The most recent meeting of the Grand County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) saw Commissioners Merrit Linke and Kristen Manguso conducting regular business, listening to briefings about the Grand County Sheriff’s Office and other departments, and signing numerous contracts and memorandums of understanding (MOUs), both for the receipt and disbursement of funds.

The meeting opened with a question during Public Comment from Hot Sulphur Springs Mayor Robert McVeigh. Representing concerned town residents, McVeigh asked for the reasoning behind the County’s decision to move the proposed new jail facility from the Town of Hot Sulphur Springs. Chair Linke assured the Mayor that the question was “premature,” as no decision had been made prior to a planned assessment. County Manager Lee Staab agreed, stating that while the County’s Strategic Plan indicates the need for a new public safety facility, a full needs assessment would be contracted with an outside consultant, to determine the scope of need and possible locations prior to any decision-making. The bid for that contract, he indicated, would open June 25.

Commissioner Manguso noted appreciation for the Town’s concern and stated that she had asked County Attorney Bob Franek for input on the issue as well. Franek responded that, according to Colorado Revised Statute Section 30-10-101, every sheriff, county clerk and recorder, and county treasurer shall maintain their office in the given county seat. “Statutorily, it seems to me that the jail is going to have to go somewhere in Hot Sulphur,” concluded the attorney.

Manager Staab pointed out that the statute said that the Sheriff’s office and not the jail had to remain in the county seat. “Why would we have the Sheriff’s office apart from the jail?” asked Manguso, before stating that it was a question that would have to be “dealt with later.”

McVeigh shared that citizens recognized the need for a new jail and better facilities, and reaffirmed that, “We have a couple of great locations in Hot Sulphur Springs.”

Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin was present but brought up other business. He requested that the BOCC approve a wire transfer for the completed purchase of a new patrol boat. Staab detailed that while the major capital purchase was not included in the Sheriff’s Office (SO) capital budget for the year, it did exist elsewhere within the department. Schroetlin indicated that he hoped to further offset the purchase cost through the sale of a previously donated boat and community donations. More details on the project can be found in this week’s Community Briefing.

Schroetlin also presented a quick wildfire update, indicating that the Sheriff’s Department was closely monitoring wildfire conditions across the region but that, “despite large fires across the state, Grand County is not at extreme risk. We are not close to needing fire restrictions.” He reported on a few recent small fire starts, including two related to vehicle incidents, but said that the fires are not spreading. “The studies we use for prediction have been true and we’re watching these,” he explained.

Linke expressed general thanks that the County is “lucky to have green grass and moisture in the plants right now,” and recognized the high concerns already being faced in other parts of Colorado following a low-snow year.

In more Sheriff’s Department discussion, Manager Staab brought up the 2018 hiring lag, which indicates that so far $413,000 of budgeted salary has not been spent so far this year, mostly due to position vacancies. The presented number excludes the Emergency Services Department, but does include $177,000 of unpaid salary that had been budgeted to the Sheriff’s Office. He indicated that some of that money would be used by the SO to hire part-time staff to increase patrols on County roads during the summer months and, especially, on weekends.

In response to Manguso’s questions about finding part-time work when full-time positions have not been filled, Staab noted that the Sheriff has already identified former Sheriff’s Office employees who are interested in part-time work and whose training period would be reduced, due to their existing familiarity with the department. “That makes sense to use that money for that,” said Linke, “especially for the Sheriff to get those extra people on the weekends.”

Staab expanded on the issue of the hiring lag, saying that current projections are that the County will have saved $1 million in unspent salary and benefits by the end of 2018, even given the part-time hiring of the Sheriffs Office. The budget had anticipated a lag of $600,000, but is on track to be “$400,000 to the positive of what was budgeted,” according to the Manager.

In other departments, the BOCC signed a contract with the Colorado Department of Military and Veteran Affairs for a $26,500 grand for Veteran Services. Veteran Services Officer Duane Daily indicated that the grant represented a $6,000 increase over the 2018 fiscal year grant.

Staab also presented several memorandums of understanding for awarded grants from the Open Lands, Rivers, & Trails Advisory Committee. The Board signed four MOUs with the Headwaters Trails Association for grants approved in April. The various grants totalled $133,050 and will be used for trail maintenance, improvement, and development for the East Shore Trail in Grand Lake, winter trail grooming, trails in the Wolford Reservoir and Mountain area near Kremmling and the Phases area near Tabernash, and a trail sizing plan that would address poor trail planning and implementation under old programs.

Finally, the Board signed several contracts on behalf of the Road & Bridge department. A structural agreement was signed with Colorado Department of Parks & Wildlife and Bureau of Land Management for the maintenance and protection of gates, fences and other structures in conjunction with Inspiration Pit.

They signed a contract with Rocky Mountain Chip Seal in the amount of $654,274.77 to chip seal County Roads 840, 50, 73, 66, 64E, 4, 41, and 1. The major paving project bid out for the summer was for part of County Road 5. The department is far under budget for the year, and Department Head Chris Baer recommended bidding out the remaining paving work on CR 5 during this fiscal year. Staab noted that if the same company were to contract for both parts, it would save the County mobilization costs. Even with anticipated costs of nearly $700,000 for rest of the road, the department is on track to end the year $30,000 below budget.

The only anticipated road project still to be finalized is the agreement with the Mulligan Road owners. A firm financial agreement has not yet been reached and Staab indicated that if it had not been finalized by the end of June 15, the County  would move forward without the add-on bid for Mulligan Road.