DEL NORTE— The Rio Grande County Board of County Commissioners met on Wednesday, Jan. 30 to address issues of loss and gain at the courthouse. County Administrator Roni Wisdom tendered her resignation and will work her last day on Feb. 15. Then Marlayna Martinez distributed a 25-question survey to board members analyzing losses from the opiate-abuse crisis. In another presentation, Del Norte High School students and other members of the Rio Grande Prevention Partners emphasized how the San Luis Valley is losing teenagers to suicide.
On the positive “gain side,” Road Supervisor Patrick Sullivan updated the board with equipment purchase details, and Emily Brown’s report initiated a chance for county staff members to have access to CPR training.
Addressing opiate addiction, Martinez asked commissioners if they would join the sheriff’s department, Del Norte Police Department and the board of education by providing feedback through a survey also distributed in Alamosa and La Jara.
The extensive survey targets local understanding of opiate abuse, both within the community and among personal associates. “Prefer not to answer” is an option for nine questions that hit close to home. Martinez asked commissioners to mail completed surveys to her. Commissioner Gene Glover invited Martinez to give her presentation during a Rotary Club meeting at 7 a.m. on Wednesdays at Boogies Restaurant. Rotary members span multiple vocations and can provide diverse input.
Without much discussion, Commissioner Suzanne Bothell simply stated that “Roni [Wisdom] has resigned effective Feb. 15. We are looking for a new administrator.” Wisdom’s ability to field detailed questions from commissioners and presenters will be hard to replace.
Sullivan followed with an update about old and new equipment for road repair and maintenance.
“First and foremost,” Sullivan said, “I’m looking for approval for the 2019 distributor purchase. I’d like to put the order in place so we can have the distributor by construction season in April.”
Sullivan originally estimated needing more than $200,000, based on Alamosa’s strategy of paying $184,000 and adding $12,000 worth of improvements. Considering customization costs, Sullivan found a candidate and said, “This is the fit for us. It replaces a 38-year-old piece of equipment. It will be ready for the road, but we’ll need to add lights and other parts like a radio.”
Sullivan predicted needing no more than $3,000. “You always miss a widget or a mudflap,” Sullivan said. “but we can do it in-house.”
Built in 1968, the current equipment has been running for Rio Grande County since 1981. As Sullivan explained, “We’ll put it out there for sale once the new one comes. We’ll find a home for it.
Sullivan didn’t anticipate selling it for more than $10,000, and keeping it running would not have been cost-effective for the next year and beyond. Other unused equipment could boost the budget as well. Sullivan said he’d get as much as possible for a weed mower, a 1986 pickup and a 1968 trailer that hasn’t been used since 1969.
The board approved moving forward with the new distributor purchase, and they also signed CDOT documentation certifying that Rio Grande County maintained 571.64 total miles of eligible roadways. Sullivan’s crew maintains another 48.09 miles, and an additional 92.34 miles of routes in the county are maintained by other entities. As mileage of pavement increases, Sullivan’s reports swell as well.
“It’s in our interest to make improvements and document the changes,” Sullivan said.
Dressed in matching yellow T-shirts, members of the Rio Grande Prevention Partners included Del Norte High School students and other community members after Sullivan’s report.
“Today we’d like to talk to you about suicide in the Valley. It’s increasing,” noted Del Norte Tiger Max Garcia. Citing numbers from a recent Healthy Kids survey, Garcia explained that almost 91 percent of teens have considered suicide, and 11.3 percent have attempted it. “We can’t deny it,” Garcia said.
Maya (daughter of Melonie Dominguez, community liaison for the Del Norte School District) designed the shirts and helped make the appeal for commissioners to order more for themselves and other county employees. With stocked wardrobes, shirt owners would wear their T-shirts on designated Fridays to boost awareness.
In addition to designing the shirt, the senior mentioned another project within the school. Called the Tiger Care Closet, a little space in the back of the high school library includes chapstick, shampoo, extra sweatpants and anything a student might need. Maya asked commissioners if they would consider placing a similar box in the courthouse.
Representing public health, Brown mentioned grant funding and staffing before reporting on emergency preparedness. Fire season is approaching, and emergency shelter management and other considerations deserve attention before flames fly. Ultimately, the county is accountable for emergency facilities and procedures. Disease outbreaks are a similar threat, flaring up amid campaigns to immunize more people.
The recent federal government shutdown also sparked planning to make sure county operations staff and vendors get paid. For full-time staff, Brown had other plans as well. In addition to securing an office assistant position, Brown asked for funding to create a deputy director position. A deputy would give Brown time to oversee multiple projects and be more involved with different groups and boards.
Before concluding, Brown floated the idea of extending CPR training to Rio Grande County employees. Conducting the training in-house would expand expertise and save the county money, although it would require funds for materials and instruction.