Opinion: Celebrating 2019 and looking forward to 2020

Montrose County Commissioner Roger Rash

It continues to be my absolute privilege to serve the citizens of Montrose County. I am very proud of the accomplishments of the county team over the past year. County operations are functioning smoothly which allows the board to take a big picture, proactive approach to county business.

In 2019, the county completed major projects that supported core public services.

First, the Montrose Regional Airport took another step towards expansion by adding a fifth terminal gate and concession area. This addition, much like the improved glass security entrance, is more efficient and will help better process the rapidly growing number of passengers. Director of Aviation Lloyd Arnold is anticipating more than 300,000 passengers (enplanements and deplanements) through our county airport in 2020.

Staff also completed an update to our online Citizen Transparency module. Working with our software vendor, this new update makes this module even easier to use. I am proud of this achievement because it allows taxpayers to view county financial data at any time. I believe transparency is critical to local government and I am glad to be able to offer this service to the public. County money is taxpayer money and you have a right to know how every dollar is spent.

Public works crews have had an amazing year. In 2019, contractors and road and bridge crews paved over 20 miles of road in 2019, and have plans for nearly 30 miles of paved roads in 2020. These crews are responsible for over 1,300 miles of roads and 150 structures (bridges, box culverts, large culverts) across the county and continue to do a great job continually upgrading and improving safety of our transportation system.

Another important goal for 2019 was the successful completion of countywide cybersecurity training. Information Technology Director Don Varey implemented a program to help educate county employees about cyber threats. This is especially important for government networks as cyber-attacks happen all too often to our local government counterparts. This additional training helps protect the county’s network.

This fall, the division formerly known as “Health and Human Services” was split into Human Services and Public Health offices. There is no change to how the public access services; however, this split created financial efficiencies. The county just promoted Jim Austin to oversee Public Health and Jennifer Sherwood to lead Human Services. Both Austin and Sherwood served as interim directors for several months and were top candidates in the interview process.

In the West End of Montrose County, we are continuing to work on economic development. One such project is the Rimrocker Trail and the Missing Link project that wrapped up in November. This development is important as it allows legal OHV use for this portion of the trail and helps bring outside traffic to the area. The project was the construction of an off-highway vehicle (OHV) frontage trail along State Highway 141 in the Dolores River Canyon to allow for OHV use across the highway. Commissioner Keith Caddy and Deputy Manager Jon Waschbusch presented to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife grant committee in 2018 and were awarded $194,657 for the completion of the project. The project cost around $400,000 and the bid was awarded to local contractor Williams Construction of Norwood in an open bidding process.

As we move into 2020, I want you to know that your county commissioners are continuing to work for you at both a county and national level to represent Western Slope interests. I look forward to continuing to move forward with positive improvements to benefit Montrose County. The last thing I want to mention is that these accomplishments could not have happened without the dedicated and hardworking staff of Montrose County. There are very talented and caring people that work at the county, and I am proud to be a part of the team.

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