County uses retreat to set goals for 2003

Improving courthouse is the top priority

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— During a two-day retreat in Craig, Routt County officials identified improving the county courthouse as the top goal for the 2003 budget year.
The courthouse led a list of six goals set by county commissioners and key personnel. Other goals included improving internal budgetary practices, examining salaries for entry-level positions, evaluating the value of Yampa Valley Regional Airport, improving the county's Web site and conducting a needs assessment for a detoxification center.
The retreat was Friday and Saturday at the Holiday Inn in Craig. During the two days, county officials met for about 12 hours.
"It was really important to get away from the office and the day-to-day action," County Manager Tom Sullivan said of the retreat.
Elected officials and department supervisors agreed that securing public support for a new judicial facility in Steamboat Springs in Steamboat Springs.
In November, the county is expected to ask voters to support a tax that would be used to build a new judicial facility.
"A new justice center is the single most important project we are working on now," Sullivan said.
The county's Denver-based architect, HML Design, is working on the design phase of the 54,000-square-foot facility, which would be built at the southwest corner of Sixth and Oak streets.
The proposal includes the partial closing of Sixth Street and a parking garage on the corner of Oak and Fifth streets.
The county is planning to review the design of the building in April. The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission and City Council are scheduled to examine the proposal in June.
County officials are seeking public support for the new facility because the current courthouse is outdated and too small.
The state has notified Routt County that the historical building is not in compliance with state standards for security and safety.
"We are mandated to improve the courthouse," Commission Doug Monger said. "We are hoping for a successful ballot initiative in November. It is critical that this happens."
Monger said if the public does not support the tax increase for the facility, the county would have to look at other ways to fund the building, which could affect budgets of other county departments.
"We would have to re-evaluate our priorities and the level of services we are providing," Monger said.
Along with the courthouse, county officials also plan to examine ways to improve the county's budgetary process. Monthly reporting by departments and a process for approving supplemental budgets could be instituted.
"There are always better ways to do things," Commissioner Dan Ellison said.
Officials also expected to examine the county's pay scale for entry-level positions and the possibility of giving bonuses to employees based on performance.
Entry-level salaries are important for the county to attract and retain employees, Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said.
Instituting a merit system for employees will be discussed. Currently, employees are given raises based on longevity. Officials are interested in giving raises based on performance.
County officials also are interested in promoting the importance of Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden to county residents.
"I don't think every person in the community is aware of what the airport provides to this area," Monger said.
"It's an important facility in the county and important to the economy."
The county wants to improve its Web site by placing as much information on the Internet as possible.
And officials are interested in doing a needs assessment regarding a detox center. The closest center is in Glenwood Springs.
The two-day retreat in Craig was a first for the county. Sullivan organized the retreat so top county officials could talk about needs and priorities.
Sullivan said the retreat will help county department supervisors draft their budget requests for 2003.
The county's budget cycle will start at the end of April.

To reach Gary Salazar call 871-4205
or e-mail gsalazar@steamboatpilot.com

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