Routt County uses opening on planning staff to seek new assistant director

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Editor's note: This story was updated March 20 to include comments by city of Steamboat Springs Director of Planning and Community Development Tyler Gibbs.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners agreed Tuesday to allow Planning Director Chad Phillips to fill an opening on his staff with a new assistant director, a position that was eliminated in 2009 as a cost saving measure.

County Manager Tom Sullivan said he and Phillips already had discussed the possibility of seeking to restore the position in the 2014 budget, and when staff planner Rebecca Bessey announced this month she will leave April 5 to take a position on the city of Steamboat Springs planning staff, they agreed to accelerate the timetable.

There are no immediate plans to hire another staff planner. Instead, the intent is to shift focus to long range planning projects that have been largely deferred since 2009.

“We really haven’t been doing long range planning since then,” Phillips said. “The statutes require us to update the Routt County Master plan every five years and it’s been 10 years.”

Other projects waiting in line for county planning support are updates of the Stagecoach and North Routt master plans.

Bessey is fully capable of taking on long-range projects — she has recently been looking into how existing county regulations address value added agriculture, Phillips said. But with her departure, he and Sullivan want to attract an assistant director with a long track record on tackling similar projects.

“Now’s the time to do it,“ Sullivan said. “Hiring a person with the right skill sets is really critical for us.”

Steamboat Springs Director of Planning and Community Development Tyler Gibbs said Bessey's title will be principal planner, making her the second-most senior planner in the department to himself.

"Rebecca brings a wealth of experience from her private sector consulting work with numerous municipalities prior to her time with Routt County," Gibbs wrote in an email.

Commissioner Steve Ivancie said he senses Routt County’s economy regaining its equilibrium and approves of adjusting county planning staff to be in a position to move forward.

“I think its appropriate to be ahead of the curve,” Ivancie said. “I see things changing.”

Bessey was a Planner III at step three on the pay scale earning $58,282. The entry-level annual salary for an assistant director on the county’s pay scale is about $7,700 more at $65,978.

“In 2009, when we went into the recession, we could plan on there being no planning out there,” Commissioner Doug Monger concluded. “I believe we’re moving into the new normal.”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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