Ouray County Secures $950,000 for Camp Bird Road and Grandstands Projects
OURAY COUNTY – Last week marked (almost) a million dollar week in Ouray County, with the news of two major grant awards to help fund capital improvement projects.
Early in the week, Colorado’s Department of Local Affairs announced its decision to award $600,000 toward the county’s grant request for $697,000 to help fund repairs to County Road 361 (otherwise known as the Camp Bird Road). On Friday, Great Outdoors Colorado announced it will fully fund a $350,000 grant request from Ouray County for the demolition of the old grandstands, and the construction of new ones, at the Ouray County Fairgrounds.
The GOCO grant was one of several that Ouray County pursued to help fund the $600,000 project. The county concurrently applied for grants of $88,403 each from the Gates Foundation and El Pomar Foundation after encouragement from both funding entities at the Western Slope Rural Philanthropy Days in June. The Gates Foundation grant request was rejected in November; the county anticipates receiving word from El Pomar sometime this week.
Last summer, Ouray County also received a $150,000 GOCO grant to implement roof repairs at the 4-H Event Center. The county is currently reviewing bids on the project, which will get underway next year.
News of the grant awards for the CR 361 and grandstand projects comes on the heels of the Ouray County Commissioners’ Dec. 10 decision to approve a stripped-down budget for 2014 that includes a 10 percent reduction in full-time county employees’ work weeks, and the closure of the Ouray County Courthouse on Fridays starting in January 2014.
The cost-saving measures were implemented in response to a budget shortfall, stemming from declining property values in Ouray County and correspondingly lower property tax revenues. Ouray County voters rejected a countywide sales tax measure in November which sought to replenish the shortfall.
Ouray County experienced a $300,000 decrease in revenues two years ago, and projects a $400,000 decrease next year. According to data from County Assessor Susie Mayfield, the county’s assessed value has plummeted from $183 million to $154 million in the most recent assessment cycle.
Commissioners still don’t know whether Ouray County will get its full allotment of PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) funding from the federal government in 2014. Each year, the county typically gets about half a million dollars’ worth of PILT funding. These federal payments are made to local governments to help offset losses in property taxes due to non-taxable Federal lands within their jurisdiction. Ouray County depends on PILT funds to sustain operations on many levels, particularly in the Road and Bridge Department. There is no guarantee of PILT funding in the budget deal that was expected to pass the Senate on Wednesday as this paper went to press.
HEALTH INSURANCE ENROLLMENTS RAMP UP
Ouray County Social Services Director Allan Gerstle told the Ouray County Commissioners this week that Monday, Dec. 16 was the busiest day his office has seen in regard to people asking for assistance enrolling for health insurance under the federally mandated Affordable Care Act. It was “an Obamacare slam,” he declared, as people began to realize they had only one more week until the Dec. 23 deadline to get their applications in for Obamacare.
“We had a lot of fun yesterday,” he said. “There were people walking in, in tears, saying they were in the computer system lost somewhere and is there some way we can find them?”
Gerstle said that many people were getting stuck in the step of the process of online enrollment that requires them to confirm that they are not eligible for Medicaid, before they can take the next step of getting into Colorado’s health benefit exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, to choose a private insurance plan.
“What we are seeing is human nature and procrastination,” Gerstle said. “We were hoping people would use November, and of course what we are seeing is people waiting ‘til the last week.”
Statewide, Gerstle said, 23,000 people have gotten through system and currently enrolled in private insurance plans, while approximately 100,000 have been enrolled in the state’s newly expanded Medicaid program.
PADGETT NAMED BOCC CHAIR FOR 2014
Commissioner Don Batchelder moved at Tuesday’s BOCC meeting to appoint fellow commissioner Lynn Padgett as Commission Chair for 2014. Commissioner Mike Fedel. who currently fills that role, will shift to the position of Vice-Chair. The Ouray County Commissioners have a practice of rotating the position of Chair on a yearly basis.