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Gilpin opens forest access, COVID vaccines coming, Sheriff’s 2021 budget cuts

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Special Commissioners Meeting on November 12th

By Randy Beaudette

On Thursday, November 12, 2020 the Gilpin County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) held a special online meeting to discussed rescinding  support for the Forest Service closures, Rescinding three Gilpin County Public Health Orders (PHO),  the adoption of  PHO #20-14 (CDPHE PHO #20-36) for the COVID Dial, and a work session hammering out the 2021 Sheriff’s Office budget.

Board-Chair Gail Watson opened up the meeting promptly at 8:30 am along with Commissioners Ron Engels and Linda Isenhart. Joining online County Manager Abel Montoya, County Attorney Brad Benning, Deputy Clerk Sharon Cate, and members from the Senior Leadership Team.

Rescinding Forest Closure Order (Resolution #20-25)

The Gilpin County approved a motion to rescind support for the Stage 3 closure order for Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forest as presented by County Attorney Brad Benning. Resolution #20-21 approved on October 26 ,2020 implemented access closures of roads to include Tolland, Apex Valley, Columbine Campground, Bald Mountain Missouri Gulch, Gamble Gulch, Moon Gulch, Lump Gulch, Lower Travis Gulch, and any other county roads that provide access to the Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forests. The passage of Resolution #20-25 opened up those roads to the public, removed the roadblocks and barriers, and implemented a decrease of Sheriff Deputies patrols in those areas.

Emergency Operations Center (EOC) update

Emergency Operation Manager Nathan Whittington reported that the Troublesome Fire is still active, but there is no current threat to structures. The Cameron Peaks Fire is also still active, but fire growth and intensity has diminished with the recent snows and the colder weather. All County sheltering operations have ceased with the last of the animals removed from the barn last Saturday (November 7th). Gilpin County Sheriff Kevin Armstrong commented that the current Stage 2 fire restrictions are likely going to be downgraded to Stage 1 in the near future. Several surrounding counties have already downgraded their fire restriction due to the moisture provided by the last couple of snow storms.

COVID-19 Update

Gilpin County Public Health Coordinator Bonnie Albrecht reported that to date Gilpin County has 50 total positive cases since March with 23 in the last two weeks. Gilpin County has moved from Orange to Yellow on the COVID Dial. Tests results are currently being returned within a couple of days as opposed to the 8 to 9 days as reported two weeks ago. Gilpin County now utilizes a private lab where as before they sent the samples to the State lab which was overwhelmed by the number of COVID tests submitted. Emergency Operation Manager Nathan Whittington reported the vaccination plan is moving along. The ultracold freezer needed for the County vaccinations plan is at a storage facility in Jefferson County to be delivered soon to Gilpin. Policies and protocols concerning injections are being reviewed to establish a training program for the individuals identified as administers of the vaccine with a possibility of vaccination program ramping up sometime from a December to a March timeframe. Vaccinations will come in a two-part injection series three weeks apart. Vaccines will be administered to frontline workers such as doctors, nurses, and first responders first with availably to the general public to come soon after.

Board of Health (Public Health Order #20-14)

Gilpin County Board of Health approved a motion to rescind Public Health Orders (PHO) #20-12, (Protect Our Neighbors Status) 20-13, and 20-13 Amendment #1 (COVID-19 Mitigation Measures to remain in Protect Our Neighbors Status) and adopted PHO #20-14 which aligns with the  Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) PHO #20-36 that utilizes the COVID Dial to identify COVID-19 risks in counties throughout Colorado. The COVID-19 Dial consists of five levels that counties qualify for based on meeting three specific metrics. Counties will remain in a Dial level as long as they continue to meet the metrics in that level. If a county falls out of one or more metrics associated with that level, they will have two weeks to develop and implement mitigation strategies to get back into compliance with the metrics. Green is “Protect Our Neighbors” least restrictive, Blue is “Safer at Home Cautious,” Yellow is “Safer at Home Concern,” Orange is “Safer at Home High Risk,” Red is Stay at Home” which is what we experienced last spring and is the most restrictive. Social distancing and mask wearing is required in all Dial levels and counties can implement Public Health Orders above what is required in the various colors of the COVID-19 Dial.

Gilpin County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO) Budget Work Session

Background information

The Gilpin County Sheriff’s Office 2020 annual budget was forecast to be $9,084,834 but with the onset of COVID-19, the County Manager along with the Board of County Commissioners required the Gilpin County Sheriff’s Office to cut $930,000 from their budget. This was offset by a grant award of $392,982 in late July 2020.

In November 2020 voters rejected Gilpin Ballot Issue 1A by 57% NO to 43% YES. 1A was a ballot measure to temporarily add 2.27 mils to property taxes to support the Sheriff’s Department. The intent of 1A was to only add the tax increase until 2023.

Budget Work Session

On November 12, 2020 Sheriff Armstrong and the Sheriff’s Department Leadership Team met online via Zoom with Commissioners Engels, Isenhart, Watson, County Manager Montoya, and Finance Director Smith to work out a budget for 2021. Sheriff Armstrong led the presentation acknowledging the hard work the budget proposal team put into the 2021 budget. Work started in May once the possible impacts from COVID 19 and the $930,000 budget cut requirements were realized. Sheriff Armstrong expressed his frustration attempting to receive information on how much money the Sheriff’s Department is required to cut. Those final numbers were received from the Finance Department five days ago and the budget team scrambled to achieve those numbers. Everything from building and patrol car maintenance to toilet paper was scrutinized for possible cuts. The final overall numbers proposed for 2021 is $1.12 million dollars for the operating budget, $5.99 million dollars in personnel costs, zero for capital projects which equates to $7.24 million dollars as a total budget for Gilpin County Sheriff’s office, a reduction of around $1.84 million dollars. These numbers are not set in stone as grants will be applied for and hopefully awarded offsetting some of these budget cuts. After several hours of going back and forth, Commissioner Isenhart said it best “I feel like we all had a baby and we’ll name it the 2021 Sheriff’s budget.” The Sheriff’s Office budget will be one of many items in the Gilpin County overall budget to be voted on in a coming session.

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