As I write this newsletter, the temperature feels like summer, but the leaves have changed color and it looks like fall. This has been an amazing fall. As the old Denver Post banner stated, “'tis a privilege to live in Colorado”.
Election Year – I am guessing that everyone is ready for the election cycle to come to a close. I have been working hard on the campaign trail. I enjoy getting out and talking to people about the issues, but I am ready for the ballots to go out and for the voting to start. I encourage everyone to learn about the candidates and the issues and then complete your ballot. Don't procrastinate, vote early! There is also still time to register to vote so you can participate in this year's election.
During the campaign, there is a natural tendency to look back at the last four years and to then look ahead to what can be accomplished going forward. I am proud of my record from my first term, and I am excited about the possibilities for Jefferson County in the future.
When I ran four years ago, there were several key issues I wanted to focus on and I am proud to say I helped the County move forward in those areas:
Fiscal Accountability – We reestablished the Audit Committee.Volunteer audit professionals from the community are providing oversight on financial reporting. They have increased awareness of the importance of accountability and internal controls in County operations. We also established new budget philosophies to help guide financial decisions and stabilize the budget.
Protecting Beautiful Jefferson County – We live in a truly beautiful area, and it is important to be good stewards of the environment so future generations can enjoy the natural beauty of Jefferson County. We created a citizens Sustainability Commission that is providing residents and businesses with information related to conservation, recycling, and alternative energy. The Commission is working with Excel Energy on developing some energy recommendations for the County.
Economic Development – Jefferson County continues to prosper, and I have worked hard to promote Jefferson County as a great place to do business. New businesses continue to come to the County and many existing businesses have expanded and added high paying jobs. In 2015, the Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation selected me as the Elected Official of the Year.
Sensible Growth – It is important to balance growth, and the long-term financial health of the County, with the desire to protect neighborhoods and preserve the special Jefferson County lifestyle. I consider all of these factors when evaluating land use and zoning applications.I have voted for and against different projects based upon what I felt was best for the community.
I want to build on this record of success because there is still work to be done.
Affordable Housing – As the economy has grown along the Front Range, the cost of real estate has increased at a rapid rate. Many people are being priced out of the housing market.
HUD Projects – The County in partnership with cities and the housing authority have built projects to provide affordable housing options for seniors and families. CityScape at Belmar is a great example of a successful housing project. My opponent in this election wants the County to stop accepting HUD funding. This extreme idea is based upon a misguided concern related to local control over housing decisions. With affordable housing options being limited, it is wrong to stop working with all of our partners to increase housing inventory. Passing on HUD funding is bad for families, bad for seniors, bad for business, and bad for Jefferson County. I remain committed to working on addressing housing needs in Jefferson County.
Sustainability and Energy – I want to work with the Sustainability Commission and Excel Energy on developing an energy plan and increasing conservation funding opportunities for residents and businesses in Jefferson County. I will also continue to advocate for open space and protect neighborhoods.
Local Food – There is a lot of interest in increasing local food options for residents. Community gardens are growing around the country and that is also true along the front range of Colorado. I see a great deal of interest in small and large projects related to local food projects.
Transportation – As more people move into the area, we need to continue to invest in infrastructure such as roads and bridges. I want to continue the conversation on transportation options and look for new ways to fund transportation improvements.
It has been an honor to serve as a County Commissioner for the last four years. Thank you for allowing me to serve on the Board. If reelected, I will continue to work hard for Jeffco.
August 18, 2016
I hope everyone has enjoyed a good summer. It is hard to believe schools are starting up again and fall is just around the corner.
It has been a busy time in the county, but overall things are going well in Jeffco. Despite some warm weather, we have been fortunate not to have had a major wildfire in Jefferson County. We have had a couple of smaller fires; but thanks to the quick response of firefighters, those fires were extinguished quickly.
County Slash Program - One of the most important things people living in the mountain communities can do to protect their home from wild fires is to clear trees and brush from the area around their house to create a defensible space. Jefferson County encourages this practice by homeowners, so we initiated a slash program in mountain communities. Each weekend throughout the summer, the county sets up a mobile slash collection site at different locations in the mountain areas of Jeffco. The goal is to provide a convenient location for people to drop off their slash material. To date the program has been a big success, and it continues to grow. The amount of material collected has grown significantly from last year; and as word of the program continues to spread, we expect to continue to collect more material in future years. Hopefully, the efforts of homeowners will pay off if a wildfire occurs in the future.
Forest Health - Several weeks ago the Jefferson Conservation District took all three County Commissioners on a tour of some of its forest thinning efforts in southwest Jefferson County. The district has contracted with several private land owners to do some substantial forest thinning on the land to help reduce possible damage from wildfires. They explained to us that wildfires are a natural part of the forest life-cycle. However, if forests become overgrown and there is too much fuel, the fires can become too hot and seriously damage the forest. As a result, the forest does not grow back as quickly, resulting in soil erosion that can damage adjoining watersheds. Staff with the Jefferson Conservation district said its goal is to thin the forests and return the land to a more natural state. When a thinning project is conducted, the results can be dramatic; and it takes a little time to get used to the look. A substantial number of trees are removed from an area, and it takes a little time for the area to recover. But, we toured several different projects; and it was clear that after a year or two, vegetation grows in around the remaining trees and the natural beauty returns.
These projects are expensive, but I can see the benefit of spending money on prevention rather than trying to fight wildfires in areas that are overgrown.We are communicating with federal and state officials in an attempt to find funding for more extensive forest health projects.
Peaks to Plains Trail - Recently Jefferson and Clear Creek Counties celebrated the opening of a beautiful portion of the Peak to Plains Trail. The paved multi-use trail goes along Clear Creek Canyon Park and offers beautiful views of the mountains and the creek. There are several locations where people can access the creek. The new section of the trail is a little more than three miles long, and it is very scenic. Eventually the plan is for a 65-mile trail that goes from the confluence of the South Platte River up to the Continental Divide. The new trail section was made possible through a partnership of Jeffco Open Space, Clear Creek County, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and Great Outdoors Colorado.
To get to the new trail segment, go west about eight miles up Highway 6 from Golden to the Mayhem Gulch Trail-head. There is parking available. I biked the trail, and it was a lot of fun. Finding funding to complete the trail is a challenge, but when the trail is completed it will be an asset for Colorado.
Jefferson County’s Annual Financial Audit - We recently received the latest financial audit for the County. I am happy to say the audit was positive, and the financial condition of the County is solid. One of my initial priorities as Commissioner was to re-establish the Audit Committee for Jefferson County. We were able to get some very experienced audit professionals to volunteer their time and talent to this Committee, and we are seeing the benefits of the increased focus on financial reporting and internal controls. There has been a reduction in both the number and the significance of audit findings. In the most recent audit report, there were only a few findings. None of them were listed as a material weakness, which is the designation for the more significant type of audit finding. To put this into perspective, the first year I was on the board, the county had several audit findings that were considered material weaknesses. The auditors questioned the eligibility of some of the costs charged to federal programs. This year, the audit results were better.
It is obvious that employees throughout the county take their financial responsibilities seriously. I want to thank the County’s Accounting Staff and all the other Jeffco employees involved in the process. The positive audit is the result of their hard work and dedication. I also want to thank the volunteers with the Audit Committee. They are helping create a culture of accountability and excellence.
Jeffco Fair and Festival - We just finished celebrating Jefferson County at the new Jeffco Fair and Festival. The goal was to bring a new energy to the county fair, and have a four-day celebration of Jeffco’s past, present and future. I had a great time at the Fair and Festival and thought the new effort was a big success. As with anything new, some things worked better than others; and I know staff is making a list for improvements for next year. From my perspective, they got a lot right; and the new Fair and Festival is off to a great start. I want to thank fairgrounds staff, county employees, sponsors and volunteers for making the 2016 Fair and Festival great. I can hardly wait until next year.
The 2016 Election - This October and November we all get the privilege to vote in another election. I have been working hard on my re-election effort. Campaigning is a lot of work, but it can also be fun. We just finished the parade for Wheat Ridge Carnation Festival. I had supporters walk with me, and a friend drove his 1957 Cadillac with our group. Seeing all the happy families along the parade route and passing candy to the kids, (young and old) was a reminder that we live in a great country and we have great communities in Jefferson County.
As I knock on doors to talk to neighbors about county government and the election, I hear some frustration with national politics and concerns over problems facing our country. However, I also hear that people are proud of their communities; and they love their neighborhoods. I am optimistic about the future of Jefferson County and the Country as a whole, because I know my community cares enough to work on finding solutions to problems. Take the time to vote this fall.
December 15, 2015
Seasons Greetings to everyone. Our family is having a great time. My sister hosted a large gathering at Thanksgiving, and it was great to catch up with some relatives that I had not seen in a while. The food was also fantastic. The sweet potatoes in particular, but I am not bragging. We are looking forward to more relatives visiting for Christmas, but I still have a lot of things to get done before then. It has been busy in Jefferson County. 2015 Elections It has been over a month since the 2015 elections, but the results of the election will be impacting Jefferson County for years to come. One thing that I took from the election is that it is clear the voters of Jefferson County are engaged and care about the future of Jeffco. The passage of the mill levy increase for the library was very significant to the county. The new funding will allow the library increase hours of operation, complete some much needed maintenance projects, and increase materials available to library patrons. Many of the challenges the library faces cannot be solved overnight, and it will be very important to make sure there is good accountability on how the new funds are spent. However, we have a great Library Board and professional library staff that will ensure the Jeffco libraries take a step forward in the coming years. I also want to thank the Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder’s Office for their great work on the election. With both a recall and the regular elections, plus ballot questions at the county and local levels this election was complicated. There was concern that voters would be confused and mistakes would occur. I am happy to say the problems did not occur. Faye Griffin and her staff should be congratulated on a well run election. 2016 Budget The Board of County Commissioners recently passed the Budget for 2016. A great deal of work went into this final budget, and I want to thank staff throughout the County for the hard work in finishing the budget, which totaled almost $516 million. The budget is an important document that reflects the County’s values. And where we spend the taxpayers money should reflect citizen priorities and help people create a vibrant and safe county. Details about the budget can be found on the Jefferson County website and www.jeffco.us/budget-and-risk-management/proposed-budget/ I would like to point out a couple of highlights in the budget:
Employee compensation - The largest expenditure goes toward employee salaries and benefits. I have stated many times in my letters that Jeffco employees are extremely dedicated and rank among the best. It is important that the county stay competitive in order to retain the best employees. The budget included a modest performance based pay increase of 2.6%. (some employees will get more and others will get less based upon performance factors). In recent years, the county had some concerns with high employee attrition due in part to low pay. While Jeffco pay is not the highest, when compared to other Colorado counties, the county is becoming more competitive.
Library funding – As I stated above, Jeffco voters approved an increase in the mill levy for the Library. The increase in the funding will allow the library to: expand the hours of operation for the different branches, complete some much needed building maintenance and increase the materials for people to use.
Fiscal control and management – For the last several years, the Commissioners have been working with county staff to develop budget guidelines and targets to improve fiscal accountability. The idea is to position the county to be strong financially. The county needs to have sufficient funds in reserve to be ready to respond to unforeseen situations (such as the increased costs for flood recovery two years ago), but we do not want to collect and hold more money than necessary. We feel these targets have helped streamline the budget and created a clearer picture on how funds are being used.
Challenges – As we went through this budget process, it is clear that challenges are still ahead for the Jeffco:
Road and bridge funding has not had a significant increase for several years and the county infrastructure is aging. Investment in new infrastructure is needed as the county continues to grow.
The open space program in Jeffco is one of the most successful in the nation, but there are still opportunities to acquire important areas for preservation and recreation. Additionally, the county needs to be responsible in maintaining the open space already acquired.
Economic development, job creation and sensible development will help shape the future of Jefferson County. We continue to partner with Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation, Jeffco Public Schools and local businesses.
Citizen Survey This fall, Jefferson County conducted a citizen survey asking for feedback about the county government. Citizens were asked about numerous different topics such as quality of life, safety, community characteristics and other issues related to the county. Most respondents had very positive attitudes towards Jefferson County. Some of the highest rated attributes of the county related to an overall feeling of safety, good recreational options and the overall natural environment in Jeffco. The biggest area of concern related to the lack of affordable quality housing. I share the concerns related to affordable housing. As the economy has improved, housing prices have increased at a rapid rate. This increase is great if you are getting ready to sell a home, but the high prices can be a real challenge for people looking to buy or rent. As a county, we need to continue to support different housing options, understanding that higher density will be necessary in some areas. Cities in Jefferson County are dealing with the same issues. Redevelopment is needed in some areas and new growth will also be occurring. The key is to plan for, and build infrastructure to support the growth, while protecting what makes Jefferson County great. Bike Lanes We recently approved a new road template for county roads, and the roads on the Jeffco Bike Plan will include a four foot bike lane. Marking a clear bike lane on these routes is an important safety enhancement for both cyclists and drivers. Outdoor activity, including cycling, is a key component of the Colorado lifestyle, and as more cyclists utilize our county roads every year, I am happy that Jefferson County is supporting safe cycling and motorist travel. I wish everyone a warm and happy holiday season. Casey
October 12, 2015
They say time flies when you are having fun, and that has been very true in 2015. It is already October, and yet it seems like summer just started. The leaves are changing, footballs are flying and kids are back at school, so it is very much fall in Colorado.
Head Start and the Jeffco Prosperity Project. As commissioners, we sit on various boards, committees or working groups that work in Jefferson County. Typically, the three commissioners divide participation in these groups because there are too many committees for any one person to be involved in all the groups. One of my assignments is the Head Start program here in Jeffco. As the new school year started, there was a lot of activity and excitement in the Head Start building in Arvada. What impressed me the most about the program is the parent involvement and the collaboration among the parents and the Head Start staff. They have developed a true team approach to this program focused on helping families with young children. The staff has developed numerous performance measures to evaluate the program’s effectiveness, and they are constantly evaluating their progress. I can tell you that the Head Start program in Jeffco is making a difference. Our program is a national model. It is great to see the philosophy in action with Head Start.
Community Corrections. I have also written before about community corrections and the county’s efforts to relocate the facility from the current location near the JCRS Shopping Center in Lakewood. If you are unfamiliar with community corrections, it is basically a program for individuals who are either transitioning from prison back into society or for people that are convicted of a crime but are sentenced to the community corrections halfway house.
The most recent location under consideration was a building near West Eighth Avenue and Quail Street (in the industrial park a few blocks west of the Oak Street light rail station) in Lakewood. The Lakewood Planning Commission did not approve the special permit application for this location, so the facility will not be relocated to this site.
Whenever consideration is given to moving a facility of this nature, there is going to be concern from neighbors. The County has evaluated several sites, and to date none have worked. Citizens, expressed concerns about each of the proposed locations. However, we also heard that, for the most part, Jeffco residents believe in the program and they want people to have a chance to rehabilitate and be successful in the community.
This issue has been a challenge for the Board of County Commissioners for many years. Costs associated with either fixing the current building or with relocating the facility along with ongoing operating costs make this issue even more complex. However, we cannot avoid an issue just because it is difficult or controversial.
In the near future, we will need to sit down with Lakewood officials and members of the larger community and continue to talk about the program and what it should look like for Jefferson County. I am open to suggestions you may have on how we can solve this difficult issue and do what is right for the community.
Economic Activity. Overall, the economy in Jefferson County continues to grow, but there are still challenges. The Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation recently provided the County with a report on the economic activity in Jeffco. Some of the highlights from that report include:
County Employment rose 3.2 percent from the 1st quarter of 2014 to the 1st quarter of 2015.
Consumer confidence rose in the mountain region last year.
Retail sales rose 1.6 % between the 4th quarters of 2013 and 2014.
The number of businesses throughout Jeffco increased 4.3% between the 1st quarters of 2014 and 2015.
Commercial office vacancy rate continued to decline.
Residential apartment vacancy rate is 3.4% which is the lowest for counties in the metro area.
Home sales continued to be strong, but the residential real estate market reported a decline in the 2nd quarter of 2015. The number of residential building permits also declined from the previous year.
The Denver metro area continues to be a growing market and a popular location for young professionals to relocate. Affordable housing is already big issue and as Jefferson County continues to grow, it will be more challenging. We have to be ready to meet the challenge to grow in a sensible and responsible way.
Comprehensive Master Plan Update. Jefferson County is in the process of updating its Comprehensive Master Plan. In the past, Jeffco had 11 regional plans. The new philosophy is to create a more coordinated comprehensive plan with various sub-area plans. There will be 8 sub-area plans that that allow for the unique nature factors of different parts of the County while having a more organized and coordinated master plan. Staff is currently in the process of updating the Evergreen and Conifer sub-areas. When those are complete, likely sometime early next year, all of the sub-areas will have been updated in the last few years.
In Jeffco, the master plan is an advisory document. I used this plan for information on what the community is thinking. As a Board, we sometimes deviate from what is in the plan because times and needs change. New opportunities can also affect how we look at a plan. We are therefore balancing the need to have a plan in place to guide development with the need to have flexibility to meet changing conditions. I believe it is important to go through this planning process as a community and discuss what values are important. We want to develop a vision for how Jefferson County will grow and develop with an understanding that we also need to be flexible and ready to take advantage of new opportunities.
If you would like more information on the Comprehensive Plan visit www.jeffco.us
Election Day is coming up, so please take some time to read up on the issues and the candidates and be sure to vote.
July 2, 2015
Bike to Work Day. My ride to work could not have been better. The bright cool morning offered a breakfast stop along the route for coffee, fruit and the good company of other riders. I am lucky because I have several route options from my house to the county building. I live near 32nd avenue which is a popular bike route, but it is in need of widening, so I took the separated bike path near Clear Creek into Golden. I then used bike lanes through town to the office.
Cycling is becoming more and more popular in Colorado, and that is especially true in Jefferson County. One of my cousin’s recently visited from Kansas City, and he and his wife commented several times about the number of cyclists on the roads in Colorado. They also observed that they felt the motorists and cyclists seem to get along really well here in Colorado. I told him that there are still a fair share of car / bike conflicts, but he said he felt we were ahead of what he noticed in Kansas City. I know we have our challenges but it is nice to hear positive feedback.
Limited funding makes providing infrastructure for cyclists one of the bigger challenges. Creating a connected network of bike lanes is a vision of Bike Jeffco, a local cycling advocacy group. Bike Jeffco is looking for creative ways to help the county and cities find funding to improve cycling options in Jeffco. Widening 32nd avenue to make it safer for cyclists, and easier for drivers, is one of their priorities.
Weather did become an issue on my bike to work day ride. I want to emphasize that it is bike to work day; not bike from work. The rain and wind and lightening caused me to catch a ride home in my son’s car. But, after the great ride to work this year, I think I will start to take advantage of more of the bike paths and lanes and ride to work some more this summer but finish my round trip (weather permitting).
Foothills Animal Shelter. The Board of County Commissioners recently updated the ordinances related to Animal Control Regulations. We did not make significant changes. The goal for most of the changes was to streamline the program and make it easier to update the policies. At this time, we did not increase the fees to register your pet. We want to encourage people to register their pet, and there are a lot of good reasons to register your furry friend. One of the best is that it is easier to get Fido home if he becomes lost.
The Animal Shelter provides a great service to Jefferson County. So, if you are in the market for a new pet, please remember to stop in and see who is waiting for you at the Foothills Animal Shelter. The Shelter is next to the Jeffco Fairgrounds, on the south side of 6th Avenue and west of Indiana.
Open Space Parks. Summer is a great time to get out and enjoy the beautiful open space parks in Jeffco. It is great to see families out enjoying nature. The parks get a lot of use and County’s staff and volunteers work hard to keep the parks clean and to protect the natural habitat. We need the park visitors to help in this effort. Removing trash and picking up pet waste is so important in the effort to keep the parks beautiful. Please follow the trail markings so future generations will be able to enjoy the open space we all purchased.
It is important to maintain the great open space the county has already acquired, but the Open Space Advisory Committee (OSAC) is still looking at buying some additional land. One of the goals of OSAC is to try and connect some of the trails the County already owns to create a trail system for people to enjoy. The County is partnering with cities and the state and federal governments to create robust parks in and around Jeffco.
We have also experienced increased interest in camping. There are limited free campsites, so Open Space is requiring permits. Two parks that allow free camping are Reynolds Park in Conifer (the Idylease Campground) and in White Ranch Park near Golden (the Sourdough Springs Equestrian and Sawmill campgrounds). Permits are available from the Open Space Administration Office, 700 Jefferson County Parkway, Golden.
Excel Energy Partners in Energy Program. At a recent County Commissioners briefing, Excel Energy gave the Board of County Commissioners an update on some programs Excel has to promote energy efficiency and provide financial incentives to businesses and homes that install high efficiency products. Excel has a program to help communities develop energy action plans, and they also have programs for individual businesses and residential homes.
We are evaluating the concept of working on a community energy plan with Excel. However, as we look into that concept, individual businesses and homeowners can still get rebates or experience lower utility bills by working with excel on some of their programs. Go to www.Excelenergy.com and look to see if there are any rebates or renewable energy solutions that might work for you or your business.
Re-election. It has been an honor to work for the citizens of Jefferson County over the last two and a half years. I would like to continue to work for the people of Jeffco, so I have announced that I will be seeking a second term as County Commissioner. Over the next few months, I will be organizing a campaign and I will be out talking to the citizens about the future of Jeffco.
Jefferson County is a great place to live and work. I want to work with citizens, businesses and other governmental entities to build upon Jeffco’s strong foundation and create a future for Jefferson County that makes us all proud.
I hope everyone has a safe and happy 4th of July Holiday.
April 27, 2015
In my last letter, I misstated the old saying about March and lions and lambs, and the smart readers of this letter were quick to point that out.The correct saying is that if March goes in like a lion it will go out like a lamb.(I had it backwards) Well, I am going to try an old weather related sayings again.
April showers bring May flowers.We have gotten some much needed moisture this last week, but as we learned from the floods two years ago, we can get too much of a good thing.These rains should help mitigate the fire danger in our mountains for a while, but has the summer progresses I am guessing the fire risk will return.
Slash Program.Jeffco is expanding its mobile slash program this summer to help residents get rid of tree limbs and other yard materials.The County encourages residents to create defensible space around their homes to help protect their structures in the event of a wild fire.Details for some sites are still being finalized, so we are not sure exactly how many weekends there will be a location open to drop off your slash.However, we have finalized the details for 9 dates and locations.The complete list is on the Jeffco web page at www.jeffco.us
A few of dates are:
May 30 and 31 at the Evergreen Road and Bridge shop 30846 Lewis Ridge Road.
June 13 and 14 at the Wagon Wheel Open Space, Wagon Wheel Road and Spring Gulch Road
June 20 and 21 at the Blue Mountain Open Space 1.47 miles west of Hwy 93 and Hwy 72
Slash material can be typically be dropped off from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The charge is $20 per load.
Please check the webpage for an explanation of what materials can and cannot be accepted and for what constitutes a load.
Budget.We have started work on our 2016 budget. Like governments throughout the country, Jefferson County has faced a number of challenges the last few years, but we have been able to get the budget on solid financial footing.The Board of County Commissioners has adopted several financial philosophies that have helped guide us in setting the budget.
One of the challenges we always have is predicting revenues.This year uncertainty is even greater because of the new property valuations from the Assessor’s Office.It is expected that residential property values will increase, but commercial property will see only a modest, if any, increase. As we establish the budget, we understand how important it is to make sure the county is operating efficiently and effectively.
Positive Things in Jeffco.Over the last several weeks I have been able to attend events that demonstrate how many positive things are happening in Jefferson County.Over the span of a couple of days I went to ribbon cuttings for building expansions for the Action Center and for Terumo BCT.
The Action Center is a non-profit in Lakewood that provides a hand up for our neighbors that may be going through a tough time.At the Action Center, people can get food, clothing and help finding stable housing for their family.The Action Center’s goal is to help people find a pathway to success.Their new building has a great new food pantry and more room for the staff and volunteers to provide services to the center’s clients.The expansion was made possible by the generosity of the citizens of Jefferson County and our neighbors throughout the metro area.If you can learn more about the Action Center, volunteer or donate by visiting their website at www.theactioncenter.org
Terumo BCT is a business that has been located in Lakewood for a long time, and they are a global leader in blood component and cellular technologies.Terumo BCT is unlocking the potential of blood, and they have helped improve the lives of people all over the world with their innovative products.Their new expansion will bring high quality jobs to Lakewood as they continue to develop better treatment options for patients.
I also attended the state of the city speeches in Golden, Arvada and Lakewood.Exciting things are happening all over the County.One consistent theme I picked up in each city’s presentation is that there is a great quality of life in Jefferson County.There is a mix of economic development, environmental stewardship, cultural activity, recreational options, and volunteerism that is part of the fabric of Jefferson County and each city in the county.I also heard about challenges each city is facing.Some of the common issues related to transportation, affordable housing, helping the growing senior population, economic development and attracting good stable jobs.These are many of the same challenges the county is facing and I am excited to work with each city to find solutions.
Bi-Partisanship.A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to join the other two commissioners at a meeting of the Jefferson County Republican Party Men’s club.We gave a short presentation about things going on in the county and answered some questions.The group was very gracious and welcomed me as a Democrat to the discussion.After the meeting, I had a good discussion with a couple of people that disagreed with me on some issues.After our discussion was over, we still did not completely agree, but it was a good debate, and I think both sides learned a little about the others perspective.
I bring this up because over the last two years I have been on the Board of County Commissioners, we as a board have worked hard to get past party labels and work together for the residents of Jeffco.Sometimes, I catch myself slipping into a partisan mode, and I have to step back and remember to look at the big picture.As a board we have to be able to debate the issues and find resolution.
As County Commissioners we deal with many different issues that can sometimes be politically charged and emotional for people involved.We don’t always agree when we vote on these issues, but I always try to make the vote that I think is in the overall best interest of Jeffco.I believe the other Commissioners I have served with take their votes just as seriously.I hope we can continue to work in a bipartisan way and continue to do what is best for Jefferson County.
March 04, 2015
The old saying is that March goes in like a lamb and out like a lion, but this year that applies to February. The first two weeks were fairly warm, but the last two weeks we have experienced record snow amounts to remind us that it is still winter.
Snow. I want to thank the road and bridge crews for their hard work. The snow, along with the ongoing cold temperatures, have made these storms a challenge for the road crews. As I am sure you have noticed, when the snow gets packed down and freezes it becomes extremely difficult to plow. And because the weather has been bad all over the country, there is now a shortage of ice slicing materials; so the road crews have to be very careful on how much of the product they use. I know the crews are doing their best in these tough conditions.
NACO Conference. Last week, I joined the other two Commissioners in Washington D.C., for the legislative conference of the National Association of Counties. I attended this conference two years ago, and it is a great opportunity to meet with county officials from all around the country to discuss challenges facing local governments. We hear from experts in different areas and hear about best practices a wide range of topics, such as, jails, open space, budgeting, human services, roads and land use.
Water seems to be an area that is a challenge to people all over the country, and there was a lot of discussion of water during the conference. As local governments seek to promote economic growth, they need to ensure that there is a sufficient supply of clean available water. This is going to be one of the major challenges for local governments in the next few decades, and we need to attack these issues in many different ways. Many of the challenges we face here in the arid west are very different than the issues on the coasts, but many of the same themes still apply. We need to have sensible land use, more conservation and improved water storage and water management facilities.
Visits with the Congressional Delegation. We got to meet with the members of Congress or their Washington staff during our trip to Washington. It was great to talk to them about challenges facing Jefferson County. A couple of the issues we focused on were:
Transportation Funding – Congress has not been able to approve a stable multi-year transportation funding bill. Transportation projects take years to design and build, and the funding uncertainty is slowing project development and increasing costs.
Human Services – We bragged about the Jeffco Prosperity project and the great work our human services office is doing on developing a mutil-generational approach to delivering services to families in poverty. The idea is to help families develop strategies and a support network to get out of the cycle of poverty to become self-sufficient. The program is still relatively new, but it is very promising and it may become a model for the nation.
Economic Development. The economy in Jefferson County seems to be continuing to improve and I see positive signs going forward.
Fed Ex ground has announced that they are building a large distribution facility in north Jeffco. This is the first business to locate in the new Verve Innovation Park near the Rocky Mountain Airport. This new facility will provide some great job opportunities in the north part of Jefferson County.
Lockeed Martin has announced that they are expanding their facility in Waterton Canyon, in the south part of the county, adding hundreds of jobs over the next few years.
We continue to see new construction all around the metro area including Jeffco. The challenge we have is making sure the new development is sensible and provides for a good long term quality of life for the citizens. Staff is working on updating the comprehensive master plan to help Jeffco develop in a sensible sustainable way.
February 2, 2015
is already flying by! January has come to a close and February is upon
us. As they say, time flies when you are having fun.
Last Friday, January 30th, we welcomed a new member to the Board of
Commissioners. Following Commissioner Faye Griffin’s election as County
Clerk and Recorder, a vacancy committee came together and appointed
State Representative Libby Szabo to complete Faye’s term. Libby brings a
great deal of legislative experience to the position and I am looking
forward to working with her for the next two years. I am sure Libby will
bring a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective to the County.
Red Rocks Amphitheater.
Over the last several months, I have been working with officials from
the City of Denver, the Town of Morrison and neighbors living near Red
Rocks Amphitheater on determining how to manage sound coming from Red
Rocks. The people living in areas around Red Rocks have noticed that
over the last few years the sound coming from the amphitheater has
increased significantly. Denver officials listened to the concerns
raised by the Town of Morrison and the County and developed a plan to
address the sound issues. As with many things this problem is more than
simply turning down the volume. Denver and Morrison each hired sound
engineers to help figure out a plan to make sure the sound in the
amphitheater is robust and the concert experience is enjoyable, while
not bothering the neighbors.
Will the plan work? I sure hope it
does. However, there still may be some issues from time to time because
it is still uncertain how much the sound will be carried by wind and
weather. Denver has told us they are committed to continue to gathering
more data on concerts, weather and sound levels and evaluating the
situation in future years.
This summer promises to be an
exciting year of concerts and other events at Red Rocks Amphitheater,
which is one of the premier concert venues in the world. I want to thank
Mayor Hancock and Mayor Forey for their continued commitment and
thoughtful work on this issue. Volunteer with the County.
Jefferson County would not be the special place it is without the
efforts of our residents helping each other. The county also gets a big
boost from the numerous volunteers that serve on various boards and
commissions. The members advise the county government and help direct
many county initiatives. During February, March and April the Board of
County Commissioners typically reviews applications for these positions.
Applications for positions on the boards and commissions will be taken
until February 13th. It is not hard to apply, you can do it online.
Visit www.jeffco.us and click on the Volunteer tab and you will see a
list of boards and commissions needing applicants. From the Audit
Committee to the Open Space Advisory Committee, there is likely an area
that you will find interesting.
December 3, 2014
busy holiday season has already started. I hope everyone has safe
travels if they are going to see family or friends. The weather changed
quickly from a summer-like fall to the dead of winter. But these quick
changes keep Colorado interesting.
election season just finished and the results of the election mean
there will be a change in the Board of County Commissioners. Both of my
fellow board members won their races, and I want to congratulate both on
their wins. Don Rosier was reelected as Commissioner, and Faye Griffin
won another term as the County’s Clerk and Recorder. Although, I
sometimes have policy disagreements with both Don and Faye, I have a
tremendous amount of respect for their hard work and dedication. I know
they have the best interest of Jefferson County in mind as they go to
work each day.
Faye’s win means she will be moving out of the
Commission office and over to the Clerk’s office. Since Faye is a
Republican, the Jefferson County Republican Party’s five-member vacancy
committee will choose a new Commissioner to finish the last two years of
her term. I wish the vacancy committee luck, and I hope they make a
good selection. I know there are a lot of qualified people in the County
but Faye will leave big shoes to fill.
Update on Southwest Plaza. This
summer there was discussion concerning the Town of Bow Mar annexing
South-West Plaza, as well as parts of Bowles Avenue. For the time being,
those discussions are on hold. However, some of the underlying issues
that prompted those discussions still exist. South-West Plaza has been
an important center for south Jefferson County for decades and the long
term health of the mall is important to Jefferson County. The mall
owners were interested in talking to the Town of Bow Mar to see if they
could work with the town on finding ways to finance long term upkeep of
the mall. I had concerns with the initial proposal, and I want to be
sure we protect the interests of the neighbors living around the mall.
It is important that the neighbors have a voice in the future of their
However, I don’t want that future to be a
run-down, largely vacant mall. The owners of the mall are putting money
into renovations that are currently taking place at Southwest Plaza.
They seem very committed to the success of the mall, but they are
looking to also ensure its long term viability. Under current laws,
cities have more incentive tools than counties have to help businesses
that invest in their community. There may be some legislation considered
this session to give counties more tools to promote business
development in unincorporated areas. Regardless of any legislation, we
need to be creative and supportive in working together to keep the area
vibrant, while protecting the neighborhood.
The Board of County Commissioners continues to work on the 2015 Budget.
The overall budget outlook for the County is better than last year, but
challenges remain. Attrition has been a growing problem for the county.
It is no secret that Jefferson County has some of the best employees in
the nation, and it hurts to lose good employees to other jurisdictions.
We are considering a modest 2% merit based pay increase for 2015. The
Board is also considering budgeting an additional $1.5 million to go to
specific job classifications where employee retention or pay inequity is
of particular concern. Recruiting and retaining top employees is
challenging and expensive. We want to make Jefferson County a place
where the best employees want to stay and make a career.
Noise at Red Rocks.
You may have read in the paper that citizens from the Town of Morrison
and areas of unincorporated Jefferson County are concerned about the
loud sound coming from the Red Rocks amphitheater. I have been working
with the City and County of Denver and the Town of Morrison to try to
resolve the problem. Everyone agrees that Red Rocks is a great venue for
concerts, but the neighbors are concerned that for the last few years
the sound volume emanating from the amphitheater has increased
substantially. The neighbors tell me this is a recent problem and they
never had complaints in the past. I think new audio technology must be
creating this problem that I am told is so bad that the sound actually
shakes the walls in some of the homes around Red Rocks.
we can work with the City and County of Denver, the Town of Morrison and
the neighbors to find a solution to this problem. We want the sound to
be robust in the venue but not be unreasonably loud for the neighbors.
It may take a little work to get the right mix, but I hope we can reach a
solution that works.
New Judge. I am excited
to tell everyone that my wife, Laura, was recently appointed by Governor
Hickenlooper to be the newest Judge in the 1st Judicial District. Laura
has been a trial lawyer practicing with the law firm of Bayer and
Carey, P.C. in Denver for almost 20 years. She is very excited with this
opportunity and I am sure she will do a great job.
I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving.
July 8, 2014
Last week, America celebrated its birthday. I was happy to spend some time with family and friends as we together remembers the great American values of freedom and democracy. I hope you had a little time to relax and watch some fireworks. We are truly fortunate to live in this great country.
My sons and I plan to take advantage of one of the long summer days this week and climb one of Colorado’s 14 thousand foot peaks. What a great way to celebrate the 4th, by getting out into the great Colorado mountains.
As usual there has been a lot going on the Jefferson County.
Slash Program. Last week the Board of County Commissioners approved a new expanded mobile slash program. The County Sheriff’s office planned to have three collection sites for people to bring their slash for disposal. That program will continue as planned, but the county just entered into a contract to have as many as ten more mobile sites this summer and fall. We want to encourage people, particularly in the mountain communities, to trim back their trees and bushes and create defensible space around their homes. It is very important to reduce the materials that fuel forest fires, and good defensible space around homes makes fighting fires safer for the fire crews.
By providing more sites, we hope it will be easier for people to drop off their slash. The material will be ground up at the mobile site and then taken to a location to be used as material for compost. It is great to be able to reuse this material and keep it out of the landfills.
Southwest Plaza. The owners of the Southwest Plaza Mall and the Town of Bow Mar asking have asked the County to support the possible annexation of the mall by Bow Mar. Not all of the details of the plan have been finalized but basically the town would annex portions of Sheridan Blvd. and Bowles Ave. to reach the mall and then annex the mall property. This type of annexation is often called a flagpole annexation because the Bow Mar’s town limits do not currently border any of the mall property.
It is important that we make a prudent decision on this issue because Southwest Plaza is an important part of the community and the corner of Wadsworth and Bowles one of the major intersections in the county. There are many questions surrounding this idea.
So why did Bow Mar and the mall owners propose this annexation? It is not a secret that the mall has been going through some difficult economic times. The mall’s owner, General Growth Properties (GGP) is in the process of making a major investment to remodel the property. GGP is looking for additional support in these efforts from local governments, and cities have more legal options to provide financial incentives to businesses than counties.
GGP and the Town of Bow Mar intend to enter into a revenue sharing agreement to allow for more reinvestment into the mall. I was told that the tentative plan calls for a three percent increase in the sales tax with half of the revenue going to Bow Mar and half going to GGP to use on mall improvements.
Will the Bow Mar be able to provide services to support the mall and maintain Wadsworth and Bowles? Bow Mar is asking the county to enter into an agreement in which the town pays the county to provide various services. The county would provide law enforcement, road maintenance, planning and zoning support, building inspections, etc. and then bill the Town of Bow Mar for the costs of these services. The town plans to use its portion of the new sales tax to pay the county for the billed service.
So what are the arguments in favor of this proposal? Southwest Plaza is an aging mall that has not been able to attract many new businesses. Without changes to the mall, the decline is likely to continue. The mall is a meeting place and a key economic driver for South Jeffco. It is in the best interest of the citizens in the area to have a vibrant business district at this intersection. GGP believes that they need the support and revenue sharing of a city to implement the necessary changes to make this mall competitive and vibrant.
GGP also states that the neighbors of Southwest Plaza will likely not notice much change because Jeffco will continue to provide services. Government services for law enforcement, road maintenance and building regulations and inspections are already provided by Jeffco employees. Under the annexation proposal, Jeffco would continue to provide these services but now receive payment from Bow Mar.
Are there concerns with the proposal? If this plan is approved by the County and the citizens of Bow Mar, there would likely be a three percent sales tax added to items purchased at the mall. The revenue from this tax would go to the mall owners and Bow Mar. It is anticipated that most if not all of the revenue would go infrastructure improvements in and around the mall, but I have seen specific revenue and cost projections.
The neighbors living next to the mall would no longer have a direct voice in what activities and types of construction allowed at the mall. Bow Mar would be making zoning and permitting decisions related to the mall (building heights, density, etc.) and these decisions will have direct impact on the south Jeffco neighborhood. Additionally, as time goes on, Bow Mar may have different views on regulatory activities at the mall, so it could become increasingly difficult for Jeffco employees to provide various services.
As with most complex issues there are pros and cons to this annexation idea. Last week I voted to provide initial approval of the annexation to allow the process to move forward. However, I amended the resolution to ensure that the matter comes before the Jefferson County Board of County Commissioners again for a final vote. I need more information on the proposal and I want to hear what the citizens of Jefferson County think.
I will be at the Columbine Library on the afternoons of July 10th and July 24th from 3-5 p.m. to visit with citizens of south Jeffco and get your input on any issues facing the County including the possible annexation of South West Plaza. Please stop by and let me know what you think.
Jeffco 5. It appears the effort to get a ballot question on expanding the Board of County Commissioners has failed. The Jeffco 5 group was unable to get a sufficient number of signatures by the deadline to get the question added to the ballot. It is too bad the voters of Jefferson County will not be able to weigh in on this important question. I supported the Jeffco 5 effort and felt the voters should have been given the chance to decide if they want additional commissioners. In talking to people around the county I found general agreement on putting the question up for a vote, even from people that were not sure they supported idea of two more commissioners. The Jeffco 5 volunteers were a group of concerned citizens that wanted to make a difference. They were not part of a big political organization no were they funded by a large foundation, and they did not pay petition circulators to get signatures. They worked with volunteers only to gather signatures, but ultimately their organization was not large enough to get the over 17,000 valid signatures they needed.
This issue will not be on the ballot this year, but as Jeffco continues to grow the matter will continue to be debated for years to come.
Sustainability Commission. The Sustainability Commission met for the first time last week. The members of the commission are very accomplished and I am excited to see the work they accomplish. As with any new group, it will take some time to get organized and establish priorities. But it was exciting to see the energy and enthusiasm from the Commission members.
Again, I hope you had a happy and safe 4th of July Holiday.
April 2, 2014 - Spring Bringing Changes to Jeffco
Spring is upon us. One of the great things about living in Colorado is getting the experience the season changes. (Often times we get to experience several seasonal changes each week.)
Changes are occurring in Jefferson County as well.
Sustainability Commission. The Board of County Commissioners recently approved the establishment of a new committee called the Jefferson County Sustainability Commission. The goal of this volunteer group will be to serve as a resource to county residents and businesses interested in various sustainability efforts. Several cities and numerous businesses within Jefferson County already have established sustainability groups within their organizations. I hope Jeffco can leverage this great work that has already started and have a positive impact for the citizens of the County.
As I stated above, this is a new commission is in the formative stages, and I am not sure what projects the Commission will tackle, but I am excited to get this group going. I want to thank the Evergreen Alliance for Sustainability (EASY) for helping get this concept going in the County.
Marijuana Task Force. Jefferson County currently has a moratorium on retail sales of marijuana in unincorporated parts of the county. This moratorium is set to expire in February of next year. At that time, the County Commissioners will have to decide if the moratorium should continue or if the county wants to allow retail sales, and large retail grow operations in the unincorporated parts of the county. Cities within the county adopt their own rules on marijuana. To help guide the Board, the Commissioners are establishing a task force to look into various issues related to marijuana and the impacts to Jefferson County. Please feel free to let me and the other Commissioners know your opinion on allowing retail marijuana operations in Jefferson County.
Budget and Strategic Thinking. The Board of County Commissioners is already working with staff on the 2015 county budget. The projections are for the property tax revenues to remain flat. For the last several years the demands on crucial county services have remained high, so the county has been spending reserve funds to balance the budget. In reviewing the budget, I had questions concerning how much the county should have in its reserve accounts. This question is complicated by several factors including TABOR reserve requirements, commitments for capital construction projects and other claims on funds. However, the county should still have a general target on the level of unrestricted funds the county retains.
In order to identify that target, I am working with the other two Commissioners and staff on strategic thinking to create budget principals to guide the budget development process. We are looking at best practices for government entities, and considering the values of Jefferson County as we develop these broad budget principles. We are in the early stages of the process but the vision is to develop a tighter budget for 2015 that provides fiscal stability for the county and provides direction for county staff and our private partners that deliver services to the citizens.
Rocky Mountain Airport. Jefferson County owns a lot of land on and around the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport. This land is a great location for companies to locate and bring high paying primary jobs to Jefferson County. Overall, the county has over 500 acres, some of which can be used for aviation-related development and some of which can be used for non-aviation purposes. As the project progresses and parcels of land are sold, there should be good revenues for Jefferson County.
The Commissioners recently approved the creation of a special district to help begin sensible development of this property. The new special district is called Verve. The special district will proceed with obtaining financing to get basic infrastructure built that will help attract solid businesses to the project. The businesses that locate to Verve will pay fees into the special district to cover the cost of development. By creating a special district, as provided in the Colorado Statutes, the citizens of Jefferson County will not have to finance the upfront costs of getting this development started.
It is going to be very exciting to see different opportunities that will come from this project.
Foothills Animal Shelter. Need a good companion for the summer and beyond? The Foothills Animal Shelter has numerous potential friends ready and willing to interview to become your next favorite pet. The animal shelter staff treat the animals with care and the shelter provides a great service for the community. They also have wonderful volunteers that keep the place running. The address of the shelter is 580 McIntyre Street, Golden CO (Next to the Jeffco Fairgrounds. The website is www.FoothillsAnimalShelter.org and the phone number is (303) 278-7575.
Foothills Animal Shelter also wants to remind you to license your pet. If your pet gets lost, the license information is a great way to help the shelter get your pet home.
DDRC. It seems that in each of my letters I talk about the great work of volunteers or nonprofits in our community. The commitment and great work of the people involved in various efforts never ceases to amaze me. Last week, I toured some facilities operated by the Developmental Disabilities Resource Center (DDRC). This organization is a great asset to the county. Several years ago, the voters approved dedicating one mill of property tax revenue to DDRC. From what I saw and heard during my tour, the tax dollars are being used wisely. The individuals I met on the tour were busy and happy and clearly benefiting from the services provided by the staff. Vocational training is a priority for the Center, but finding work for the clients with developmental disabilities is always a challenge. This is especially true when the economy slows down. Contact the DDRC if you or your employer may have a job, even if it is a temporary job that you think the clients of the center would be interested in. Their website is www.ddrcco.com. Also, please support the businesses that hire employees with disabilities.
February 8, 2014
2014 has already been a challenging year on Jefferson County. I recently attended the funeral service for David Baldwin, a Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy killed while patrolling Highway 93. The service was very moving and the outpouring of support from law enforcement throughout the region was inspiring. Sargent Baldwin was respected throughout the Sheriff’s office for his integrity and professionalism. I very much admired the grace and courage of his wife and son as they delivered moving eulogies of this wonderful husband and father. The service was a sad reminder that law enforcement officers have dangerous jobs, and we need to remember to thank them for making our community safer. Jefferson County is lucky to have great men and women working in the Sheriff’s Office. David Baldwin was one of the best and he will be missed.
Boards and Commissions. I have been amazed by the dedication and skills demonstrated by volunteers throughout Jefferson County. This year the County has 16 different boards that will have vacancies. Applications for these boards are due by February 14th. For a listing of opportunities, and application forms go to: http://jeffco.us/bcc/volunteer-board-vacancies/
Jeffco 5. Several weeks ago I was the first person to sign the petition to allow the citizens of Jefferson County to vote on whether or not to expand the Board of County Commissioners from 3 to 5 Commissioners. The citizens organizing the petition effort want to see more representation on the Board. They recognize that adding two new commissioners will increase costs slightly, but they feel having more representation is worth it.
The Jeffco 5 group needs to gather well over 20,000 signatures in the next few months. This is a big job, but the energy of this group, and the support I have seen for their efforts, makes me think they can accomplish this task. I understand the motivation for wanting to get this question on the ballot. Jefferson County is a special place with complex challenges and unique opportunities. Jefferson County has over 500,000 residents, and a budget of over $400,000,000. The county has rural and urban areas, with a diverse landscape with mountains and plains.
Balancing promoting economic development and protecting the scenic mountain backdrop is just one example of the complex challenges facing Jefferson County. It will be good to hear from the citizens and see if they want more representation as we deal with these complex issues. If you support allowing the voters to weigh in on this issue, sign a Jeffco 5 petition. For more information, visit www.jeffco5.com.
Planning for the future. With 2014 still in its early stages, the county has already started talking about 2015 and challenges going forward. Budget concerns are still with us this year and they will continue into 2015. The county government must be strategic in responding to the increases in demand for services and reductions in revenue. We have already had one planning meeting and there will be more. I believe the county could benefit from adopting some financial philosophies or principles to guide us during different economic challenges. I also believe we should reexamine how and why we deliver different services with an eye on finding new, better and cheaper ways to interact with the citizens of Jefferson County. I hope we will be able to engage elected officials, county employees and citizens as we move forward with this planning effort.
One Year Anniversary. In January, I completed my first year on the Board of County Commissioners. It was a very interesting and challenging first year. I found the other two commissioners and the county staff to be helpful and hardworking. We faced many different issues during the year, with the biggest challenges being the budget and the incredible floods from last fall. l feel the county government has been successful in delivering on its promise to provide quality services for residents and businesses to thrive.
People often ask me if the job of Commissioner is what I expected. In some ways it has been very much as I expected, but there have also been surprises. I have found some of the individual land use cases the board considers to be very challenging. Rezoning requests can be challenging because they are so personal and important to the individuals involved. These zoning cases can impact small businesses that people are building or expanding, they can also impact neighborhoods where people live and where their children go to school. We hear compelling testimony from both the landowner seeking the change and from neighbors impacted by the change. As a board we try to be fair and consistent in our decisions. Going forward I think it is important we develop a vision for different areas of the county, so people know what to expect with land use issues.
I am looking forward to my second year on the Board. We are working on many different issues and new issues will present themselves. Feel free to contact me with any comments or ideas.
December 3, 2013 - The 2014 Budget
Last week the Board of Commissioners for Jefferson County approved the 2014 County Budget. The budget was approved by a 2 -1 vote with Commissioner Griffin joining me in approving the budget while Commissioner Rosier voted against approval.
There is a lot to highlight in the budget and I encourage everyone to review it on the County’s webpage at jeffco.us. Page one lists the vision, values and goals of the Board of County Commissioners. These values and goals include the desire to retain a qualified workforce, provide excellent customer service, support economic and job development, while ensuring safe communities. I believe this budget supports the citizens and employees as we strive to achieve these objectives.
Some highlights from the budget include:
Funding for non-profits - Some of the cuts made last year to the county’s non-profit partners were restored. The funding provided to great organizations like Family Tree and Senior Resource Center is going to be increased above the 2013 levels but will not be restored to the 2012 levels. These organizations provide a great service to the citizens of Jefferson County. The County is fortunate to be able to partner with these non-profit organizations because the services they provide help reduce the burden on the county government.
A 3% merit based pay increase for County employees - The County employees are the backbone of the county government. In the last year, there have been fires and floods that challenged the employees in many different county offices. We all saw that the county employees were up to the challenge. But it is not just in times of crises that the employees shine - every day they provide outstanding service to Jeffco citizens. The County employees have not received many pay increases in recent years, but they certainly have earned and deserve a merit-based increase this year.
Maintain existing levels of service - Because of limited revenues, we denied most requests by elected officials and managers for additional resources or enhancements to their programs. However, in this budget we should be able to maintain existing levels of service for operations such as the library, road and bridge maintenance, snow removal, the sheriff patrols and other services counted on by citizens of JeffCo.
There were also challenges in the budget:
Mill Levy Adjustment - Because property valuations from the County Assessor’s Office have not rebounded, revenues from property taxes remain flat. Since 2011, the County has experienced a 6% decrease in property tax revenue. Over the last several years the Board of County Commissioners have been depleting the County’s savings account to fund operations. The citizens of Jefferson County have authorized a mill levy up to 25.978 mills. (A mill represents 1/10th of a penny, or $1.00 of tax for each $1,000 of assessed valuation. Residential properties are assessed at 7.96% of actual value and commercial properties are assessed at 29%). For the last 9 years the County has been operating under a voluntary mill levy reduction of 1.632 mills. For 2014, the Board of County Commissioners elected to adjust the voluntary mill levy reduction by 1.5 mills. By adding an additional 1.5 mills property tax revenues will be about the same as they were in 2011. The adjustment will provide the County with approximately $11 million dollars in additional revenue. We could not have restored funding to our nonprofit partners or provided the modest pay increase for county employees without the adjustment to the mill levy. To put this in perspective, a $250,000 home would be assessed at 7.96%, or $19,000, and the increase in property taxes would be about $30 a year based on the 1.5 mill increase.
Cuts to Human Services - As a result in reductions in state funding, cuts were made in some programs administered by the County’s Department of Human Services. These programs provide assistance to needy families. We are concerned as to the impact of these cuts, both to the families and to the Jefferson County workforce providing these services. We will continue to work with county staff, and area nonprofits to try and find better ways to deliver services and to do the best we can to meet the needs of the citizens in the county.
Future Budgets – As I stated above, the Commissioners have been spending down the County’s savings account (fund balance) over the last several years. This year we were able to reduce the amount drawn from the fund balance, but budget projections for future years show the savings account in in danger of going too low. Therefore the Board of County Commissioners is committed to working with elected officials and staff throughout the county on identifying ways to streamline the county government. The County needs to establish a plan to match operational expenditures with current revenues. As was demonstrated during the floods this year, maintaining a solid fund balance is critical to being able to respond to emergencies and disasters. The County needs to evaluate its business processes, and make some fundamental changes in how we do business. We need to make the changes strategically, thoughtfully and collaboratively with the other elected officials and the citizens.
The County continues to work with citizens and FEMA on responding to flood damage that occurred earlier this year. A big thanks goes out to CDOT on getting Highway 72 open. Although the highway is open, many people still have the challenge of getting access restored to their homes. As people rebuild their driveways, often over the creek bed, we need to be sure the work meets the appropriate design standards to protect the highway and the other homes in the canyon. Pat O’Connell from the County’s Planning and Zoning Office is working with residents of the canyon to provide clear direction on what is required as they rebuild. His number is 303-271-8707.
I had a wonderful Thanksgiving as I was able to spend time with family and friends. I have a great deal to for which to be thankful, and there is not enough space here to list everything. I do want to let each of you know that I am very thankful for the opportunity to serve as County Commissioner. Know that I take the responsibility very seriously, and I am doing my best to make good decisions. I also give thanks for the chance to work with the great employees of the County.
Flood Recovery Update - September 23, 2013
It has been a difficult week for many citizens in Colorado, and my heart goes out to those who were impacted by the floods. However, the citizens of Colorado always seem to be ready to respond to any challenge. It has been inspiring to see the generosity of neighbors helping neighbors throughout Colorado.
The floods have caused some significant impacts in many areas of Jefferson County. Coal Creek Canyon was the most severely impacted. Other areas include Evergreen, Upper Bear Creek, Kittredge, and Arvada. I want to thank the great Jefferson County employees who responded to the flood with great professionalism. Many of our employees continue to work long hours trying to repair the damage.
We are still trying to evaluate all the damage and address the areas with the greatest safety risks, and we are working to solve the problems with that impact citizens the most.
We have been coordinating with FEMA, local emergency managers, and private utility providers, such as Xcel Energy, to try and get the county’s damaged infrastructure repaired as quickly as possible. Jefferson County has received a federal declaration allowing for individual assistance. Individuals can register with FEMA to see if they are eligible for different types of assistance for damage caused by the flood.
Or call 1-800-621-3362 (if you have a speech or hearing disability and use TTY, call 1-800-462-7585, those using 711 or Video Relay VRS call 1-800-621-3362)
I would like to thank Congressman Ed Perlmutter’s office for their assistance on this issue. We are also working toward getting a declaration for public assistance which would allow federal funding participation on some of the public infrastructure repairs.
Telephone Town Hall. My fellow commissioners and I will be hosting a telephone town hall to discuss flood recovery. We will be calling people in the most significantly impacted areas, but we encourage anyone to call. I am sure many people in other areas of the county may have flood damages and may have questions regarding recovery. The town hall will be this Wednesday, September 25th from 7:00 – 8:00 p.m.
To join the call, dial 1- 877-229-8493, and enter PIN 110646.
You can also visit the county website www.jeffco.us/disaster-recovery There are many challenges facing the State of Colorado in response to the flood. We have been hearing from CDOT that major repairs will be needed throughout the flood damaged areas. It has been great to see the different agencies from all levels of government pull together to respond to this disaster.
A Letter from the Taj - September 9, 2013
Although it is technically still summer, it feels as though everyone is transitioning into fall. Pools are closing and school is starting. Football season has begun and I have even noticed a few leaves have started to change from green to bright yellow. I hope everyone had a great summer, and you are ready to enjoy autumn, because it is one of the four best seasons in Colorado.
Things remain busy here in the county:
Mental Health Court. I have the privilege of serving on the county’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee. This committee is chaired by District Court Judge Tamara Russell, and it is comprised of people interested in improving the court system in Jefferson County. I won’t list everyone, but the committee includes elected officials such as District Attorney Pete Weir and Sheriff Ted Mink, State Senators Evie Hudak and Andy Kerr, Representatives Max Tyler and Sue Schafer, and Edgewater City Council Member Kris Teegardin. Representatives from the public defender’s office, local police offices, the mental health community and private attorneys also serve on the committee. Numerous ideas have been discussed to try and improve the justice system.
Establishing a Mental Health Court is one of the committee’s current priorities. The Mental Health Court would allow people in the criminal justice system with mental health issues to be diverted from the regular court and work with a judge that specializes in mental health issues. Currently, many people with mental health issues continue to commit crimes and become repeat offenders because they are not getting the help they need. The goal of the program will be to get people treatment and get them out of the criminal justice system, saving the taxpayers money.
I want to emphasize that this program is not designed to allow people to avoid responsibility for their actions. People will be accountable for crimes they commit, but the judge in the mental health court will be able to work with defendants on programs to solve problems and reduce the chance they will return to the criminal justice system.
Sustainability. Earlier this summer MillerCoors announced that the brewery in Golden was a zero waste-to-landfill facility. You read that correctly, the giant beer-making factory does not put anything in the garbage. They recycle, they reuse , they compost, and whatever else they can think of to keep the garbage cans empty!
People at MillerCoors told me that they were surprised by how quickly they achieved the zero landfill goal. The employees embraced the concept and everything just took off. The key to success was providing employees the system to do what most already did at home. As an added benefit, the brewery is also making additional revenue off of the recycled materials, so the effort also makes good business sense.
The success at MillerCoors is just one example of some great activities going on in Jefferson County related to good environmental stewardship. At the Jefferson County offices there is a lot of recycling and diversion of items away from landfill. Like many offices in the County, we have the blue containers for cans and plastics, and separate bins for paper, but like my household, the facilities operations are not zero waste. In order to take it to the next level, we need to consider all the other things we discard and the possibility of new uses.
I talked to Scott Hutchings from Waste Management and he told me his company is very involved in recycling. He said they still haul items to landfill, but the industry is changing and more items that used to be trash are being diverted to other uses. Scott said the market is changing and people want options in their disposal services. And waste companies are responding by providing different services to meet this changing demand.
People all over Jefferson County are interested in being more involved in different aspects of environmental stewardship. Some people are interested in energy development, others are focused on energy conservation. For some people, their passion is water or air quality while others are focused on land use. Opportunities exist because there is so much interest in various forms of sustainability
One group I have been talking to is called Evergreen’s Alliance for Sustainability or EAS+Y. They are citizens interested in, among other things, helping make recycling choices easier for citizens and businesses in Jefferson County. High on their priority list is educating people on local options for recycling and making public events Zero Waste. In 2012 the EAS+Y Zero Waste Event Committee helped 22 public events divert tons of materials that was otherwise headed to the landfill.
I also had some discussions with people from the Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation, and they see economic development opportunities for Jefferson County evolving from these and other sustainability efforts, such as energy efficiency and renewable energy. They view Jefferson County as a likely hot bed for clean technology. With assets such as NREL, the Colorado School of Mines, and the terrific open space property in Jeffco, this County is the perfect spot for these emerging businesses and their families.
What is really amazing is that all these different accomplishments and activities are growing from the ground up. Citizens and businesses are making this happen because they see the benefits for their bottom line and our community. I want to be a part of this, so I am working with these different groups on promoting sustainability in Jefferson County. WestConnect
The county is currently considering options for improving transportation on the west side of the metro area. WestConnect would be the completion of the beltway around the Denver Metro Area and the addition of more lanes along C-470. The purpose of the WestConnect study is to evaluate proposed highway improvements. We want to determine if the citizens of Jefferson County believe completion of the beltway and the addition of more lanes on C-470 should be a priority and how would the citizens want to pay for construction of these improvements. Tolling the improvements, increasing property or sales taxes are all being discussed in this study. A public open house on this issue will be held on Monday September 9th from 4:30 to 7:00 at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. This meeting will be a great chance for the public to learn about the proposed alignment and discuss funding options.
Extensive outreach is being conducted to get public input on this project. Three telephone town halls on WestConnect were conducted in August and polling will be conducted later this month. We will let the public know the results of the data gathering efforts.
Telephone Town Halls. Speaking of the telephone town halls, this format had some success in getting information to the citizens of Jefferson County. For the three town halls on the WestConnect projects, we called over 111,000 citizens. Over 15,000 citizens participated in the telephone calls and the board was able to answer over 80 questions from citizens. Most of these 15,000 people that listened in did not stay on the line for the entire hour of the call, but 741 hardy souls did stay with us for the entire hour. This approach seems to be more successful in reaching a broad audience than the more traditional meetings in an auditorium. Both approaches have merit , so we will also continue with meetings such as the open house Monday at the Fairgrounds.
Two more telephone town halls are scheduled for this year. One on September 25th begins at 7:00 p.m. to discuss the county budget. Please check the county webpage for details on how to call into the town hall. A second town hall will occur in October to discuss whether or not the voters of Jefferson County should vote on expanding the Board of County Commissioners from 3 to 5 members, and to discuss more budget issues including adjusting the mill levy. More specifics on this second telephone town hall will be made available soon.
A Letter from the Taj - July 19, 2013
Update - July 26, 2013 - I want to provide a quick update on an item I mentioned in my last newsletter. The County has been seeking input on placing a Community Corrections facility on west Colfax near Wide Acres. In that letter I mentioned the need for the Community Corrections program, but I also wrote about the need to get community input to make sure the facility does not negatively impact the neighborhood. We have heard a lot from the neighbors and businesses in the area. After listening to the community and considering the needs of the program, work on developing this site was suspended.
Although I don’t think the Wide Acres site will now work for Community Corrections, I still believe the program is needed in Jefferson County. I also think it should be moved from its current location near the JCRS Shopping Center. The question is, how do we find a location for this controversial-but-beneficial program.
On Thursday morning, I discussed this issue with the Jefferson County Community Corrections Review Board. This group from throughout the county screens applicants for the program and they understand the program benefits and the challenges. They are open to forming a task force to consider the future of Community Corrections in the County and to possibly help develop a process for relocating the men’s Community Corrections facility. I believe any process must be very open and inclusive. We need to educate the citizens of Jefferson County of the benefits of the program, and the cost savings resulting from keeping people out of prison. I am hoping we can get some local business leaders and elected officials throughout the county involved in resolving this problem. I will provide periodic updates on these efforts.
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One of aspects I enjoy most about being a County Commissioner is the diversity of issues that we are working on in the county. So far this summer, we have looked at issues related to wildfires, gun safety, marijuana dispensaries, mental health services, senior services, and more.
While we’re dealing with many things at once, it often comes back to the budget. What are the services our citizens expect from their county government? How much tax revenue do we have coming in, and how many of these services can we afford to provide to our citizens?
Audit Committee. Last year, I campaigned on a promise to focus on government accountability. Having served as Chair of the Audit Committee for four years, I know the important role played by this committee in making sure our citizens’ hard-earned tax dollars are used wisely. As we put together the 2014 budget – still grappling with reduced property tax revenues – it is more important than ever that each dollar is carefully accounted for.
The newly re-established Jefferson County Audit Committee has recently held its first meeting. This five-member committee is comprised of volunteer audit professionals from throughout Jefferson County, including Certified Public Accountants, active internal auditors, and a former Chief Deputy State Auditor. The Audit Committee is in the process of reviewing the annual financial audit of the county.
Budget. The Board of Commissioners won’t officially vote on the 2014 county budget until November, but work on the budget has already begun. The County Assessor has reported that residential property values did not increase very much this year, and thus the county government’s property tax revenues will not increase for 2014. In fact, we’re still collecting less tax revenue than we did in 2008 because of the large decrease in property values over these last few years. Yet, the cost to operate the county and the pressure on county services continues to increase.
Human Services continues to see an increase in the number of people applying for various types of assistance.
The population of Jefferson County continues to age. Last year’s funding cuts to senior services were disruptive to the county’s partners, such as the Senior Resource Center, that provide these needed services.
District Attorney Pete Weir is telling me that his office is experiencing an increase in the number of complex and high-profile cases. Prosecuting these cases is expensive, but necessary to ensure justice.
Retaining qualified staff remains a challenge for the county. For example, training new sheriff deputies is very expensive, and if after a couple of years the deputy accepts a higher-paying position in a different jurisdiction, Jefferson County is out those costs and must start all over again looking for a deputy. It just makes sense to compensate these professionals fairly to show that we value their services to our county. Ask any business leader why they pay high wages to their most qualified people – it’s good for the quality of services provided, and it’s good budget sense.
These last several years, all local governments have struggled to figure out how to pay for all of these vital services while the recession drove tax revenues down. Jefferson County has cut services and dipped into our savings account – which is projected to be totally spent in the next few years if current trends continue. The decreased property values also mean that each homeowner has been paying less money to the county. That makes sense in some ways because many homeowners are struggling, but if we really want to accelerate our economic recovery, we need to make sure we’re providing the kinds of services that our people depend on so they can stop worrying about getting by day-to-day and start living their lives and participating in our economy.
Jefferson County has actually been operating below the “allowed property tax rate” – the maximum rate allowed under the Colorado Constitution without going to a vote of the people. The Board of Commissioners has the option of raising property taxes by up to 1.632 mills – 1 mill represents $1 of tax for each $1000 of “assessed property value,” which for residential properties is 7.96% of actual property value.
What does this mean for you? Well, increasing property taxes by 1 mill for a $250,000 house will mean the owner will pay about $20 more per year. That’s right, twenty dollars.
What does this mean for the county? An increase of 1 mill would generate almost $7 million in revenue. While we’d still have less annual county revenue than we had back in 2008, this $7 million can be used to maintain our senior and mental health services, while providing a much needed pay raise for our county employees. And as I mentioned before, investing in our people now will help us retain talent, avoid retraining costs, and provide the high quality services that Jeffco’s citizens deserve.
Economic Development. I recently attended an event recognizing 50 Colorado Companies to Watch. These businesses are doing great thing in the state, and 9 of these companies are located in Jefferson County. The companies are providing great products and services and they are creating jobs right here in Jeffco. Being recognized were:
Able Planet, Inc. Wheat Ridge
Adaptive Innovations Corporation, Lakewood
Precision Media Solutions, LLC, Lakewood
Rocky Mountain Reagents, Inc., Golden
Tradavo, Inc. Lakewood
Congratulations to each of these companies.
Community Corrections. On another note, the county is looking into possible relocation of the men’s community corrections facility. The current facility is located at 1651 Kendall Street in Lakewood (near the JCRS shopping center). The facility is in what used to be a hospital building and it is in great need of some expensive deferred maintenance. The City of Lakewood is hoping for some new development to occur in the area once the current building is sold and repurposed. The County is considering building a new community corrections facility farther west at 12300 Colfax Ave.
Community Corrections is a residential program focused on helping people convicted of crimes learn how to be successful living in our community. Jefferson County has two buildings (or halfway houses) for men and women going through the Community Corrections program. Some of these people have served time in prison and are nearing the end of their sentence. Community corrections offers these people a chance to transition from the prison setting and enter back into society. Others are allowed to stay in community corrections rather than going to prison.
In each of these situations the individual must demonstrate that they can handle the responsibility of living in the community. Intervention Community Corrections Services, Inc. is the vendor that works with Jefferson County on this program. They have very strict expectations on the conduct of the residents and they keep track where they are in the community. The residents are not allowed to drive but they are required to have a job. They have very specific schedules and they must check in and out of the facility. The goal is to maintain safety for community while creating success in the community for the community corrections residents.
Community Corrections is an important program. Everyone wins if we can help people convicted of various crimes become successful in the community, whether it is after they have served their time in prison, or in some cases as an alternative to prison. Run well, community corrections can save money and make us all safer. The County is asking for community input on the proposed location for this facility. It has been a challenge to find a location that meets the needs of the program while making sure the surrounding neighborhood is not negatively impacted.
A Letter from the Taj - June 23, 2013
It has been heartbreaking to watch the reports of the fires throughout Colorado the past few weeks. I want to say thank you to all the hard-working fire fighters and the Jeffco Sheriff’s office personnel that responded to the Lime Gulch fire.
My heart goes out to the family and friends of the two people who lost their lives in the Black Forest fire. I also feel for those that lost their homes or have had their lives disrupted by these fires. It is so important that we remain vigilant in preparing for the fire season, and doing what we can to prevent the fires or to mitigate the damage they cause.
On June 11, Jeffco Sherriff Ted Mink ordered a stage-one fire restriction in Jefferson County. This temporary restriction remains in effect and it applies to all lands in unincorporated Jefferson County, including federal lands. This means we are all prohibited from building, maintaining, attending or using any fire or recreational campfire, except a recreational fire within a permanently constructed fire grate in a developed park, campground, private residence or picnic area.
There are some exceptions to the fire restrictions, such as liquid or gas-fueled appliances. For more information go www.Jeffco.us and click on “Temporary Stage 1 Fire Restrictions” under the News tab.
Adult-Use Marijuana Dispensaries. Earlier this week the Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved a temporary prohibition on marijuana retail sales establishments in unincorporated Jefferson County. I understand and appreciate the different perspectives on this issue, and I ended up voting for this temporary ban on the retail sales and large growing establishments. I’d like to share my reasoning with you, and I am very interested in your feedback.
First, the county has not allowed medical marijuana dispensaries over the last few years, so the county government has no experience regulating the activity. Issues related to zoning and inspections, etc., still need to be addressed. I agreed that the county needed more time to properly consider the experiences of other jurisdictions before allowing retail establishments.
Second, the state regulations related to collection of fees and taxes remain vague. Many of these issues will become clearer in the next few months. I did not think it was wise for the county to begin an entirely new process without any experience or clarity on the issues.
I understand the concerns of people that feel it is wrong to make marijuana more available. However, it is important to remember that 54 percent of Jefferson County citizens voted to make the substance legal, and in doing so they charged governmental entities with the responsibility to properly regulate the activity. Most importantly, we are charged with keeping marijuana out of the hands of our kids.
In Jefferson County we will be watching the experiences of the cities that are allowing retail sales. Based upon what happens in these areas, the county may decide to allow for retail sales in the future – when we are better prepared to ensure public safety with proper, thoughtful regulations.
A Letter from the Taj - June 3, 2013
As we transition for spring to summer, lots of changes are occurring all around us. On a personal note, my son Dugan graduated from Regis Jesuit High School in mid-May. It is hard to believe he is heading off to college soon, because it seems like yesterday that he was just starting kindergarten. That seems to be a common feeling among the parents I talk to. I also got to see my nephew graduate from CSU. It has been great seeing all the excited graduates and their proud families. I wish all the graduates around the area good luck as they transition on to the next phase of their lives.
Meanwhile, we have been keeping pretty busy here in JeffCo, and you’ve probably heard about some of the difficult decisions we’ve recently had to make.
Ordinance Concerning the Open Carry of Firearms in County Buildings. This spring there were a couple of instances in which a member of the public entered county buildings carrying a firearm. One incident was in the Human Services Building, and the other was in the Sheriff’s Office. There was concern that some of the business conducted in these buildings can be emotionally charged, and employee safety could be an issue. Sheriff Ted Mink and District Attorney Pete Weir asked the Board of County Commissioners to adopt an ordinance allowing the Sheriff to conduct vulnerability assessments on county buildings and post a notice banning open carry of firearms in certain buildings.
The Board of County Commissioners approved the ordinance by a vote of 2-1. Commissioner Griffin and I supported the ordinance and Commissioner Rosier voted against this request from the Sheriff and the District Attorney. I know that this is an important issue for many people, and I had to consider many competing interests in making this decision. We heard from employees and citizens that do not want to feel threatened or intimidated in buildings where county business – which can often be emotionally charged involving issues related to child welfare, or criminal prosecutions – is conducted. We also heard from citizens that are concerned with any restrictions on the right to carry firearms. I understand and respect the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and I am committed to upholding it while putting in place reasonable public safety measures. We carefully weighed our options and chose not to invoke a blanket restrict, but instead to allow law enforcement the authority to address specific circumstances. This balanced approach will allow the Sheriff to address specific safety concerns while protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners. I was also impressed by the fact that both the Sheriff and the District Attorney, two law enforcement professionals, requested this authority to enhance safety.
Wildfire Preparation. As the weather warms up, the risk of wildfires will also increase, as we saw today with the early reports of the Bluebell Fire near Evergreen. I am thankful for our first responders who are out there right now trying to contain this fire. I am hopeful that they are successful in keeping the fire from spreading, and my prayers are with the families whose homes are in harm's way.
The recent rains have been welcome, but today’s fire is a reminder that we must remain vigilant in our preparation and mitigation of fire risks. Creating a defensible space around buildings is one great way to reduce fire risk. To help support that effort the Jefferson County Sheriff has set up mobile collection sites to help people dispose of their slash material. At these sites the sheriff will collect slash, pine needles and tree and limbs and tree debris up to 8 feet in length and 6 feet in diameter. They will not accept trash, tree stumps, or construction material.
The collection dates and sites are: June 15th and 16th 8:30 – 3:30 Conifer High School (10441 Highway 73, Conifer, CO 80433)
June 22nd and 23rd 8:30 – 3:30 Coal Creek Fire Station 2 (32895 Highway 72, Golden, CO 80403 - Highway 72 and Camp Eden Road)
August 10th and 11th 8:30 – 3:30 Inter-Canyon Indian Hills Fire Station #3 (8445 S. Highway 285 ) Fees for Slash Disposal: Small Pickup – Bed High $5.00 Small Pickup – Cab High $8.00 Small Pickup – Above the Cab $10.00 Large Pickup – Bed High $8.00 Large Pickup – Cab High $10.00 Large Pickup – Above the Cab $12.00 Trailer – Single Axle $10.00 Trailer – Double Axle $15.00 Dump Truck – Cab High $20.00 Dump Truck – Above the Cab $25.00
A Letter from the Taj - April 19, 2013
One thing I am quickly learning by being on the Board of County Commissioners is that the County government cannot possibly provide all of the services needed throughout the county. Fortunately, there are great organizations and volunteers in the county that help fill at least some of the gaps between the needs in the county and the government resources. There are too many great organizations providing help Jefferson County citizens to name them all here, but I would like to highlight a couple of organizations that work closely with the County.
The Action Center [303 237-7704] wants to help individuals and families find pathways to self-sufficiency. The action center provides food, clothing and other resources to people in need. They also help students with school supplies and provide housing and education assistance with a goal of getting people to be self-sufficient.
The Senior Resource Center [303 238-8151] provides a wide range of services for seniors. One of the goals of the SRC is to help seniors remain safe at home if that is their wish. To accomplish this goal the help with transportation, social interaction and advice and counseling for seniors and their families.
The Jefferson Center for Mental Health [303 425-0300] provides many different mental health services to county residents, including a 24 hour crisis hotline. The mental health care professionals at the Jefferson Center can help individuals and families.
These are just three of the many organizations around the county that provide the necessary services to our neighbors. Jefferson County is a better place to live thanks to the work of these organizations. If you can, please take the time to donate or volunteer for one of the great Jefferson County non-profits. I want to say thank you to all the volunteers.
Five Commissioners? I have been asked by a number of people if Jefferson County should consider expanding the Board of County Commissioners from three to five members. Colorado Statutes allow counties with populations exceeding 75,000 to expand from three to five Commissioners. Does this make sense for Jeffco?
I think this is an issue that should go to the voters for consideration. I know expanding to five commissioners was rejected by the voters in 1994, but a lot has changed in the last 20 years. Jefferson County is large and diverse and the citizens in the mountain communities may have very different priorities than the citizens in the more urban areas of the county. I sense that many citizens want a more direct voice in their county government.
Urban Farming: The Board of County Commissioners recently approved regulations allowing residents in unincorporated areas of Jeffco to keep two honey bee hives and raise up to six chickens in their backyards. 4,000 square feet is the minimum lot size and there are some other requirements that must be met before the county will issue the required permit. Check with the County’s Planning and Zoning Office about how to get started in this fun activity.
A Letter from the Taj - Feb. 20, 2013
As I complete my second month as a Jefferson County Commissioner I thought it would be a good time to reflect on what I am finding here in Jefferson County government.
Staff: The County staff is professional, knowledgeable, and they care about the citizens of Jefferson County. I have tried to get out of the office and meet as many county employees as possible, and I must say I am impressed with their dedication and focus on customer service.
I enjoy working with my fellow commissioners. We may disagree on some policy questions and on some philosophical issues, but Commissioners Rosier and Griffin care deeply about Jefferson County and work hard to represent their constituents.
Board Meetings: The Board of County Commissioners meets almost every Tuesday at 8:00 a.m. to consider a variety of land use, budget and policy issues impacting the county. Public comment is encouraged at these meetings. The meeting that seems to have gotten the most attention is the one involving the County’s resolution on 2nd Amendment rights.
We have all been deeply affected by the tragedies in Aurora and Newtown, as well as the day-to-day violence in our communities. The county’s role in trying to prevent this violence has much to do with providing mental health services and law enforcement, but we have not traditionally gotten involved on issues regarding gun rights.
Well, we waded into it this year. By a two-to-one vote, the Board adopted a resolution asking the U.S. Congress and Colorado’s General Assembly not to consider any new gun laws. I was in the minority as the one vote against this resolution. We must take these questions seriously and think about ways we can improve public safety in our communities while also preserving the rights of law-abiding gun owners, and I don’t feel that this resolution added to the conversation. I support the serious conversations taking place in Denver and in Washington D.C., and I hope that our elected officials look at the data and find solutions that can truly make a difference.
Budget: The County budget remains the biggest issue facing the Board. The 2013 budget included deep cuts to several non-profit organizations that provide important services to citizens in the county. One problem is that the county revenues have been declining since 2010, while the use of the fund balance (reserve funds) has increased. Over the last several years, including 2013, the Board of County Commissioners has tapped into the county’s reserve funds to balance the county budget.
The final numbers for the 2012 expenditures should be available around the first of April. If actual expenditures are less than the budgeted amounts, there will be some funds available to either put into the reserve fund or to use to replace some of the funds cuts from the 2013 budget. It will be a difficult decision because revenue projections for next year (2014) do not look to be significantly higher than the previous year. During these tight budget times the county continues to operate under the authorized mill levy. The current voluntarily-reduced mill levy amount has not been adjusted since 2005.
The big policy question is: When property values decline, should the mill levy be adjusted up to keep county revenues constant? When times are tough, people have a difficult time paying bills, so a reduction in property taxes is welcome. At the same time, however, when times are tough the demand for government services increases, so the strain on the county budget also increases. There are no easy answers to these questions. In the next budget cycle we are going to have to address these questions head on.
As we move forward and face many more issues, I hope you feel free to contact me to let me know what you think I should be doing to represent you! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-271-8525.
Casey Tighe Jefferson County Commissioner, District 2