Commissioners Meet in Work Session to Discuss 2013
OURAY COUNTY – County Commissioner Lynn Padgett invoked Albert Einstein at a BOCC work session in Ridgway this week. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss BOCC goals for 2013, and Padgett wanted to emphasize the need to break out of the rut the county has been in vis-à-vis its Land Use Code revisions.
“We’re on track to have this be a 25-year housekeeping project,” she said only somewhat facetiously. “Einstein said, ‘Madness is pursuing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.’”
Padgett was echoing the desire of newly sworn-in Commissioner Don Batchelder to bring more logic and less emotion to the process of improving the county’s primary land use document.
“I would love to get the LUC ‘fixed’ as much as it can be,” Batchelder said, “mainly housekeeping, before we get to the bigger issues,” like Section 9, on visual impacts. “It’s a lot sexier to do the ‘wouldn’t-it-be-nice’ large changes, versus sweeping out the corners. But we have to make it work first.”
He also said he’d like the commissioners to take a fresh look at the county’s master plan, which was adopted in 1999.
“The master plan is really a values document,” Padgett commented, “and the LUC is code that enables the goals of the master plan.”
“You’re entirely correct,” Batchelder agreed. “The two could be done concurrently, but the housekeeping has to be done first. To improve [the LUC’s] readability, workability and clean up the typos. There will probably be money involved [staff time and possibly consultants] to look at the master plan, so that may not happen this year, but we need to start the discussion.”
Padgett agreed that the chapter-by-chapter approach used by past boards to revise the LUC had been like “diving into political quagmire,” and that a new tactic was called for, starting with “housekeeping” changes that were not politically charged.
“This code is ponderous,” said Commission Chair Mike Fedel. “It needs to be made understandable and enforceable. The public [applying for building permits, etc.] will tell you where the problems lie.”
“We don’t have many applications now,” Batchelder said. “But as the economy improves, applications will rise, while our revenues will remain flat. Efficiency in the process is paramount.”
Batchelder brought two other goals to the table on Monday. First, he said he would like to see a “countywide email policy to conform with the open meetings law.” He said he had concerns about out-of-meeting communications between members of various boards and commissions – “not the BOCC so much as other boards” – and that private emails had the potential of presenting “emotional if not legal” challenges.
County Attorney Marti Whitmore said the situation “has been discussed,” and the open meetings law does apply when emails are shared between three or more members of a board or commission. “I’d be happy to draft up a policy for you to look at,” she volunteered. The board asked her to proceed.
Batchelder’s third goal involved improving efficiency and accountability within the county’s Road and Bridge Department. He referenced the same flat-revenue projection in the coming years and said the department needs to be “more outcome oriented: miles of drainage on this road, miles of crown on that road. We need to get together – the BOCC, Chris [Road and Bridge Supervisor Chris Miller], [County Manager] Connie [Hunt], and we need to come up with a revenue side, capital equipment, and so on. And we need to come up with a five-year or a 10-year strategic plan. I know they are never followed completely, but they [the department] need to have a plan to follow.”
“Chris has all this in his head,” Padgett said, “but you’re right, he is very busy, and we need to get this all written down. What is the situation with each piece of equipment? What is the situation with each county road?”
Manager Connie Hunt put an exclamation point on her challenges budgeting for Road and Bridge with an anecdote about 2012, when she was “hit at the end of the year with a surprise $38,000 fuel bill from Western Petroleum.” The timing of the bill was no one’s fault, Hunt said, but she might not have been so surprised if the department had provided her with “a spreadsheet on day-to-day operating costs, fuel use, fuel price, etc.”
“We just need to supplement the brainpower” in the department, Fedel said, “not micromanage this.”