Following is a summary of views of one person on what was viewed and heard in the Montezuma Board of County Commissioners.
PUBLIC COMMENT time: Only one public comment was offered. A Steve Nowlin, a public tax payer, expressed concern on how he thought the LEA fund expenditures were different than the intent of the tax as passed. Some discussion, with comments that no irregularities have been noted and that there would be an explanation by the Sheriffs office later in afternoon for public to attend.
ROAD DEPT. REPORT by Supt. indicated that road B is nearing completion. Road S from Hwy 491 over to Rd 25 will be receiving chip seal this next week (plan your travel accordingly). Weed control team will be starting up. Dolores/Norwood road is coordinating with FS on maintenance and the issue of County assuming legal authority is being worked on. Need to expedite work on a parking area for Sand Canyon with BLM, not moving very fast. The New Road Supt. seems to have hit the ground running, quite well.
ITC section has been upgrading the phone and computer access systems. The County will have a new updated website more user friendly in maybe a week. Noted that the new sound system at the fairgrounds worked out real well, and will get even better with use. The electronic sign on the old 1st. Nat’l bank building,now new County offices, has been repaired and made operational so it can be programed to display events, special notices, etc. This should be operational in a week also, so start paying attention!!! The ITC team was asked to look into feasibility and costs for an electronic sign at the fairgrounds to help advertise events there.
PLANNING James reported on the progress on the trail from Phil’s World to Mancos, via Mesa Verde. It is going to be a lengthy process as it involves crossing a part of the Nat’l Park which invokes all kinds of federal regs and costs. When more progress is achieved, public input meetings will be held. The Breakwater for McPhee Marina has been in limbo with nothing happening. It is noted that it needed to be fixed ASAP, James will be contacting the engineer and also past owners for any helpful info on anchor points.
LODGERS TAX board gave a report. An appointment to the committee is needed, but the County needs to advertise it first. So far the Lodgers tax receipts indicate a decent start, but it is early in the season, so no trend is detectable yet. Also, it was interesting to find out there are two different lodgers tax groups, one for the unincorporated parts of the County, and one for the City of Cortez. So the County lodgers have no way of knowing the impacts that occur in the City.
SAGE GROUSE issue was brought to the BOCC by Micelle Chorak. She informed the BOCC that the Forest Service is a dues paying member of the IUCN, a function of the United Nations that sets policies in conservation. Following those international policies compromises State Sovereignty and negatively impacts future land and resource management and improvements.
LEA (Law Enforcement Authority) tax revenue issue was explained and discussed by the Sheriff’s office and staff. This was on the agenda due to concerns expressed in the media over possible inappropriate use of the funds. The questions had been raised as do we really need this tax supported fund? What can the funds be used for? It was explained that this was a very good thing that the past sheriff had got established. The tax is received from the unincorporated areas of the County ONLY, no input from city of Cortez residents. The LEA funds provides a good medium range salary for patrols, allowing them living salary for their families without having to work overtime which contributes to “burn out” and poor family relations. The LEA funds allows for restructuring by implementing a “Pretrial Services” that reduced number of inmates thus reducing need for higher staffing (and more budget) for the detention/jail. It was pointed out that the actual budget for the Sheriff’s office (does not include detention) has been reduced since 2008. NO additional administrative office staff has been added. Patrols need to have 12 patrolmen to cover the three shifts over the large area of the County. Currently have several in certification training. Personnel turnover is a common problem in all sheriff departments, mostly due to lower pay scales of Counties. The LEA funding helps reduce that with the certified Patrol staff here. The detention staff are not certified patrolmen and are on a lower pay scale, which is where the majority of regular vacancies occur as the employees gain experience and move on to better paying jobs. The issue of new vehicles was discussed, with the staff pointing out that the repairs to the motor fleet was becoming excessive and their replacement was needed and the new plan was for a leasing contract that allows for continuous safe and dependable vehicles at a very real savings It was pointed out we cannot compare budgets with other counties, we need to look at actual EXPENDITURES. Locally the budget is planned for “worst case scenarios”, and recently the Sheriffs office has been RETURNING unneeded budgets and savings totaling about $1,000,000 annually. Another benefit to the LEA funding is funding possibility for school resource officers and a drug officer and an Agriculture officer. It was pointed out that the Emergency Management person is NOT part of, or funded by the Sheriffs office, but is housed and operates under the Sheriff as an administrative supervisor. The Emergency manager is legally responsible to the BOCC. The administrative arrangement actually works quite well, especially during emergency events. It was pointed out that Montezuma County has very high recreational traffic that the County is responsible for their safety as they visit here, improving our economy. Mesa Verde alone receives 573,000 visitors annually. Additionally, many thousands come for events at the fair grounds, outdoor recreation, bike trails,etc. The BOCC moved to approved the annual agreement to continue the LEA funding at the current level.
If any of you want more detailed information, you should contact the specific offices. Also, you are encouraged to attend the BOCC meetings to get your information first hand. That helps to defuse mis-information and rumor that is all too common. Check out the County web site, which lists minutes of the meetings that you can read as well.