County Hoarding too Much Money
I believe that the 2003 proposed budget for Routt County, which is being presented for adoption this week, is neither appropriate nor adequate and I believe the information being presented to the public is inadequate.
At the end of 2001, according to the county's own audited financial statements, Routt County had legally unrestricted reserves of more than $25 million. In 2001, those reserves increased by approximately $4 million. I believe that 2002 will show a similar increase in reserves.
While the information in the commissioners' 2003 budget is difficult to analyze, it appears it also contemplates not spending the full taxes collected. Those amounts represent taxes collected from our community which were intended to provide services to our community, not to be squirreled away for future generations especially not in a time of historically low returns on those invested funds.
The policy of spending significantly less than the taxes collected, while at the same time refusing to fund community needs and requests because "there aren't enough funds" or "there's not a provision in the budget for that" is a disservice to our community.
I believe therefore that the commissioners should rethink this excessively restrictive policy and not adopt the proposed budget.
Let me cite two examples of the problems with this policy:
Three weeks ago, the commissioners voted to reduce the Colorado Child Assistance Program income criteria, thereby knocking 11 families and 12 children out of this very successful program in order to save $92,000. The reason given is "we don't have the money," yet we have a significant surplus.
Also, the county's road and bridge department head recently stated traffic counts have risen to the point where many gravel roads cannot be maintained and the cost to citizens in excessive wear on their vehicles is significant. Yet, the proposed budget contains a measly $377,000 to double chip four pieces of county road.
The county could pave, upgrade and/or double chip a significantly greater portion of the problematic gravel roads, thereby improving safety and saving citizens wear and tear on their vehicles, without even touching the $25 million in reserves. Instead, money is being reserved for replacement of equipment as far out as 15 to 20 years.
Those are misguided decisions that affect the health and welfare of our community.
In addition, the budget information being presented is deficient in that it makes virtually no disclosure of the overall reserve position or the increases in reserves in 2002 or the contemplated 2003 reserve increases. This is further reason for not adopting this budget.
Newspaper Overlooks Soroco Achievements
I was very disappointed when I opened up your paper last week.
I have been a student at Soroco High for 11 years and am currently a junior. Despite Soroco's reputation, this is a great school and I am proud to be a student here. When we were informed on Wednesday that our CSAP school rating had jumped from a score of low last year to high this year, we were ecstatic. My class was last year's 10th grade class and our scores were a large part of the school's rating. We worked very hard last year to get up to par.
Over the past several months, I have become accustomed to seeing article after article belittling the South Routt community. We seem to be the laughing stock of Routt County, a title I feel is not justified.
As our new rating indicates, we are performing at a level above average in reading and writing and average in math, as compared to the state average. Our high school has even been selected as a winner of a Governor's Distinguished Award for our performance in the 2001-2002 school year.
But one would not know this from the article published on page 8 of Friday's Steamboat Today. Rather than congratulate us for our accomplishments as you did Strawberry Park Elementary on page 1 you were still somehow able to discredit our accomplishments.
I am the chairman of the South Routt district accountability and we have been discussing the effect that each score has on our overall average. Our high school only has about 120 students and there were only 35 students in my class last year. With attendance this low, every score counts toward the school average and we can't afford for any of our students to do poorly.
For example, we had a total of 47 students take the reading test. With 77 percent of them at proficient or above, that equals 36 out of those 47 being proficient or advanced.
I have only one question for you why are you more than willing to publish every negative piece of news and rumor about our community, but won't give us credit when it is deserved?
Believe it or not, the youth of South Routt are not rebels who live only to cause trouble. We deserve a little recognition every once in a while.
Don't drink and drive
This holiday season, Yampa Valley Medical Center reminds all drivers: You drink and drive, you lose.
This is the message from your hospital this holiday season as we join forces with local, state and national organizations for a public education campaign to kick off National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month.
Yampa Valley Medical Center wants to get the word out that impaired driving is a dangerous and, too often, deadly crime that we cannot afford to overlook in our community. It is time to address impaired driving as a serious issue that costs our residents millions of dollars each year in lost property and, most importantly, lost lives.
The greatest tragedy is that deaths due to alcohol-related crashes are preventable these are no accidents.
We will also be supporting increasing law enforcement patrols targeting impaired drivers in an effort to saves lives by preventing alcohol-related crashes.
By partnering with national organizations such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and others, Yampa Valley Medical Center hopes to save lives in the Yampa Valley. Our efforts locally can help reach the national goal of reducing annual alcohol-related deaths nationwide to no more than 11,000 by the year 2005.
While the number of deaths has decreased in recent years, alcohol remains a significant contributing factor to motor vehicle crashes. Last year, impaired drivers were responsible for almost 16,000 fatalities nationwide, accounting for 305,000 reported injuries and an estimated 1.5 million arrests.
This December holiday enforcement period serves as a valuable opportunity to heighten Yampa Valley Medical Center and Routt County law enforcement's commitment and efforts to keep our roads safe and save lives.
Steve Hilley, RN
Yampa Valley Medical Center
Bravo to the talented actors, musicians, technical, set, stage crews and brilliant director at Steamboat Springs High School. Your performances of "Into the Woods" were Broadway caliber.
The letter you received from Joanna Gleason, Tony Award winner for her role in the original "Into the Woods," came true. What you have learned, experienced and shared has transformed lives.
"Into the Woods" was an incredibly difficult musical to learn and perform and your hard work paid off. To have had so many students with such advanced vocal talent in one high school is unheard of. The actors and crews' timing was impeccable, your singing beautiful and your stage presence was spectacular. The sets, lighting, costumes and sound were professional.
You were stretched mentally, physically, and emotionally. You never broke; you grew stronger as individuals and as a team. I know you also grew, as I did, from the messages: you are not alone, others and fathers make mistakes, children will listen, good and nice people are not the same, and most of all, be careful what you wish for. These are simple, but important lessons in life and your performances conveyed them beautifully.
The support you had from your school peers, teachers and administration and the community, was amazing. The sense of community at the high school is great. You back one another, regardless of your affiliations, whether it be sports, music, drama, academic, technical or religious. I was thrilled to see so many students and teachers in the audience. I value the love and appreciation I receive from the students in the Theater Program every minute I am around them. I will never forget how alive you've made me feel.
I am writing this because our community, and every community should be more active in local government.
City council and county commissioners complain that when they propose projects to the public, they get voted down. They assume we are an uneducated public, ignorant of the real needs of this valley. Perhaps the opposite is true, we know what we want, and they are not in touch with the average Joe.
Most people never will attend a city meeting for various reasons, from scheduling conflicts to apathy. We need to utilize 21st century technology to get citizens involved with community planning. Weekly meetings and letters to the editor make for slow progress.
What we really need are public forum sections on the city and county Web sites. This will allow for the instantaneous transfer of ideas in a public place. This will allow local government to see what the average person thinks, and to interact with the public. It will allow open dialogue with our representatives about issues, face to face, so to speak.
This will allow full participation from anyone at any time of day or night, a huge benefit to everyone.
There is no reason whatsoever that citizens should be left in the dark about what our city is planning, and doing. This is the information age, not the stone age. I think we all need to communicate with each other on how we would like our city to grow and change.
Let the public be heard. Yearly public surveys, weekly meetings, and weekly opinion pages are antiques.
We want to help shape the destiny of our region, not sit on the sidelines. We want to know how our money is being spent, before it is already gone.