County Corner, December 12, 2013

County Corner, December 12, 2013
Roger Baker

Brrr! This past week was a brutally cold one in Gilpin County; it makes one wonder what it will be like when winter actually arrives in another 10 days.
Not many of the government facilities are air conditioned here in the high country, so our summer electric bills aren’t too bad, but extreme cold like this can put a big dent in our utilities budgets; it’s pretty hard to keep these big buildings heated in below-zero weather.
And with revenues flat for the last several years, and lots of costs—utilities among them—continuing to rise, the County has begun to look at ways to increase revenues or decrease expenses.
Tuesday, the Commissioners adopted a new schedule of fees for the trash transfer station that will go into effect January 1st. The change that most folks will notice first is the increase in the fee for disposing of a single 33-gallon bag of household trash; that will go from $1 to $2, which is still a lot less than most municipal or county landfills charge.
Rates for slash and log disposal for non-residents will also increase; we are certainly supportive of all our neighboring communities performing fire mitigation work, but we can no longer afford to subsidize their efforts. And if spring ever comes, locals who schedule big cleanup projects will notice a change in the free trash day program: we’ll still have it, but the amount that can be disposed of at one time will be limited. Check with the Public Works Office for details when you come in to get your token.
While the fees charged for waste disposal are still pretty reasonable, they at least come close to covering the cost of the operation. That can’t be said about the Community Center, however, and even though the Commissioners are dedicated to keeping the cost for the citizens’ use of the facility as low as possible, we still have to look at ways of decreasing costs.
In this case, that took the form of reducing operating hours, both for the building as a whole and for the pool in particular.
The most noticeable change will be that the building will be closed entirely on Sunday; the early morning hours we had three days a week will also be eliminated. And even on those days the building is open, pool hours will be reduced by closing mid-day from noon to 4 from Monday through Thursday. We’ll still have the pools open all day Friday and Saturday, and all week during school breaks.
Nobody likes these changes. Trash disposal is not just a basic service, it benefits all of us when folks make the effort to dispose of their trash on a regular basis (bears and all, you know), so increasing fees too much can be counterproductive.
And while the Community Center is a sort of luxury, it’s a luxury that benefits a great many of our citizens; if anything we’d like to have these facilities used more, not less.  We’d certainly prefer to have the Library open Sunday, for example, and not have to close the Community Center another day. But the budgetary reality is that we’re going to have to provide fewer services, not more, for the foreseeable future.
Not much of a Christmas present, I know, but better than a lump of coal.
Although if we don’t start warming up soon, even lumps of coal will be in short supply…