No cuts for DA payroll

Moffat follows Grand County's lead and denies Routt proposal

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In other action

At its Tuesday meeting, the Moffat County Commission:

• Approved, 2-0, awarding a $10,055 bid to Steamboat Springs-based TCD to engineer and build a picnic shelter for the Moffat County Public Safety Center fishing pond. TCD submitted the only complete bid and also had the lowest of three submitted.

Commission members again expressed dismay that the city of Craig would require builders to spend money on engineering a structure that is no more than a roof held up by four posts over a concrete slab.

The project is entirely paid for by a Great Outdoors Colorado grant.

• Denied, 2-0, a personnel requisition to replace a full-time grounds facility technician with the parks and recreation department after an employee resigned.

Commissioner Tom Gray said he wants the county to make good on a promise made to its department leaders that they must first justify why a vacant position is necessary before the county hires a replacement.

His plan is for the county to proactively cut back on staff when it can to avoid potential future lay offs if the county's revenue dips as drastically as Routt County's has recently.

This year, Routt County cut 10 percent from every county department's personnel budget.

• Did not take a formal vote about funding Rural Philanthropy Days, scheduled for September in Steamboat.

The event is an opportunity for local nonprofits to solicit funding from potential donors - such as nonprofit foundations, private residents and businesses and government sources.

Gray said the county has a standing policy that nonprofits seek funding from the Human Resource Council, which the county funds along with the city of Craig.

• Approved, 2-0, a lease agreement with Mountain Air Spray to lease ground at Craig/Moffat County Airport and function as a fixed-base operator, wherein the company will supply fuel to other airplane operators.

Mountain Air Spray agreed to annually pay 0.5 percent of the value of the buildings they own, which equals $1,316 in the first year. The lease is for 20 years, with an option for a 20-year extension if the business and county agree.

- Note: Commissioner Audrey Danner was absent because of her trip to Washington, D.C., along with Craig City Councilor Ray Beck and Jeff Comstock, county natural resources department director.

— Court cases and trials take a lot of time and talent, Elizabeth Oldham, 14th Judicial District Attorney, said.

"Especially in Moffat County, where we have a lot of sexual assault cases, drug cases and the Hankins murder trial coming up," she said.

Given that, a 10 percent decrease in money for staffing would harm her office's ability to protect public safety, Oldham said.

In a final deliberation of Routt County's proposal to reduce the District Attorney's Office personnel, the Moffat County Commission followed Grand County's lead and sided with Oldham on a 2-0 vote at its Tuesday meeting.

Commissioner Audrey Danner was on a government trip to Washington, D.C., and was not present.

After the vote, Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Snow, who works and lives in Moffat County, shook Tom Mathers' and Tom Gray's hands and told each one, "Thank you."

The Routt County Commission proposed each of the 14th Judicial District's three counties - itself, Moffat and Grand - cut the District Attorney's Office personnel budget to help Routt County reduce its $4.9 million deficit this year.

Doug Monger, Routt County Commission chairman, has said it was never his board's intent to ask its neighbors to do anything, but state law requires counties within the same judicial district to fund district attorney personnel based on respective populations.

Therefore, a personnel cut in one county forces the same cut in all other counties within the district.

Routt County already cut 10 percent from personnel in all its departments.

The Grand County Commission wrote a letter April 24 stating it would not support personnel cuts in the District Attorney's Office unless Oldham agreed.

She did not.

Mathers said the issue put Moffat County in an awkward spot.

"It was hard," he said about his vote to deny Routt's proposal. "Routt County has been a good neighbor.

"They certainly help us," Mathers added, and specifically noted Routt County officials' push for state and/or federal government funding for a safety improvement project on Colorado Highway 13 north of Craig.

Oldham said slashing her payroll now could have lasting consequences for her office.

"From my viewpoint, I think my attorneys are underpaid," she said. "To already have a position that's underpaid, and then cut another 10 percent, I think that's asking a lot."

Oldham added she was happy Moffat County now has "three committed attorneys" who want to stay and help their community. One recently turned down a higher-paying job in another county, and she said she wants to make sure her attorneys feel like they have reasons to stay if another offer is made.

Gray cautioned, however, that budget cuts may not be the exclusive burden of Routt County within the next few years.

Moffat County likely will see a drop in revenue by 2011, when the current profit loss in the natural gas market causes tax revenue to drop, Gray said. At that point, it may be this county that cuts payroll.

"Routt County has been hit sooner rather than later because they're so heavily dependent on sales tax," Gray said. "We're going to see the revenue shortfall of this economic downturn. It may take longer to get here, but it still comes."

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