Proposed 2021 County Budget Available Online
By Randy Beaudette
Gilpin Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) October 20, 2020 regular online meeting featured topics such as COVID-19 information from the County Health Department, a Comprehensive Land Use Plan update, and the 2021 proposed County budget.
Board-Chair Gail Watson opened up the meeting promptly at 9:00 am along with Commissioners Ron Engels and Linda Isenhart. Joining online were County Manager Abel Montoya, County Attorney Brad Benning, Deputy Clerk Sharon Cate, and members from the Senior Leadership Team.
Moment of Silence
Commissioner Watson asked for a moment of silence to pause and remember long-time Gilpin resident Beth Mc Chesney who passed away on October 13 at the age of 85.
How Many is Too Many?
Resident Laura Janey expressed her concern about a private personal party that was held recently in Corona Heights. Her research on the State COVID website revealed that there is a personal gathering capacity restriction for each level of the different level orders except for the Protect Our Neighbors level which refers to local guidance. Information on the County website does not specify personal gathering limits. Ms. Janey asked the Commissioners, “What is that limit?” Gilpin County Attorney Brad Benning later responded that personal outdoor gatherings capacity under Safer at Home is 175 people within useable space meaning the space has to be able to conform to allow 6 feet of social distancing.
COVID-19 Cases Increased
Gilpin County Public Health Coordinator Bonnie Albrecht announced that COVID positive cases increased to 26 over the weekend with one probable case where the individual was exposed and are showing symptoms. Two people from the same household are showing symptoms and all are expected to be tested today (October 20th). In the past week, the State is seeing about a thousand new cases per day. The best to do right now, according to Ms. Albrecht, is to wear masks, wash your hands a lot, and avoid any gatherings that are not necessary at this time. Also in response to Ms. Janey’s question, Commissioner Engels responded that under Protect Our Neighbors, the County has the ability to impose any restrictions necessary to suppress the spread of COVID. With the positivity rate up towards 20% the past two weeks, the Commissioners are highly justified to adopt some more stringent limits on gatherings not associated with commercial venues.
Gilpin County Emergency Manager Nathan Whittington announced that the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is assisting Public Health with support for the COVID testing site, getting temperature sensitive Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) moved from an uncontrolled environment to a heated area. The EOC is supporting the Clerk and Recorder’s office to provide adequate PPE for the upcoming election. In conclusion, Mr. Whittington’s advice is for residents is to focus on family safety at this time due to the limited amount of first responders in the County right now as some are responding to incidents like fighting fires out of the county.
Whittington also shared status update on the support to the CalWood and Lefthand Canyon fires. Local Gilpin County fire agencies have sent suppression resources to both fires in terms of personnel and equipment.
Gilpin County Animal Response Team (GCART) has been activated and are taking in animals displaced by nearby fires and will remain activated until Thursday for the time being although that can change as conditions change.
Due to COVID restrictions on mass sheltering, Gilpin EOC reached out to the casinos to provide sheltering for wildfire displaced residents. The Isle Casino was activated as a Red Cross shelter and blocked out 135 rooms for sheltering purposes. That number was later reduced to 30 rooms. The EOC is currently taking calls for sheltering assistance for both people and animals as both fires remain active at this time.
Mr. Whittington expressed his gratitude for the support the EOC has received from the City of Black Hawk, Central City, and Gilpin County.
Mid-County Liquor Annual Tasting Events
Liquor License Clerk Sharon Cate presented an application for 2021 tasting events on behalf of Mid-County Liquors. The application request, if approved, will allow 50 tastings throughout 2021 just shy of the 52 allowed by Resolution #20-01. Gilpin County Local Licensing Authority approved the request with the understanding that Mid-County will observe all the Public Health Orders effective at the time of the tastings.
Comprehensive Plan Update
Gilpin County Senior Planner Stephen Strohminger presented the latest update of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan. Comprehensive Planning is a process that determines the County’s goals and aspirations in terms of community development. Highlights of this update included a summary of existing conditions of land use in the County.
Population growth has been fairly modest the past ten years with an unbelievable projection of only 100 residents to be added over the next thirty years. According the demographer’s report Gilpin County has an older population which makes Gilpin County unique to other counties in the region. According to Mr. Strohminger, the majority of the new building permits are for individual retirement homes, indicating that the influx of retired residents has not and will not slow down. Land under County jurisdiction is about 68 square miles out of the 150 square miles in that is considered Gilpin County. The remaining land is under federal or state jurisdiction. Residential land use under County control equates to about half of that 68 square miles.
Many residents rely on County or Forest Service roads for travel and as we all know some of the roads are rated fair to poor conditions due to the lack of maintenance or weather related elements that these roads are subjected to, thus making emergency travel more of a challenge.
The gaming industry provides a significant source of income with employment and tax revenue, but does not stimulate growth in economic diversification. The only current exceptions are the Gregory Street Project and the Lake Gulch/ Whiskey Resort Project.
Gaming taxes provide the largest source of tax revenue to the County, followed by property taxes.
Potential for Growth
Improvement for broadband internet services tops the list for potential for growth, followed by recreation and historical tourism. Commissioner Watson informed the folks online that the County has participated in numerous broadband studies over the years and that a county-wide system would be too cost prohibitive with the current technology. County Manager Montoya interjected that the Starlink system may soon be available which would be available with county-wide internet no matter where the location.
Side note: Starlink is a satellite internet constellation being constructed by Space X providing satellite internet access. The constellation will consist of thousands of mass-produced small satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), working in combination with ground transceivers.
County commissioners and residents all have to be fully involved in order to achieve sound decisions by which the County may adjust zoning requirements to meet the usefulness and sustainability standards of a sound Comprehensive plan that will shape the future of Gilpin County. The Comprehensive Plan satisfies the need for a roadmap that includes protective measures for all levels of growth while protecting the values of the community. Goals of the plan include economic diversification, environmental awareness, maintaining a sustainable use of resources and infrastructure, and managing growth to protect community values. Whether development takes place in five or twenty years or never, a strategic plan has been implemented that is environmentally and economically sustainable. With a Comprehensive Plan or without, intelligent growth ultimately resides on the decisions of the community and business leaders along with the residents of the County. Residents are encouraged to provide input whenever possible to the development of this Comprehensive Plan and monitor the results. Comments in support or opposition to what future growth should look like are always welcome. Visit www.co.gilpin.co.us and select “Comprehensive Plan.”
East Portal Work Camp Cabins
A recent survey of the historical designated cabins revealed the presents of asbestos and lead paint that will have to be mitigated before the County can move forward with any plans for the buildings. An estimate of the site cleanup will cost around $115,000 with an informal agreement that Union Pacific Railroad will pick up 75% of the cost with the County providing the remaining portion of the mitigation costs. The Attorney’s office has reached out to the County Manager’s office to look into any grants that might be available to defray the cost of the hazardous mitigation project.
Propane Tanks Near Community Center
Two 30,000 gallon propane tanks on Norton Drive across from the Recreation Center are located on County and private property and have somehow become the center of attention. The original owners, Amerigas, stated that their records show that they no longer own the tanks. The Attorney’s office is perusing possible zoning violations against the private property owner to either get the tanks permitted or have them removed.
Last Call for Alcohol Incidents
Law Enforcement Data and Information on the Last Call for Alcohol change from 10 pm to 2 am revealed there has been a raise in alcohol incidents within the casinos and an increase of DUI’s between the dates of September 22 and October 20, 2020.
Gilpin County Manager Abel Montoya shared the September 2020 County Jail Detention Report with the online audience. Total bookings in September numbered 18, down slightly from the 23 bookings in the August report, but down by 102 bookings from the September 2019 report.
Tami Archer Honored
Gilpin County Planner Tami Archer was presented with an Exemplary Employee Award for her outstanding service and dedication assisting residents working through Community Development issues. Congratulations Tami!
Review of Proposed 2021 Budget
Gilpin County Manager Abel Montoya and Finance Director Clorinda Smith presented the first draft of the 2021 budget. COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on the County budget due to the extended closure of the casinos. With that in mind, the 2021 County budget revealed significant cuts in expenditures. 2019 expenses topped out at around $22.7 million, 2021 expenses are projected to be reduced by a little more than $1 million dollars. Personnel costs show a slight increase within the Sheriff’s office. Revenues are projected to be down 24%, but those final numbers will not be known until the first gaming check comes in. 2020 revenue was projected to be nearly $25 million, whereas 2021 revenue projection is expected to be around $21.7 million. County Departments were required to reduce their 2021 expenses by at least 3%. When the final numbers were accumulated, the overall reduction in Department expenditures totaled nearly 5%. Looking at revenue types, gaming brings in 37% of the County’s revenue, followed by intergovernmental revenue and property taxes.
There were no Public Comments in support of or in opposition to the proposed 2021 Budget.
For a complete review of the proposed 2021 budget, go to www.co.gilpin.co.us and select “Commissioners,” then select “Current Agenda,” and select “Budget.”
Board of County Commissioners approved Meeting Minutes from the September 15, September 22, September 29, October 2, and October 6 meetings.
The next meeting of the Gilpin County Commissioners is scheduled for November 3, 2020 at 9:00 am online, but that is subject to change, so for latest updates visit www.co.gilpin.co.us.