Well folks, this is my last column. As the year draws to a close, so will my stint as chair of the Board of County Commissioners. Gwen Lachelt and I have one more year to work for you before our terms end and we ride off into the sunset. Given all we have accomplished as a county this year, I am excited about La Plata County connecting more closely with, and better serving, our community in 2020.
We have adopted a 2020 budget that allows us to invest in our employees and fill jobs that we have had to leave vacant. We appreciate the community’s patience during our times of severe cuts, and while we are not able to restore all positions, we expect to see some restored services, especially noticeable in law enforcement, benefits processing in Human Services, and in the Building Department.
But before we look to the new year, there is a lot to recognize in 2019. I want call out the accomplishment of our 2019 Road and Bridge crews, who kept our county roads passable during one of the snowiest winters in recent memory – all with a bare-bones staff. This is an essential service that we rely on to conduct the business of our lives safely.
In 2019, our Planning Commission certified the 10 district plans that the commission, planning staff and, most importantly, citizens living in the planning districts worked diligently to update. This was a major accomplishment for all involved and now each planning district has an articulated vision for its future – born from community input and discussion, and nested in consistent documents that share terminology and structure across the planning districts. I congratulate and thank the Planning Commission, staff and citizens for their hard work.
I am also pleased that the Board of County Commissioners adopted 1041 regulations which give our county and its residents a voice when major projects that will have impacts on our community are proposed. Until now, the county had no ability to consider, mitigate or regulate in any way large projects by the federal government, state or other jurisdictions. These rules apply to big developments that have far-reaching implications: highway interchanges, large-scale utility installations, new communities and the like. Now we can get ahead of projects like this and work to build maximum benefit to our community when they are developed.
We are closing out the year by celebrating the completion of the Assessor, Clerk and Treasurer Building. Now, this trio of elected officials, whose functions often interrelate, will be housed in a one-stop shop for much easier public use. The new building, at 679 Turner Drive in Bodo Park, means you won’t have to run from building to building, downtown to Bodo, wondering where to go to get a tax bill, marriage license, license plate or pay your property tax. Plus, it gets our Clerk and Recorder’s Office out of rented space – a much more efficient use of your tax dollars.
In 2020, we will build on these successes and the hard work of our staff to achieve them for the benefit of the community we serve. A big priority for next year is to connect with our citizens more effectively, to let you know what your county government is doing for you and to learn what services and priorities are important to you as we look to our future. You will be hearing more from us than you have in the past, and we look forward to hearing from you to together to build a better La Plata County.
Laying the foundation for the county’s future, we are working on county code changes to ensure that our county has the infrastructure and processes needed to facilitate growth in a way that benefits our current and future residents. We are considering updates to our water regulations so that both water quality and quantity are accounted for with new development. In an era and region of growing water insecurity, we believe this is critical for today’s residents and for those to come.
Through the land use code revision, we hope to introduce the concept of economic development areas, making development easier in areas where growth makes sense. At the same time, we want to improve the process we use for considering new development in the county, and ensure that new development does not negatively impact today’s taxpayers. These priorities reflect our view to the future.
I am looking forward to a productive and energetic 2020, engaging with you and investing in La Plata County’s future. It’s a new decade and the last year for two of your three county commissioners: Forward ho!
Julie Westendorff is chair of the La Plata County Board of County Commissioners. Reach her at (970)382-6219.