Routt County commissioners to lay off 2 employees

2010 budget includes end to furloughs, restoration of part of pay

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— Routt County commissioners laid off two county employees, shrank two positions and eliminated two vacant positions Tuesday, cutting about $280,000 from the county's 2010 budget in the face of decreasing revenues.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the recommendations of County Manager Tom Sullivan, who met with department administrators and created a plan to save the funds. The budget also includes an end to furloughs and restoration of 5 percent of employees' pay after the county cut it by 10 percent this year.

The Routt County Planning Department will lose its assistant director, a position primarily dedicated to long-term planning. The Road and Bridge Department will lose an engineering technician, who Director Paul Draper said is the department's traffic control supervisor. Commissioners reinstated a seasonal traffic flagging position into the 2010 budget, at a cost of about $17,000.

Draper said the changes would bring his department back to staffing levels of eight years ago - at a time when improvement projects are slated across the county.

"Our programs are increasing, not decreasing," Draper said, citing ongoing work on Routt County Road 14 in South Routt; C.R. 27, also known as Twentymile Road, in west Routt County; C.R. 76, known as the Cog; and at the Elkhead slide on C.R. 86.

Commissioners stressed that the positions could be restored if the economy rebounds.

"We have to be fiscally responsible to our citizens, and the only way to do that is to find ways to cut our budget," Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said. "Eliminating positions is not fortunate, and it's not fun, and it's not comfortable, but unfortunately, it is something we have to do right now."

The county's budget also changes employees' pay reduction from 10 percent in 2009 to 5 percent in 2010 and ends the county furlough program, restoring the workweek to 40 hours.

Sullivan wrote in his report to commissioners that the city of Steamboat Springs' decision to delay an update of the Steamboat Springs Community Area Plan, at least through 2010, spurred his recommendation to cut the Planning Department's assistant director position.

That person's workload also includes the Stagecoach Community Area Plan. Chad Phillips, director of the planning department, said a minor update of that plan is under way and could be completed by the end of 2009.

Commissioner Doug Monger said the strength of existing community plans allows for a temporary reduction of long-term planning.

"I do believe long-range planning is more of a luxury than a critical need - in the short term, anyway," Monger said. "It's not sustainable to not have it over the long run - we know that."

Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said the Planning Department layoff could mean longer service times for planning applications.

In other staffing changes Monday, the county's fair coordinator position will be shared in a 60/40 percent split with the Building and Plant/Purchasing Department, which lost an administrative position earlier this year. Commissioners also reduced the hours of a fairgrounds maintenance position and opted to share that worker with Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

Finally, commissioners eliminated two vacant administrative positions that were not filled because of the county's hiring freeze. Those positions are in the Information Systems Department and in the 4-H section of the Cooperative Extension Office.

All of Monday's layoffs and changes are effective Dec. 15.

Stahoviak said Monday's changes create total county cuts of 14 full-time-equivalent positions this year.

All three commissioners emphasized that they were cutting positions, not individuals, and that every cut position could be restored in a more favorable economy.

Commissioners did not foresee additional cuts.

"We'll see how our crystal ball goes," Monger said. "I hope we're at the bottom of this thing because the next thing to go would be snowplowing, in my mind."

- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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