The Grand County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) spent time recently in preparation for next week’s 2019 budget talks. They received a briefing from County Manager Lee Staab on budgetary notes and concerns for both 2018 and 2019, and spent considerable time in discussing best use of funds regarding a public safety facility needs assessment.
Staab included the budgetary briefing in his regularly scheduled Manager’s Update, introducing the topic by recalling supplemental items not included in the approved 2018 budget. Primary among those items is a proposed $150,000 contract for what has been alternately called a Grand County Needs Assessment and a Public Safety Facility Needs Assessment, as well as a $30,000 budget increase to cover current operational expenses of the County Coroner’s office. The latter will also be seen in the 2019 budget, he indicated, in order to cover increased staffing needs of the Coroner’s Office. Other 2018 supplemental adjustments will include modifications to the Housing Authority budget for as-yet undetermined costs for Cliffview Assisted Living Center and expenses related to the ongoing fire operations on the Spring Creek and Black Mountain fires.
The Manager then gave a peek into the coming 2019 budget, noting such critical factors as strategic plan alignment, infrastructure costs, changes to employee compensation, and the five-year capital plan. Staab presented the Board with a draft budget, highlighting several concerns, most especially a projected $796,000 deficit. In spite of ongoing effort to reduce costs to the County, through such actions as a new health insurance paradigm, part of the deficit will come from salary adjustments after years of minimal raises, including cost-of-living increases, merit pay and evaluation timeline changes, and department salary adjustments to reflect recent market comparison analysis.
In addressing the sizeable deficit, Staab took up an idea proposed last week to pull some projects forward to 2018, where there is an anticipated $1.4 million surplus. He asked approval for three separate resolutions, totalling $541,000, that would do just that and reduce the coming year’s expected deficit to $255,000. In the first of three separate requests for release for capitol, the Manager asked for $200,000 for various vehicle needs, including three new pickups for Road & Bridge, two new vehicles for the Building Department, and new vehicles for the motor pool and Environmental Health. He then requested $312,000 for the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, to be used for new patrol vehicles and new kennels for the County Animal Shelter. The final ask was for $29,000 to pay for three pieces of equipment for Information Technology. All requests were passed unanimously by the BOCC.
Other spending discussed in relation to the 2018 surplus was $40,000 to Winter Park Transit, $50,000 toward the Grangb transit expansion, $21,000 to meet the ask of Headwaters Trail Alliance for operational costs, and the proposed $150,000 “Needs Assessment.” If all items are approved without adjustment, a projected $700,000 surplus would remain.
Full budget hearings will take place next week with departments presenting to the Board in turn and Commissioner deliberation Monday through Wednesday and, finally, discussion of a five-year budget and Manager recommendations on Thursday and Friday. Fee change hearings and rebuttals will be heard in the following weeks, with final budget determinations to be made in November, and approval and signing the 4th of December. All hearings will take place in the Commissioners’ Meeting Room on the top floor of the County Administrative Building in Hot Sulphur Springs.
The BOCC then spent considerable time deliberating the $150,000 proposed contract with Reilly Johnson Architecture, or RJA, to complete a “Grand County Needs Assessment.” The assessment was prompted by the County’s new strategic plan, which currently identifies the need for a new jail or “public safety facility” as the number one strategic goal under infrastructure. A public safety facility could co-locate the Sheriff’s office, a jail, dispatch, Emergency Management and EMS, and Social Services, which will include Health and Human Services and Public Health.
A four-phase proposal was presented by Staab, indicating that RJA was the preferred respondent out of four companies interviewed by Staff. He indicated that, while the completion of the assessment would stretch into 2019, the intent was to have the majority completed in 2018 in order “to be costed against this year, as there will be no budget item for it in 2019.”
A proposed first phase includes facility assessment of the existing sheriff’s facilities, the EMS facilities in Granby and Fraser, and the offices of Human Services and Public Health. The second phase would be the needs assessment, completed through department interviews, floor plan evaluations, projected floor plan requirements, and inmate and parking projections. The third phase would evaluate no more than two separate proposed consolidated sites. prepare rudimentary design concepts for the existing site, formulation of cost project models, and presentations to the public. A final phase would include draft preparation and review and a presentation of a final report.
Board discussion went back and forth and required a continuance to the afternoon agenda as Commissioners were not in agreement coming into the conversation and as they each changed stances at least once throughout the consideration.
Commissioner Rich Cimino initially felt that the $150,000 price-tag was too high and attempted to lower the cost through such ideas as not considering a remodel of the current jail facility, as he said, “It is never cheaper or functionally better to remodel. It’s cheaper to scrape and start over.”
In agreement on the price concern was Commissioner Kristen Manguso, who repeated her main apprehension throughout the day that the jail remain in Hot Sulphur Springs, in close proximity to the County’s Justice Center. “I’m set on this staying in Hot Sulphur Springs. This is our County seat. I’m not in favor of even considering Granby for the jail.” Although, she said she was in favor of co-location of services, if an appropriate site could be found in Hot Sulphur, or in favor of co-locating the other services on a second site.
Chair Merrit Linke was relatively consistent with his desire to “have right, accurate, complete information in order to make an informed decision.” Although even he was considering removing some scope of work at one point.
Staab assured that RJA was “highly experienced” and would utilize that experienced, gained from providing similar services to 85 counties across Colorado and in other states, to provide the best guidance to Grand County. While County Attorney Bob Franek encouraged Commissioners to have what they wanted detailed in the scope of work, but who reassured them that it would be easy to add to that scope if necessary.
In the end, after lunch and outside conversations, after talk of cutting pieces of the scope of work to bring the cost down and other consideration of adding to both the scope of work and the cost by considering separate facilities as well as just possible consolidated sites, Cimino addressed his fellow Commissioners, saying, “I’m asking for some trust on your behalf.”
With Manguso still expressing “reservations and leaps of trust,” the Board finally agreed on direction to the Manager to present a contract for approval at next week’s regular meeting, one that would reflect the current recommendations but provide opportunity to add options at points of review throughout the process.
Staab responded at the end, saying, “Thank you. Staff has made sure this is a company you can look to in the long-term to try to resolve some of the facility issues in the county. I think this is the most professional organization that Grand County has chosen.”