Western Slope Round-Up: It’s About Money and Sleep

Help Wanted: City Council person— Must stay awake during boring presentations; be willing to receive midnight calls about barking dogs; able to make hard decisions no one likes; withstand shunning and ridicule from neighbors and friends; deal with complex personnel matters, budgets and lawsuits; be resilient against brown-nosers and developers’ flashy dog-and-pony shows; and be prepared to have constituents interrupt your restaurant meals. Pay: $200

What? No takers?“You can’t just draft somebody.”
Cortez Journal — The Cortez City Clerk said that no candidates have stepped forward to replace a city councilman who left more than a month ago. After 15 years as clerk, she has not experienced such a lack of interest. The position pays $200 per meeting with two meetings scheduled twice a month.

If the city can’t find a replacement by July 30, officials will have to advertise for the opening again. The city operates with an empty slot if no one applies after that point, said Michael Green, deputy city attorney.

“You can’t go draft somebody,” Green said.

The city currently has six councilors, but voting during meetings is not compromised, Green said. A tie vote among councilors means a resolution fails, he said.

What are some of the issues Western slope town and city council members and county commissioners face? For instance, July is usually “let’s start looking at next year’s budget” season as department heads begin presenting some of their financial concerns. The juggling begins….

“We’re Stretched Pretty Thin”
Valley Journal — Carbondale’s police chief needs more help and an extra $180,000 for his 2008 budget. 

For instance, the Carbondale police department has one school resource officer and requests made to the Roaring Fork School District to help fund another officer were turned down. Yet, one officer on the force is expected to oversee the safety of seven schools in the vicinity.

“We’re stretched pretty thin…It’s not necessarily more calls, it’s more cases that are more involved that take the officers off the streets to investigate the cases,” said Chief Schilling. “Three years ago we had an investigator, now the officers have to investigate their own cases. It’s not petty stuff.”

Schilling’s department has been investigating a significant identity theft case recently as well as a rash of graffiti and vandalism incidents that have required hundreds of hours from his officers.

“The problem is that we’re keeping up but we’ve lost our ability to do proactive enforcement, especially traffic enforcement,” said Schilling who met with the Carbondale trustees last week to give an update on the department. “I feel like we’re understaffed for what we need.”

The Carbondale Town Council will have to decide to ax some public works projects in order to support more public services.

“I can’t do anything about the eight suicides and other traumatic deaths”
Montrose Daily Press — The Montrose county coroner will have to ask the commissioners for an increased budget in 2008 to help pay for the more toxicology tests, autopsies and deputy coroners because, unfortunately, cases are almost averaging one a day.

Few of the cases have been from natural deaths, which don’t always necessitate an autopsy in order to determine cause of death. But the eight suicides, two drownings and industrial and vehicle accidents that have occurred so far this year are more complicated and require more investigation and forensic examination – all of which cost money.

“Percentage-wise, in terms of caseload, we’re doing less autopsies. But I can’t do anything about the eight suicides and other traumatic deaths,” Montrose Coroner Dr. Thomas Canfield said.

Montrose County Commissioners can’t stop people from dying, but can they find the money to increase the coroner’s $77,000 budget?

“J–, you’ve got to be kidding me”
Grand Junction Daily Sentinel— Only $682,000. That’s what election officials in Mesa County estimate it will cost to have a well run election in 2008. The three Republican commissioners gave a “lukewarm” reception to the news.

Based on projections of 32 percent of the county’s projected 93,867 voters casting ballots on Election Day during the upcoming presidential election, Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Janice Rich said the county will need to increase voting machines from 240 to 370.

Rich said according to the Citizen’s Election Review Panel, additional machines will be necessary to keep Election Day voters moving through the lines at an acceptable clip.

Apprised of the Mesa County Election Division’s needs, Commissioner Craig Meis said he was skeptical of the numbers.

“J–, you’ve got to be kidding me,” Meis said upon hearing the projections.
Rich, however, replied that because 2008 is a presidential election and the county’s voter rolls are growing, the request is appropriate.

The county had tentatively set aside $114,000 for future election costs in its 2008 budget, so county officials will have to figure how to extract monies from other departments to fulfill the election official’s request.  When Meis asked if the budget could be pared down, Rich replied: “If you downsize it, that can be your decision. But I will put it on the record that this is what we need to proceed for a smooth election.”

Should anyone wonder why there are not more vacancies on town councils and county commissions? One attribute we forgot to mention in the beginning: a council applicant must be willing and able to survive without a good night’s sleep. For years.

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