Motions denied

Moffat County's newest commissioner strikes out 11 times

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"We have a motion. Is there a second?"

Those words were repeated 11 times by Moffat County Commissioner Les Hampton Tuesday during a reorganization proposal unveiled by newly elected Commissioner Darryl Steele.

Each time those words were followed by silence.

"Motion fails," Hampton repeated 11 times.

Steele made 11 motions as part of his "reorganization in Moffat County's upper level of bureaucracy" proposal Tuesday, a few hours after being sworn in as the new commissioner, filling the seat left vacant by two-term Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson.

Steele said his plan, which cut several positions in Moffat County government, could trim $248,000 off of this year's budget.

Positions Steele proposed to eliminate included:

  • public works director.
  • director of Human Resources.
  • Natural Resources specialists.
  • paralegal assistant.

Steele had several other proposals in his plan.

One was to move the accounting department directly under the supervision of the board of county commissioners.

"This would give us a three-way separate check on the county's dollars," Steele states in his proposal. "The accounting department, the budget officer and the county treasurer."

He also asked that the commissioners authorize him to work with the Craig City Council and mayor to develop a planning and zoning department that would take care of the city and county out of the same office.

Steele proposed that all county employees, excluding those working under the other elected officials, would be required to clear time and expenditures for travel and training outside of Moffat County.

Echoing his concerns expressed in a meeting the previous day, when the commissioners approved the hiring of an emergency medical services coordinator in Maybell, Steele proposed that the commission reconsider the hiring.

"I feel there are other alternatives out there that we can look at that will give us more effective coverage for less money and, if you want, I can present some of these alternatives for your appraisal," he said.

Steele also proposed that county commissioners rethink their employee compensation plan and rework the job responsibilities of the administrative services director.

Steele's final motion was in regard to NC Telecom.

"Since NC Telecom is currently in default of their contract by not having service available and working on the second DS3 to Moffat County and that cut off date was July 1, 2002, according to the addendum to the contract, I propose that we request the interest earned on the escrow account until such time as this DS3 is in service," he stated.

At the conclusion of denying each of the new commissioner's 11 proposals, Hampton and Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos said they did not want to make any decisions in haste.

Both commissioners had been given a copy of Steele's proposal for review late last week.

"I didn't get much time (to review the proposal) but I'm going to," Hampton told Steele. "I'm concerned about dollars and serving the constituents just as much as you are. It would be irresponsible of me to accept your proposals with the limited time I've had to look at them."

Hampton said he wants to do his own research on the figures compiled by Steele.

"I have not had the time to do the research on these issues that I want to," he said. "When I've taken the time, we'll get together."

Raftopoulos said her reasons for not seconding Steele's proposals were the same as Hampton's reasons.

"We have had a very public process on everything we have done and we will continue to," she said. "There's some hidden costs that aren't calculated in your numbers. We're willing as a board to sit down and look at every one of these issues. We need to do it as a board and do it through a public process."

The opponents of the commissioners are often the only ones who speak out, she said.

"There's a silent majority out there that favors what we've done," she said in defense of the decisions made by the commission in recent years.

Former Craig Mayor Saed Tayyara sat in the audience during the meeting and said he respected what the commissioners do but added he was concerned about some of the commissioners' actions.

He made reference to the decision by the board to hire an EMS coordinator Monday, despite opposition expressed by other public officials and Moffat County residents.

"Yesterday I did not see that because a request made by the audience and Darryl (Steele) was not even looked at or considered," he said of the previous board's proclaimed commitment to listening to taxpayers concerns. "We need to communicate and work for one common goal -- county employees and the taxpayers."

In response to Tayyara's remarks, Hampton echoed Raftopoulos' point, saying those in favor of the commissioners' decision did not speak out.

"Three or four people spoke out in support of your perspective," Hampton told Tayyara. "But after the meeting an audience member told me, 'You did the right thing.'"

Another audience member, Lolly Hathhorne, said she wanted to be in attendance when the decision was made to hire the EMS position, but said it was not made public that a decision was going to be made in Monday's meeting.

"I came to the courthouse two times looking for it on the agenda," she said. "Quite a few people wanted to be at that meeting."

Raftopoulos apologized that the consideration of hiring an EMS coordinator was not on the agenda but noted that the local media had publicized the scheduled decision.

In his proposal, Steele had cited a decrease in Moffat County reserves the last four years.

Reserves were at $8.7 million in 1999 and have decreased to $5.9 million in 2002, he said.

Cutbacks in the structure of Moffat County government could change that, he said.

After the board he had just joined had denied his proposals, Steele said he thought the previous commission had good intentions in what it did but had let the spending go too

far.

"We have a tendency, even when we're on the right track, to allow the pendulum to swing too far in one direction," he said. "We need to work to keep that pendulum from swinging too far in one direction."

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