The forum, sponsored by the Montrose Republican Central Committee, allowed delegates to ask questions of the candidates. On March 17, those delegates will cast their votes and determine if a primary election is needed.
Currently, Jim Haugsness is vying for the District 3 seat against incumbent David White, and incumbent Ron Henderson and Ed Ulibarri are vying for the District 1 seat.
Candidates need 30 percent of the delegates' votes to automatically be on the ballot, and the candidate with the most votes is listed first, County Republican Chairman Dave Laursen said. Candidates receiving 10 to 30 percent of the delegates' votes can petition to be on the ballot.
For some of the delegates, the forum was a chance to get more information about their candidates.
Delegate Scott Riba, who also is a farmer and businessman in Montrose County, said he didn't come with any specific concerns, but found himself a little uneasy after the forum.
Several of the audience questions revolved around how to handle staffing and service levels with a shrinking budget.
Riba said candidate responses about increasing taxes or decreasing services to handle shortfalls, specifically in the road and bridge department and the county sheriff’s office was discouraging, especially since voters approved more taxes for those department only a few years ago.
"I'm thinking, holy cow, we are already paying a lot," Riba said.
Riba said he was looking for answers, but instead got critical responses on how things have been run within the county without the candidates addressing what they would have done differently.
During the forum, the audience had an opportunity to ask 12 questions, and each candidate got two minutes to respond.
Throughout the event, Haugsness stressed that he would like to see the county evaluate its staff relative to the level of service the citizens would like the county to provide.
Haugsness said the county should "start thinking outside the box" and look into cost-saving measures such as merging departments or sharing services with surrounding local governments or private businesses.
Commissioner White said that if privatization of the county's fix-based airport operations is any indication, the county hasn't handled privatization very well. He also said that it's cumbersome to privatize and complicated if you have to collaborate with other elected officials.
"We are looking at all facets, but it doesn't always work because government is doing what the private sector doesn't really want to do," White said.
Commissioner Henderson stressed his background and love for the community as a sound reason for his candidacy, as did his opponent, Ulibarri.
Several time Henderson responded to a question with an answer based on what he believes matters, such as principles, backbone, community, plans and budgets.
In regards to the Montrose Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees leasing the hospital to a nonprofit board of directors, both Henderson and Ulibarri said they weren't pleased with the process, but Ulibarri said the outcome meant that the hospital is now at arms length from government.
"We talk about not wanting government in our daily lives," Ulibarri said. "This is a nonprofit that has the same goals and missions … It's still our hospital."
Ulibarri also added that he believes the money for the lawsuit against MMH could have been better spent on improving health-care services throughout the county.
The candidates' next public appearance together is at the Montrose County Assembly on March 17 at Centennial Middle School.
As of March 7, no Democrats had announced their candidacy in the county's commissioner races.