years and has already begun reaching out to the county’s veterans.

“I’m going to hit the deck running,” Taylor said.

Taylor served in the U.S. Navy from 1979-1999, working in nuclear engineering.

The last of the decisions appointed Sorensen as assistant VSO, hired at $17 per hour.

Sorensen served as VSO, emergency management director and E-911 coordinator from 1983 to 2000 in McLean County, N.D.

He served in the U.S. Navy from 1972 to 1975.

“Your knowledge is just wow,” Lucero said to Sorensen. “It’s impressive.”

Sorensen also indicated he believed the county made the right decision with the team appointed.

“I think you guys have made a good decision, as well,” he said. “I think that we can work very well together.”

VSOs are required by state law to have served in the military and been given an honorable discharge.

In other business at the meeting:

• The BoCC approved a contract with the Pagosa Springs Medical Center to provide meals to inmates at the Archuleta County Detention Center.

Previously, the county and hospital joined together to contract for food services in order to increase volume and decrease prices.

Now, however, the hospital is able to provide meals at the same price as the last vendor, Summit Food Services, and it bid for the county’s food service contract.

The medical center and Summit were the only two bidders for the contract.

“I see this as a very collaborative relationship,” said County Administrator Greg Schulte said of the new, three-year food service contract.

The ACDC has contracted with Summit, a New Mexico company, since 2008.

“It would be great to keep this money here at home,” Whiting said.

Lucero added that the hospital preparing the food would help to create jobs locally.

• The BoCC approved a letter in support of keeping the Chromo Post Office open.

The Chromo Post Office, built in 1885, was recently chosen as one of many nationwide to be closed as the U.S. Postal Service looks to cut costs.

Chromo residents have circulated a petition and at Tuesday’s meeting spoke of the post office as a vital part of the Chromo community, noting the two hours it would take Chromo residents to drive to the post office in Pagosa Springs and back home.

An October meeting with USPS officials is expected.

• The Sheriff’s Department was given the go-ahead to fill two vacant positions in detentions — one created through a resignation and the other through the termination of a probationary employee.

The positions, both full time, start at $15.22 per hour.

• The commissioners approved the allocation for the 2011 U.S. Forest Service Payment, receivable in 2012.

The BoCC allocated a projected $552,000 between the USFS Title I, II and III funding, which is then available for projects that fit definitions of each category (such as Title II Secure Rural Schools funding).

The commissioners are required to give 15-20 percent of the total amount to Title II and a maximum of 7 percent to Title III.

The board is also required to allocate at least 25 percent to local school districts, but are allowed to give the county’s 25 percent that would go to road and bridge to the schools under Title I.

Any money allocated to Title III, however, is later subtracted from the amount the county receives through PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) funding.

In order to maximize the federal contribution to Archuleta County, the BoCC allocated 85 percent to Title I, 8 percent to Title II and 7 percent to Title III.

The 85 percent given to Title I will now be divided by a panel consisting of a representative of each school district serving Archuleta County — Archuleta, Bayfield and Ignacio.

• The county will issue an RFP for snow removal services at the airport in order to compile a list of resources to be used on an hourly basis when the county needs additional help with snow removal.

The county contracted with Hart Construction for $46,700 last season, with eight snow events built into the contract.

Airport Manager Bill McKown said he hopes the new format, which will include county road and bridge crews helping with runway snow removal when road conditions allow (roads will be the first priority), will be less expensive for the county.

• The BoCC approved a symbolic memorandum of understanding with the Town of Pagosa Springs and Geothermal Stakeholders Group.

County Attorney Todd Starr said the MoU is not a binding agreement but, instead, is an agreement to work together, moving forward with geothermal testing and work.

The town council previously gave Mayor Ross Aragon permission to sign the MoU without formal council approval.

The next regular BoCC meeting will take place Sept. 20 at 1:30 p.m.

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