January 18, 2008

Harris Park to maintain own roads

Lynda James

Harris Park Metropolitan District now has the responsibility of maintaining and snowplowing county roads in the Harris Park subdivision in northeast Park County. Park County's Board of County Commissioners approved the amendment to the district's service plan on Jan. 10.

According to the district's attorney, Richard Toussaint, all Harris Park roads have been classified as Level 9 roads by the county, which means that roads must be graded once a year. "Many roads are never snowplowed, and maintenance has been spotty at best," he said.

Commissioner Leni Walker said the county receives approximately $7,000 per year in Highway Users Tax Funds for the Harris Park roads.

Commissioner John Tighe said HUTF funding is based on the level of service on the roads. Level 9 receives the least.

In September 2007, the district held a Town Hall meeting about the lack of road maintenance. Toussaint said 70 residents attended the meeting and indicated there had to be a change in maintenance and snowplowing. Currently, the county plows only two roads in the subdivision even though all are county roads, according to a handout from Toussaint.

Toussaint said that Harris Park has always been somewhat self-sufficient. Until the homeowners association disbanded, the HOA had a contract with the county to maintain the roads. But as old equipment broke down and those operating equipment retired or moved, the association could no longer find manpower to continue.

The HOA also managed recreation activities. The former Harris Park Water and Sanitation District became a metro district in 2006 in order to take over responsibility for recreational activities.

Toussaint said the district did not ask to include road maintenance at that time because the county had decided to ask voters for a sales tax to help fund the Road and Bridge Department.

The district may ask the voters of the district for a mill levy increase to contract maintenance and snow plowing. The district has not yet decided if that question will be put to the voters in May of this year or in November.

Toussaint said the district would look for other funding options before asking for a mill levy increase.

Approximately 875 property owners are in the district. Toussaint anticipates the current 11.8 district mill levy would need to be increased to 23.8 mills to generate approximately $74,000 per year.

The district plans to contract out road services, not purchase equipment or hire employees.

Several Harris Park residents spoke in favor of the service plan amendment.

Resident Keith Hoehner said he did not believe Harris Park was receiving its fair share of HUTF funding. He said Jones Road, on which he lives, received no maintenance from the county in 2007.

Resident Larry Dehrer said now the only reason he can get out when it snows is because his neighbor plows the road. He also said that he moved to Harris Park in 1995 and the roads have deteriorated since then. He attributed most of the deterioration to new home construction with no soil erosion control. Most of Harris Park is on steep slopes. Dehrer said the county needs to address erosion control on new-home construction.

Resident Bud Cravener spoke in favor of the service amendment but said it would be in the best interests of the residents for the district to require the accountant to be bonded and to audit the funds.

Toussaint told The Flume the district will create a separate fund in the budget for all revenue and expenditures for road maintenance. He said the district treasurer is bonded, as required by law, and the district does conduct a mini-audit each year because its revenue falls under the limit for a full- blown annual audit.

Ten property owners asked the commissioners to be excluded from the district. The commissioners denied the exclusions, saying it was not in the best interest of the district.

Toussaint stressed that if owners were excluded, they would still receive road service without paying their share because the district could not just plow or maintain part of a road.

Commissioner Walker said if the district's voters pass a mill levy, it may encourage other neighborhoods to take over road maintenance.

An Intergovernmental Agreement will be developed outlining the responsibilities of the district and the county regarding the county-owned roads.

Communications Board

The commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding with all the emergency service agencies in Park County that creates a Communications Operations Board. The board will replace the Communications Advisory Board.

According to the MOU, the new board will handle all operational decisions relating to emergency communications and oversee the 911 Communications Center operations.

The Communications Center, commonly called "dispatch," will become a new, separate county department. Currently, the center is under the Sheriff's Office.

Emergency Manager Lori Hodges told The Flume that most counties of a certain size have an operations board to oversee communications so that all agencies' voices are heard and concerns addressed.

Hodges said the board will develop standard operating procedures and policies for the communications center; which is particularly important when the county installs a new 800 megahertz radio system. The board will govern operations only. Employees will remain county employees.

An interim board was established by the MOU to create the new communications structure, establish by-laws for the operations board, and hire a director for the new communications department.

Hodges stressed the importance of hiring an expert in the field as a director who could also explore grant opportunities for equipment upgrades.

The MOU states that during the transition period, Sheriff Fred Wegener will act as chairman of the interim board. Other interim members include an EMS representative, South Park Ambulance Service Chief Paul Mattson; a fire representative, Platte Canyon Fire Protection District Chief Jeff Davis; a county representative, Radio and Telecommunications Specialist Tony Frey; and an ES Council representative, Council President and North-West Fire Protection District Chief Mike Roll.

The interim board expects to complete its assignments by June 2008. Intergovernmental Agreements between all emergency service agencies and the county will be signed after the new communications department's structure and permanent Communications Operations Board's bylaws have been developed.

March of Dimes grant

The commissioners approved a March of Dimes grant for the Public Health Department. The $1,034 grant will be used to purchase educational materials that teach women how to maintain optimal health during pregnancy.

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