Commissioners meet at state conference

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Representatives from most of Colorado's 63 counties have been meeting since Monday to discuss issues such as transportation and how state budget troubles affect counties.

Routt County commissioners Doug Monger and Dan Ellison, as well as Routt County Manager Tom Sullivan and several county department directors, are attending the Colorado Counties Inc. winter conference, which wraps up today.

Transportation is a top issue to all Colorado counties, Ellison said. The state continues to feel the effects of funding shortfalls and emergency needs, such as the recent rock slide on Interstate 70, that make it difficult to complete important road improvements.

"The state Department of Transportation continues to not have enough money to get projects on the schedule they would like to do," Ellison said. "Things get stretched out a lot longer."

For instance, road improvements on Colorado Highway 131 that were scheduled to happen four years ago will happen this summer instead, he said.

Another hot topic at the conference was how counties are dealing with the sudden increase in services they need to fund because of a tightening state budget. When the state cuts back on funding a service, counties are left to make up the difference.

"How do we deal with that?" Ellison asked. "I'm not sure that we're going to hear a lot of answers."

Land use and natural resources also are hot topics, said Monger, who also serves on the CCI Board of Directors.

As a result of the November elections, many new commissioners will be taking office across the state, so the conference also presents an opportunity to meet new faces, Monger said.

The conference offers good opportunities to learn about issues that counties across the state face, and learn how other counties are trying to tackle those issues, Ellison said.

"You always like to get an idea of how other counties are approaching certain problems," Ellison said. "It's an exchange of ideas."

-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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