Extension tries to balance cuts, service

County officials meet to discuss possible reorganization of popular office

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During the past three years, the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Service has cut 33 full-time staff positions, including field agents and specialists.

Now officials are trying to figure out how the Extension Service can work well with fewer employees.

County commissioners, Extension Service staff and others from Northwest Colorado will meet today to hear several proposals for changing the Extension Service organization. Much of the funding for the Extension Service comes from counties.

The meeting is one of several being held across the state to get input on potential organizational models, Routt County Agricultural Extension Agent C.J. Mucklow said.

There are two basic proposals for the reorganization, he said. One proposal involves having an extension agency in each county, with specialized agents who work throughout a larger region. Some multi-county areas already use that model.

The other model is similar but not as formal, allowing counties to share resources without as many specific agreements, Mucklow said.

Another model already has been rejected. It involved one centralized, multi-county extension service without offices in each county, he said.

The Routt County Extension Advisory Board discussed the proposals Monday, Mucklow said. Most do not want the organization of the Extension Service to change.

Another worry in Routt County relates to one of the county's two extension agent positions, which recently was split between Jackson and Routt counties. The position now is based in Routt County but soon could be based in Jackson County.

Mucklow said the Advisory Board does not want a void left in Routt County. If the position must be shared, the Advisory Board prefers to have the position based in Routt County.

The bottom line is that the Extension Service has had to make cuts because of decreasing state funds, Mucklow said.

He does not think a reorganization would save money, but it could help the Extension Service deal with the cuts. The question, he said, is how to continue to provide the expected level of service with fewer resources.

County commissioners, and officials, Extension Service staff and state Extension representatives will meet to discuss the issue at 2 p.m. in the Commissioners Hearing Room of the Routt Courthouse Annex.

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

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