Gilpin County to challenge FCC

In an Effort to Provide Better Internet Service to Residents

By Staci McBrayer

  The Gilpin County Board of County Commissioners met on Tuesday, August 5, 2014 at the Gilpin County Courthouse. Commissioner and Board Chair Gail Watson, Commissioner Buddy Schmalz and Commissioner Connie McLain were in attendance along with County Manager Roger Baker and County Attorney Jim Petrock.

Property Valuation Protest Hearings

  Acting as the County Board of Equalization, Commissioners reviewed two property valuation protest hearings. The first challenge was by Barbara and Howard Beall for a mine claim on Casey Street in Central City. The County Assessor assessed the value of the vacant lot at $2,140. The owners wanted it assessed at $200,000. Hearings Officer Steve Miller recommended that Commissioners accept the assessor value of $2,140. The Beall’s were not present at the Commissioners meeting, nor did they ever present their evidence as to why they wanted the valuation increased during the protest process before the Commissioners meeting. The Commissioners accepted Hearing Officer Steve Miller’s recommendation that Commissioners accept the Assessor’s value of $2,140.

  The second protest hearing was regarding three continuous lots in Central City owned by Irelands Gold. Irelands Gold valued the land at $5,050, $10, and $10,015. The Assessor assessed the values at $38,431, $36,806, and $11,942 respectively. Both the County Assessor and Irelands Gold had been able to present their evidence during the protest process before coming to the Commissioners. They were then able to reach an agreement on value for $22,440, $22,200, and $5,760 for the lots. The Commissioners accepted Hearing Officer Miller’s recommendation to accept the adjusted values.

FCC Broadband Map Challenge

  Frank Ohrtman with WMX Systems, LLC present a proposal to the Commissioners regarding challenging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) determination that most of Gilpin County is ineligible for the Rural Broadband Experiments Initiative. The Initiative provides $100 million in subsidies for over ten years to service providers offering broadband and voice services in eligible areas. For Gilpin residents who do not have access to 4 MB upload/1 MB download broadband service or VoIP capabilities or who do have data caps below 100 Gbps, the program could pay established providers who applied to the program significant subsidies to provide services to residents. With its’ current determination, the FCC feels that Gilpin County is adequately “served.”

  Gilpin submitted their letter of interest to the FCC in conjunction with Clear Creek County, but Ohrtman had not heard back from Clear Creek as to whether or not it would participate in challenging the eligibility denial. Ohrtman informed the Commissioners that they could pursue the issue with our without Clear Creek. Commissioners agreed to Ohrtman’s proposal in an attempt to meet their stated goal of increasing broadband Internet communication services within the County. The County’s cost to proceed will be a $1,375 fee for Ohrtman to prepare the challenge by the August 14th deadline.

Temporary Use Permit

  The Commissioners approved a Class B temporary use permit for a fundraising historical reenactment event being held by the Gilpin Historical Society. The 26th annual “Cemetery Crawl” event is slated for August 23rd at the Knights of Pythias Cemetery above Central City. The event will include 30 volunteers (most dressed in costume), two portable toilets, no food or drink, and up to 400 attendees.

Clerk & Recorder Purchase of Additional Election Laptops

   Clerk & Recorder Colleen Stewart asked Commissioners for six new laptops for elections. In the past, Stewart noted that the County needed to have twelve computers at the three voting centers. With the recent state mandated consolidation of voting centers to one, Stewart stated she only needs six and will be repurposing two current county laptops (including her own) for elections. That leaves a balance of four new laptops needed.

  The request for the laptops is a result of security reasons. The County owns 12 laptops purchased in 2006 that all run on Windows XP. Windows XP is now “dead” to security coverage and the Secretary of State has mandated that municipalities stop using Windows XP and start using computers that have Windows 7. The 2006 computers will not support Windows 7. Stewart’s estimate per laptop was $595 and would add $2,382 to this year’s election budget. The estimate did not include an additional $407 for a three-year service agreement for all four laptops.

  Commissioners, weary of the ever-tightening Gilpin County budget, asked Stewart to further research whether the County has unused desktops anywhere that could be repurposed into election computers.

Request to Fill Positions

  Public Works Director Bill Paulman and Human Resources Director Susie Allen received approval from Commissioners to fill two vacant positions within Public Works & Facilities. Both positions were previously allocated for in the County’s budget.

  The first position was for a mechanic. The position is full time and has a pay range of $18.40 – $26.29 per hour. The second position was for a full time Equipment Operator II with the same pay range.

Cost Allocation Plan Approval

  Commissioners approved pursuing a Cost Allocation Plan that the County can use to recoup an estimated $28,000. The Plan is used by the County to claim indirect costs as charges against grants and awarded through the County’s Human Services Department. It is based on actual expenditures for the 2013 fiscal year. MGT of America’s Eric Parish was on hand along with County Finance Director Clorinda Smith to advise the Commissioners regarding the plan.

  Parish estimated a return of approximately $32,000 in costs each year with a yearly MGT fee to create the Plan of $4,000.

  A majority of Colorado counties already participate in the plan. MGT prepares plans for 29 other participating Colorado counties.

CTSI Loss Analysis

   Susie Allen, Human Resources Director, and, George Tinker, Senior Loss Prevention Specialist with County Technical Services, Inc., presented Commissioners with the Annual Loss Analysis for the County’s Casualty and Property Pool and for the County Workers Comp Pool. The analysis revolved around claims in both the County’s insurance pools for accidents and work-related injuries.

  Specific information regarding actual claims was not provided to the media during the meeting. Commissioners stated that with the County being as small as it is, any specifics related to a claim could potentially result in the inadvertent release of the names of parties involved in the claims. In order to avoid any further complications, only Commissioners were supplied with the specific information Tinker spoke about during the Analysis presentation.

Extension Advisory Committee Appointment

  Commissioners approved the appointment of Dana Jones to Extension Advisory Committee for the CSU Extension Office. Jones moved to Gilpin in 2009 and has a journalism degree with a home economics minor. She has been an active participant in several classes offered by the Extension Office.

County Attorney’s Report

  After six years, County Attorney Jim Petrock reported to the Commissioners that the Brannan Sand & Gravel litigation was finally over. Lingering on was the open meetings portion of the suit. Petrock said the County’s defense generated so much evidence of compliance to open meetings law that when motion was filed Brannan’s lawyer called within a matter of days asking the County to accept a dismissal of the case. No possibility for appeals exists as the case was dismissed with prejudice.

Notice of Public Meetings

–CCI Mountain District Meeting, Cripple Creek, Colorado, Thursday, August 14th at 10:00 a.m.

–Timberline Fire District Open House, new station at Hwy 46 and Smith Hill Road, Wednesday, August 13th at 5:00 p.m.

Employee Benefits Work Session

  Commissioners held a work session to discuss employee benefits after the regular meeting. The discussion was centered on the County Holiday Schedule, employee insurance, certification/licenses/training guidelines, proposed changes to the Employee Handbook, and employee pay increases. Allen noted that a majority of these items were brought up for discussion now to prepare the Commissioners for issues coming down the pipeline during the County budgeting process.

  Commissioners discussed with Allen a proposed change to include Easter in the County holiday schedule as well as whether to continue the employee floating holiday introduced several years ago when the County stopped giving merit increases to its employees. Allen noted that the floating holiday is of little cost to the County.

  A discussion about giving employees a merit increase this year was also had. Merit increases have not been given to County employees since 2010, though the County did give an across the board .96 per hour raise to all County employees in 2013. As a result of the prolonged absence of merit raises, newly hired employees are getting pretty close to the same pay rates as employees who have been with the county five or more years. A merit increase of 2% would cost the county $200,000 in its next budgeted year, and another .96 per hour increase for all employees would cost $260,000.

  Another change to the Employee Handbook was the addition of the ban of e-cigarettes in County buildings as part of a smoke-free workplace policy. The exception discussed was use of e-cigarettes by inmates in the jail. Jail staff started allowing the use of e-cigarettes within the last year as a measure to keep fights down among inmates. E-cigarette use is also revenue generating in the jail, as inmates have to pay for their use. The e-cigarettes used in the jail were specifically developed for inmates to prevent tampering and their use as weapons. Many jails outside of Colorado allow the use of e-cigarettes, but Gilpin seems to be a forerunner in Colorado.

  Commissioners discussed allowing the exemption for a year and re-evaluating the outcome.

Next Meeting

  The next scheduled meeting for the Commissioners is on August 19th, at 9:00 a.m. on the 2nd floor of the Gilpin County Courthouse, 203 Eureka Street, Central City, Colorado.

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