San Miguel County Briefs
by Karen James
Dec 23, 2010 | 1463 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SAN MIGUEL COUNTY – Despite projections of reduced general fund revenues for the year ahead, the San Miguel County Commissioners were able to avoid furloughs and layoffs in the 2011 budget they approved last week, while retaining service levels and reinstating several frozen county positions.

The Sheriff’s Office will see five of nine vacant positions filled over the remainder of this year and the next, while the Road and Bridge Department, down four positions, has been authorized to hire one permanent employee and one seasonal employee.

“I think we need to be very conservative right now, but you can’t run a jail and do a patrol with that few people,” said BOCC Chair Art Goodtimes, adding of the Road and Bridge positions, “That’s another office we can’t cut back on forever.”

General fund revenues are projected to come in at just under $9.5 million, or about 6 percent less than the amount budgeted by the county in 2010. That number is slightly higher than projected earlier in the process thanks in part to the securing of some late year grants.

The county has budgeted close to $9.28 million in general fund expenditures, down about 2.3 percent from its revised 2010 budget.

“The 2011 preliminary budget represents San Miguel County’s continued commitment to the needs of county residents, the continued level of quality service, and prudent fiscal management,” said County Finance Manager Ramona Rummel, praising county staff for outstanding work through the process.

“Their continued commitment to making wise spending decisions everyday is key in making the most of every taxpayer dollar.”

Similar to the budget policy put in place for the 2010 budget, county employees are not expected to receive cost of living increases next year. However, a 2.5 percent merit increase is being recommended for all eligible employees making less than $62,000 a year – an $18,000 decrease from the $80,000 qualifying limit set last year.

The difference in earning limits has to do with changes to county’s health insurance policy.

The hiring freeze implemented in the 2010 budget will also remain in effect, although the commissioners may override it, if warranted.

Having elected to pay off the debt it was carrying on its jail and Miramonte buildings, the county will also save about $381,000 in principle and interest payments next year. The early payments will save it about $350,000 in interest over the life of the loans.

“We felt like it was a good financial move to do that,” said Rummel. “It did save us quite a bit of money in the long run.”

“We’re trying to look long term to do as much as we can to protect ourselves,” said Goodtimes, noting that the county is carrying nine months of operating expenses in reserve.

“That’s a lot of money sitting in the bank, but given that we have less revenues, how are we going to operate if we don’t have a little cushion,” he said.

BOCC Supports Society Turn Roundabout

Having deemed the Society Turn intersection dangerous, the Colorado Department of Transportation is scheduled to make traffic improvements there in 2012. Whether in the form of a traffic signal for which the agency already has full funding, or the significantly more expensive roundabout preferred by the local community, remains to be seen, but the San Miguel County Commissioners showed their support for the latter option last week when they indicated that they are receptive to helping the Town of Telluride pay for $100,000 of the $900,000 cost difference.

“We definitely want to be part of that solution; we think it’s a good solution,” said BOCC Chair Art Goodtimes.

So far the Town of Telluride has set aside $300,000 in its 2011 budget to help fund the cost difference. It was hoping to add to that $100,000 from San Miguel County and $50,000 from Mountain Village against which it could apply for a matching grant.

At a recent meeting with the Mountain Village Town Council, however, that board indicated to Telluride Town Manager Greg Clifton less enthusiasm for the project. Instead of the $50,000 Clifton sought, council contemplated a $25,000 contribution, but only in the event that the county agreed to also make a significant contribution.

Two Mountain Village councilmembers opposed support for the project.

“The roundabout is not in Mountain Village, it’s not even contiguous to Mountain Village and I just don’t think it’s a Mountain Village problem,” said Mayor Bob Delves.

“We were disappointed that Mountain Village said it didn’t affect them,” said Goodtimes. “It’s a regional problem.”

That said, the BOCC has not yet made a funding commitment, and urged Clifton to reach out for additional support from other entities in the region. It is also wondering whether there is a way it might pay its share in increments.

“We want to make this happen so we’ll do what we need to in the end,” said Goodtimes.

“This roundabout is going to benefit all of us.”

Commissioners Want Lower San Miguel River Instream Flow

This time last year as the Colorado Water Conservation Board prepared to decide whether or not to file for an instream water right on the lower San Miguel River at its January 2010 meeting, the San Miguel County Commissioners asked the agency to delay any such filing until January 2011.

Although the BOCC believed at the time that minimum flows should be established in a 16.5-mile stretch of the river located in Montrose County reaching from Calamity Draw west of Naturita to the Dolores River confluence, primarily to prevent three dwindling species of native fish there from being listed for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, in a 2-1 vote opposed by Commissioner Joan May it joined with the Montrose County Commissioners and the Southwest Water Conservation District Board in asking for more time before any state filing so that water users could figure out off-stem water storage to meet their future needs and file for any additional water rights they might require. (May wanted the appropriation filed last year).

“We argued strongly for the Norwood region to quantify their water needs,” said BOCC Chair Art Goodtimes. “We wanted to be sure there was water to fulfill the master plan vision that citizens gave us.”

But now a year has passed and the CWCB will again consider the appropriation at its upcoming January meeting. Believing that Norwood area users are now on their way to securing the water they will need, the BOCC is lobbying for the agency to move ahead, and said as much in a letter last week.

“We believe the instream flow application should stand alone and not be linked to any form of carve-out for future uses or any other application for water rights from any other water user,” the letter stated.

“We feel like its time to move forward and to get this done,” said Goodtimes. “We believe the fish should have water too.”
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