Approximately 12 citizens in attendance, along with Commissioners Thayer, Pettitt and Richardson.County Manager Sam Albrecht present.
Editorial comment: Silence is complicity; if citizens don’t show up, the commissioners believe that the rest of the county supports them overwhelmingly. Part of the blame lies with the county for poor communications regarding these meetings (for instance, the January calendar on the county website only listed these meetings earlier this week), however, the citizens are not blameless. In 2011, 1000+ EC citizens showed up at a BOCC meeting and effectively thwarted a water export scheme by Karl Nyquist/Wildpointe.....physical presence makes THE difference.
Commissioners provided updates on the following items:
-BOCC meetings, per Richardson, are “business meetings,” so they take place during “business hours” which is why they aren’t held on other days or at other times.
-Building County Capabilities: services provided are dependent on revenue; over the last couple years, staffing has been built up to about 2009-2010 levels; still only open 4 days/week; reviewed new hires that have occurred.
-Implementing the Strategic Plan: county has never had a long range plan; strategic plan adopted 2018 - will use for setting budget priorities; county will depend on state demographers for numbers for projections of future population growth; for 2019, focus will be on facilities - assessments will be done on various older county buildings; updating county transportation plan; paved roads and bridge assessments have all been done - will assess gravel roads in 2019.
-Communication/Transparency: “work in progress” Goal with new notification system for those on Sunshine List is to get notices out on Thursdays before the following Wednesday BOCC meetings; working to improve social media; quarterly insert in Prairie Times; Town Hall quarterly meetings to continue.
-Changing Financial Outlook: some departments still short staffed; chart presented showing that in 2011, county had less than 3 days of funds to pay bills; for 2019, projected to have 126 days of funds on hand for paying bills; the $4.3 million we received (one time payment) from the wind farm has allowed the county to create a contingency/stabilization fund; wouldn’t have been able to pay the balloon payment on the Justice Center had we not refinanced the loan.
-Sustaining our Aquifer Water Supply: state encourages water management along with growth management; plan to work with towns and adjoining counties to study needs; will integrate conservation methods in planning.
-Zoning Regulations: existing regulations inconsistent; have been working for 2 years to update zoning regs; to be hopefully approved by Planning Commission soon; purpose of proposed overlay zone (EDZ) is to provide for multiple uses along high traffic roads - feedback commissioners are getting on EDZ is that it will speed up and reduce costs for new businesses, as well as hopefully capture retail dollars currently being spent outside the county (which will increase sales and use tax to EC); Thayer says we have “way more than 300 years of water” in the county; USGS water monitoring study ongoing; for housing subdivisions of greater than 320 homes, developers will be required to build some alternative housing (i.e. townhomes, affordable housing, etc.); open space - county has no funds to develop but developers going forward will be required to have a plan to develop and finance open space.
-Subdivision Regulations: to be presented Wednesday 1/23/19 at BOCC meeting.
Questions from Public:
-Patty Lampman asked for clarity on horse trails in Wildpointe - they’re public per an agreement with the county but HOA has to maintain trails; function of how property was deeded; shocked at how much taxes are for metro districts - Richardson says that commissioners will require developers to post signs for meetings; Patty also asked why new Planning Commission members are not a diverse group - Thayer stated that they “look at diversity a lot” (meaning geographical diversity solely) when appointing new PC members; Richardson said, “I don’t care what it looks like as long as it works” when questioned further about diversity; Richardson doesn’t think it is a conflict of interest to appoint former commissioner Danny Willcox to the PC.
Editorial comment: real diversity would look like gender diversity, diversity in qualifications and background, as well as proportional diversity based on political affiliation....EC is 54% Republican, 33% Unaffiliated, and 13% Democratic.
-Marlene Groves stated that the appearance of “appointing friends” to the PC is prevalent.
-Rick Brown asked about the vacancy for the Director of Administration - former Sheriff Heap is reportedly being considered; hiring this particular person “will not enhance the BOCC or county government.” Concerns about this person included missing weapons under his watch and inappropriate behavior at a BOCC meeting in 2015 - both of which are failures of executive leadership. Richardson stated that hiring this person falls under the purview of the county manager saying, “I trust that Sam will do what’s right for the county.”
-Wayne “Lumpy” Ordakowski made comments reinforcing the importance of not hiring the former sheriff: 1) leadership mistakes, and 2) Sam Albrecht (who is doing the hiring) is not aware of Heap’s history in the county.
-Jill Duvall asked why citizens are calling her stating that the commissioners are seeking opinions on hiring the former sheriff (when the commissioners are stating that they have no involvement with the hiring for this position); all 3 commissioners denied ever doing this.
-Marlene Groves asked if the commissioners are totally uninvolved in the hiring of the Director of Administration; Richardson said he’d received one email about Heap and Thayer denied any involvement in the issue other than “returning phone calls.”
-Connie Miller stated that people have spoken strongly against Shayne Heap being hired as the Director of Administration; they do not want him back in county administration. It would be “ripping up the healing process” that’s taking place in the county now; what impact would this have on the new sheriff with the former sheriff in a leadership position. She asked Sam Albrecht to please not hire Heap.
-Rick Brown stated that Heap has “failed as a manager” based on his past performance.
-Sam Albrecht stated that he was hearing the citizens regarding this potential hire.
-Tony Schefelbein, former deputy with sheriff’s office for 12 years, stated that transparency was largely lacking while he served in the office (including under Heap); also Heap is not a “relational” person and is unprofessional; “shell games” were played with finances under Heap’s tenure. He offered to share “where the bodies are buried” if county is interested.
-Bob Ware asked about affordable housing and what it would amount to; Richardson said that an “affordable house doesn’t provide much profit for the developer.” Thayer said he made a mistake using the word “affordable” (see comment above) and should have used “multiple opportunities.” Regarding well monitoring, Gold Creek is starting their own monitoring program. USGS is seriously concerned about what’s happening with water in the western part of the county based on what they’re seeing. Need to move more monitoring to eastern part of county. Ware shared that his well is dropping 10 feet per year and formerly only dropped 3 feet per year....this should concern all citizens in the county.
-Grant Thayer stated that the next item on their list is to rewrite special district regulations. Several audience members offered to help with this process.
-Marlene Groves stated that one of her wells went dry, and another one is intermittent. Asked if there is any well monitoring in her area. Also asked about agri-tourism AirBnBs, etc. Albrecht said these are under consideration. She also complained about not receiving communications from the new system Civiclerk; was told to contact Dallas Schroeder.
-Rick Brown asked about county offices being open 4 days - nice benefit for employees, but can offices be staffed 5 days? Richardson said they will be looking at flex scheduling year by year.
-Ken Cardwell asked why we need the Director of Administration. Richardson stated that too many folks are vying for the County Manager’s time, so he needs help. Also asked why previous sheriff’s page is still up on the EC county website under a Yuma, CO web host. Asked if we are an “at will” county regarding employment; CO is an “at will” state. Richardson stated that county employees know that county has deep pockets, so they sue the county if fired. Now all director and higher level citizens are hired under a contract.
Editorial comment: Chris Richardson continues to lack professionalism when dealing with citizens who have made the effort to come to a poorly publicized Town Hall meeting in order to voice their very real concerns. When audience members dared to chat with a neighbor or react to a comment made by Richardson, he referred to those reactions as “smirks” and belittled citizens for daring to disagree. Unfortunately, Richardson’s inability to connect with citizens who do not share his views diminished the effectiveness of his overall presentation....which had many good points.
-Future Town Halls: April 17/18 Simla/Elizabeth; July 17/18 Elbert/Agate; October 16/17 TBD.