'Lame duck' commissioners talk final plans

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It's become a running joke at commissioner meetings that once Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos leaves office, she'll be in the front row of the commissioner chambers each Tuesday to make sure the commissioners stay in line.

Although she's unlikely to follow through on the joke, she and Commissioner Les Hampton would like to resolve several issues and complete several projects before leaving office at the end of their respective terms.

With their lame-duck status, it remains to be seen how much they can accomplish.

Raftopoulos is term-limited after serving eight years in office. Hampton's bid for re-election failed when he lost the Republican primary to Tom Gray in August.

Hampton said he plans to take a year off from most of his community involvement, with the exception of the Elkhead Reservoir expansion project. Hampton's home borders Elkhead, and he has become involved in expansion plans since before he was elected commissioner.

His main goal, he said, is to make sure the plans, which most Elkhead homeowners have deemed satisfactory, aren't changed as construction begins next spring.

Raftopoulos said she plans to stay active with The Memorial Hospital Foundation after leaving office.

She worked for the hospital before she became a commissioner, and she has served as the ex-officio to the hospital board of trustees during her two terms of office.

She hopes the hospital board settles on a location to build a new hospital before she leaves office, but she didn't commit to a location she feels would be best for a new hospital.

"I want the board to make a decision based on their research and due diligence," Raftopoulos said.

On the issues, Raftopoulos said she'd like to write a plan for the use of the county's prepaid telecommunications services before the year is over.

The county funds its communications through a Beanpole grant from the state. But that money will run out in June of 2006.

After that, the county will use its prepaid services so communications expenses don't go against the budget.

"Telecommunications is going to be the future. It's going to resound," she said.

She'd like to look into installing fiber optic cables to bring high-speed Internet to the county buildings and the schools.

But the administration of Moffat County School District has questioned the feasibility of running fiber lines through Craig.

They've said the school doesn't have the money to link to the fiber lines.

Raftopoulos has been working with Routt and Rio Blanco counties to develop the E-Gov program, which will allow residents of those counties to perform business transactions such as paying taxes over the Internet. She hopes to get the framework for the program in place before January.

Hampton has been working on a state wolf-management group to develop a policy to manage wolves that may migrate to Colorado.

The group, comprised of ranching, sporting and environmental interests, has been arguing about reintroduction policies.

But Hampton said it's not the group's job to develop a reintroduction policy.

He said he thinks the group will develop a plan soon.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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