Photo: The county commissioners and staff at Tuesday’s BOCC meeting. From L>R: Commissioner Merrit Linke, Chairman Richard Cimino; Commissioner Kris Maguso, Manager Kate McIntire, Asst Manager Ed Moyer and Attorney Chris Leahy
At Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioner (BOCC) meeting, the commissioners welcomed new County Manager, Kate McIntire. “I’m excited to be here. There’s lots to do and lots to work on”, said McIntire during the meeting.
Red Flag Bill position still undecided
During unscheduled Public Comment, Granby resident, Linda Spaet, addressed the commissioners on their status on the state’s ‘Red Flag’ Gun Bill, which is currently on the governor’s desk for signature.
Spaet described her personal experience with a drug-dependent young adult, interactions with the sheriff’s department and her relief in knowing they only had a BB gun in their home. “If even one family can use the red flag law, I encourage you to enforce the law when families or law enforcement request it. We need to educate the public on a law that may save a life”, said Spaet.
The commissioners discussed the bill, saying they were not at a point where they would draft an ordinance or resolution in response to the bill. Commissioner Manguso said, “I have gotten comments on this. People are very passionate on the issue”. Many counties have already passed resolutions referring to themselves as “Second Amendment sanctuaries”. “Maybe this is something we consider having a discussion on. Both sides are very passionate.”
Chairman Cimino said, “I am willing to declare to never hamstring our sheriff. I am opposed to doing any type of county ordinance that would hinder our sheriff in any way”.
Commissioner Linke agreed, adding, “There is a ton of passion on both sides. I have received many comments and phone calls. We’ll go forward and have a discussion with the sheriff and determine what to do from here”.
Spaet’s husband, Robert, asked the commissioners, “When will we know the position of the county and the sheriff on this particular matter?”.
The commissioners stated they would consider having a workshop to discuss this further with the public before taking any sort of action on the bill.
Sheriff Brett Shroetlin stated, “Regardless if this bill passes or not, there’s going to be a lot going on in our courts. A lot of this might not be up to us.”. He recommended seeking advice from the county attorney and case law. “This isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight. We need to hear the evidence as presented.” Shroetlin added, “I think we should wait to make any decisions, not knowing how the process is going to go. We are doing a disservice to our citizens by making a decision too quickly”.
More options presented on County needs assessment
Bob Johnson, with architecture firm, RJA, returned to present several more options for the commissioners’ consideration. The options included use of the county-owned 6 acre parcel located east of the town of Hot Sulphur Springs, Granby Elementary School and the Whitmer Building in Hot Sulphur Springs.
Previously, RJA had presented two options for reconfiguring the Public Safety Facility, which includes the Sheriff’s Office and Detention Center, adjacent to the existing Judicial Center. Costs to remodel and construct the facility were estimated at $32 million. These options would reduce parking and leave the Sheriff’s Garage and Impound Center in their existing space on a separate parcel of land in town. The options presented left the Public Health and Human Services offices, Grand County EMS and the Animal Shelter still to be considered.
Johnson presented a rendering of the six acre site plan, which could possibly be used for the Public Safety Facility and Animal Shelter. He told the commissioners the Public Safety Facility needs 3.84 acres to accommodate 167,386 in square footage. Of the six acres, only 3.14 acres are buildable, requiring a paring down of needed space to make it work in this location. Additionally, the cost for the infrastructure build was estimated at $1,692,500, adding to the overall cost of the build. This option would also necessitate the addition of a Sally Port to the existing Judicial Center at a cost of about $500K, to allow for inmate transport from the Public Safety Facility to the courtroom.
Should the East Grand School District Board elect to build a new elementary school in Granby at their meeting in May, the existing Granby Elementary School presents a good option, for an existing structure, to house EMS, Public Health, Human Services and a Sheriff Substation as well as the eleven nonprofits that had expressed interest in colocating facilities.
Johnson had walked the building with EGSD Facilities & Maintenance Director, John Weninger, and found the building, which had been built and added on to since the late 1950’s, to be in good shape. At 58,000 s.f., it has more space than is actually needed, allowing flexibility with spaces like the gymnasium. A separate EMS garage could be built in the southeast section of the lot. The estimated cost for the buildout, not including actual purchase cost, and needed roof and window replacements, came to $18,820,100.
The third option is the Whitmer Building in Hot Sulphur Springs. Johnson had also walked the building and made efforts to show the possibility of housing Public Health and Human Services in the 9,000 s.f. Building. In the original space requirement projections, the two agencies required more than 14,000 s.f. If the commissioners opted to purchase the building, Johnson recommended investigating purchase of the adjacent property to accommodate parking. Human Services would lose about 1,550 s.f. and Public Health would lose 2,663 s.f. with this option. RJA estimated the cost of the buildout at $2,426,200.
In discussion following Johnson’s presentation, Chairman Cimino suggested they “Consider sitting down with departments, talk to directors, make sure we are taking time to listen to their thoughts on what they want”.
County Manager McIntire noted, “It’s important to have those conversations to help us formulate next steps”.
Commissioner Manguso stated she had concerns with “a lot of money going to the ballot at the same time as the School District”.
Commissioner Linke said, “Synergy plays a part in this. Here’s a good building that’s beyond capacity. Working with the School District can be more marketable to the public”.
“We have to keep all options on the table”, said Chair Cimino. He added they will continue to refine the numbers and have meetings on the needs assessment.
Commissioner Manguso concluded discussion, saying she had met with County Finance Director, Curtis Lange, on unrestricted reserves. “We are below the 20% recommended amount. Everybody needs to understand we are pretty tight with the budget.”
2020 Census Preparation
A year from now, in April, the 2020 Census will be underway. An important source of federal funding for the county, to the tune of $1,481 per resident per year, it is important that the number of county residents counted in next year’s census be accurate.
Census Partnership Specialist, Brian Meinhart, presented an overview of ‘What you need to know and do now’ to help the county formulate an effective communication campaign. He commended the county for already having posted information on the census on the website.
The Decennial Census comes straight from Article 1, Section 2 of the US Constitution. The data gathered during the census is used for state redistricting and federal House representation. “There are 435 seats in the House, and Colorado almost picked up another seat in 2010”, said Meinhart. The state has been growing very rapidly and he predicted Colorado would indeed gain that seat as a result of the 2020 census. “This is last opportunity for a hard count for the next ten years.”
“The 2020 census will feature new technologies to raise the self-response rate”, said Meinhart. “This time, people have the opportunity to do it online, call and complete it on the phone or mail in their response.” In March 2020, most of the questionnaires will be sent by mail, but in Grand County, there will also be a lot of hand delivery for verification of address purposes.
He stressed that the census is confidential. “Federal law prevents us from divulging information to any other agency – state, federal or local. Every census employee is subject to up to 5 years imprisonment and up to $250,000 for violation.”
An interesting fact is that the census records are kept confidential for a period of 72 years, per Title 44, US Code. This is good for research on genealogy and explains why you can find historical census records from the past on genealogy websites.
Meinhart recommended the county create a Complete Count Committee (CCC), a partnership program that increases awareness and motivates residents to respond. CCC members become ambassadors and can be from various backgrounds such as business, media, education, veterans, the homeless among many others. “The point is to have it be as reflective of the community as possible”, said Meinhart. This helps with outreach in challenge areas.
The goal is to count every resident in the county. If people don’t respond, they will conduct a non-response follow-up, often in the field. Meinhart clarified that citizenship is not a requirement for completion of the census.
“We want to give enough lead time to get the committee together and work on an outreach plan”, said Meinhart. “I’m not asking you to do this on your own – I am here to assist you with the process, to serve as an advisor. There are lots of resources available. You can take the materials and tailor them, if needed.” He also made himself available to train the CCC once formed.
“The more support the census can supply will be helpful”, said County Manager Kate McIntire.
Meinhart replied, “The training session is much more extensive (than today’s presentation). It’s going to take several meetings and by end of year, develop a strategy”.
The commissioners made suggestions of involving local municipalities, school districts, and perhaps the Forest Service in the effort. Manager McIntire told the commissioners staff would put the word out and follow up.
The census will also offer temporary employment opportunities. Anyone interested in applying can visit: 2020census.gov/jobs.
Grand County Search & Rescue (GCSAR) Annual Report
Grand County Sheriff Brett Shroetlin introduced president Mike Blevins and field director, Greg Foley. Sheriff Shroetlin told the commissioners they are a 501(c)3 organization fulfilling the county’s statutory mandate to provide Search and Rescue services. “They provide services 24/7/365 with a team of 40 volunteers, give or take.”
“Greg Foley is a 40 year member of GCSAR. He sits on the Colorado Search & Rescue board and is very active, with thousands and thousands of hours logged”, said Shroetlin. “Mike Blevins is the current president of GCSAR – these 2 keep the operation going.”
Blevins told the commissioners that last year, they had logged over 7,000 response, administration and training hours and responded to 52 missions. “We are accredited by the Mountain Rescue Association. By charter, we do not charge for any services and are dependent upon grant and county funding”, said Blevins.
Blevins said they were incorporated in 1985 and are self-governing. “Grand County furnishes us with 4 mission trucks, two in Fraser, one in Kremmling and one in a private garage in Stillwater”, which houses a trailer and seasonal atvs and sleds. The county also covers Worker’s Compensation for the volunteers in the field.
GCSAR purchases all equipment, rope, technical, safety, medical gear and storage containers housed at the Fraser Road & Bridge facility. Their radios are bought by SAR and programmed by the county. The Sheriff’s Office budgeted and allocated $33,000 for SAR in 2019. GCSAR also receives funding from sources such as the Grand Foundation, Town of Winter Park, CDPHE, DOLA, the Lions Club, Union Pacific and most recently, the MPHS Student Philanthropy Club.
GCSAR volunteers who advance through levels of training have to buy their own equipment. Items such as snowshoes, skis, rope gear and clothing are not supplied by GSCAR and can cost $1,000 or more, straight out of the volunteer’s pocket.
The 100% volunteer-organization covers 1,870 square miles of an area that attracts thousands of outdoor enthusiasts. Every year, they respond to calls of lost or injured hikers, snowmobilers, children that wandered away, and, occasionally, body recovery. All are trained on helicopter assist rescues as well.
Blevins told the commissioners that they average 6700 volunteer hours annually. “One paid person would be about $75,000 in salary and benefits”, he offered as proof of value. “If we save one life, you can’t put a number to that.”
“We are requesting, incrementally, not all at once, we’re not sure about grants, an increase above what we are getting now”, said Blevins. He told the commissioners they could provide budget information to Sheriff Shroetlin and estimated the amount to be around $15-20K per year to purchase equipment, pay for part of training that involves travel and provide volunteers with an equipment allowance.
Blevins provided the commissioners with a copy of the 2018 report and walked them through the incidents and the numbers for last year. “You see what types of incidents we respond to – not all are field responses”. He told the commissioners a “pajama call” is one that is resolved by phone, requiring no field response. “If i get a phone call in the middle of the night, I am writing it down”, said Foley.
Hikers and snowshoers are, statewide, the top receiver of SAR services. Others include backcountry skiers, bikers and water-related (river) responses. Every one of them, unique.
Foley added, “We don’t have a swiftwater rescue team. We provide shore-supported rescue”. Neighboring Summit or Eagle county have these teams. “Usually, rafters take care of themselves.”
According to Foley, the greatest challenge they have is with retention of volunteers. “Nationwide, Mountain Rescue is having trouble with retention of volunteers. We get people on, they’ll stick with us a year or two, then they move out of the county or lose interest. The average retention is less than 5 years”.
Foley told the commissioners that, of the 42 volunteers they had in 2013, only 17 were still participating. “It takes a couple of years to get them fully trained.” All volunteers are qualified mountain rescue and training is ongoing. “We train every Wednesday night and also conduct 1-2 weekend trainings a month on field work.” Foley added, “Keeping people current is really tough – we have to train new volunteers all the time and the extra money would help bring in outside training and help send people to technical rescue symposiums”. Currently, the volunteers pay for the training out of pocket, or, if they cannot afford it, they miss out on valuable training.
Blevins told the commissioners his visit was suggested at a ‘Managing for Results’ workshop he’d attended. “My goal is to come back once a year to report on GCSAR”. He added, “Hats off to our volunteers that make up our team”.
Commissioner Manguso said, “I am very thankful for your work. It’s amazing the work that you do”.
To listen the meetings and learn more, visit: co.grand.co.us.