Commissioners head to conference

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Representatives from 51 of Colorado's 63 counties will meet for three days this week to discuss local and state issues during the winter conference for Colorado Counties Inc.

Hot topics are likely to include the state's budget and water resources.

Routt County's three commissioners, along with other county employees, will attend the meeting in Colorado Springs.

The conference offers a chance to learn about important issues from the experts, Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said.

Monger is the president for the western district of Colorado Counties Inc., which includes 16 counties such as Moffat, Rio Blanco and Garfield counties.

"It's an opportunity to get all of the commissioners there at a meeting and talk about all of the issues at one time," Monger said.

Because the conference also involves representatives from counties' human services and road and bridge departments, it allows for broader discussions and bigger-name speakers.

This year, Gov. Bill Owens, is scheduled to be one of more than two dozen speakers. Others will include State Sen. John Andrews, Ted Trujillo, the state director of the Child Welfare Division, and John Pape with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The conference will focus on several issues important to the state, Monger said, the first being the state's budget.

"Next year's state budget ... is a big one that we're very concerned about," Monger said. The conference could provide insight for how the state will regroup and "move forward from our current budget situation," he said.

Another top issue is water demand and supply across the state. State representatives will have to consider options for firming up water supplies after voters defeated Referendum A at this year's election. The bill would have created a $2 billion loan program to finance water projects.

Other important issues most likely will include forest health, transportation and the threat of terrorism.

In past years, growth management has topped the list of topics, but this year, Monger said he expects the state's budget and water resources to be the focus.

"We have the stagnated economy and all of a sudden, growth comes off the table," Monger said.

Most important, the conference offers a chance for county officials to talk with other county officials. Routt County commissioners likely will spend time talking with Grand County commissioners, Monger said, as Routt and Grand counties have court orders to build justice centers.

"It's a good opportunity to network," Monger said. "I think that's the biggest thing."

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