Gilpin County Corner

Roger Baker, County Manager.    The discussion of the Gilpin County Commissioners’ goals and objectives that took place Tuesday was even more interesting than usual, given the combination of a new format and the financial limitations with which the County continues to struggle.

There’s always a bit of a conundrum the Commissioners face in an election year, like this one. After all, we may or may not have a new Commissioner for 2015, who may or may not have different priorities. So maybe they should consider putting these discussions off until January.

On the other hand, the goal-setting process has moved up in the calendar in recent years, as the Commissioners have come to the realization that having goals without adequate funding to realize those goals makes the whole process rather like a wish list than a set of achievable outcomes. So it makes sense to have the goal-setting session before the budget hearings, rather than after.

Then there’s the ongoing conflict between the broader goals that should be national—even international—priorities and a small, rural county’s role in achieving them. This year, that dichotomy was recognized by suggesting that Gilpin County explore alternative energy options. Everyone understands that this will be have a minimal impact on a major problem, but if individual counties—and for that matter, individuals—don’t step up and start taking action, who will?

Throughout the discussion, however, was an implicit recognition that there are very few areas in which Gilpin County can accomplish a goal without the assistance (or, in some cases, overcoming the opposition) of other governmental agencies at all levels.

For example, take the goal to develop maintenance and replacement plans for buildings and equipment of various sorts. Right now the Commissioners are (rightly) concerned about the potential cost of new election equipment, and hoping that the antiquated machines (by computer-age standards) that we now have will at least get us through November.

But planning for replacement is almost impossible, given that the requirements for that equipment keeping changing, according to federal and state legislation and the whims of the current Secretary of State. That’s further complicated, of course, because the Secretary of State, too, is an elected office, and a new officeholder may have very different views than the incumbent on how to safely and securely conduct elections.

The Commissioners’ most speculative discussions, not surprisingly, involved the “delivery of Public Health services” and the “options for primary health care delivery to residents,” as these are programs which just recently experienced major changes.

The public health options should have come into greater focus later that same day, when the officials from Jefferson County Public Health (which serves as our Public Health Agency for statutory purposes) came to the budget hearings to present their suggestions for how to move forward after the departure of the County’s public health coordinator a month ago.

And primary health care in the County is in even greater jeopardy, with the impending closure of Mountain Family Health Center at the end of November. Here there are a number of options to explore, but none of them will be easy—or cheap. And while the County has some statutory obligations in the field of public health, there are no such obligations in the health care field, with a few exceptions that are now handled by Human Services. But surely government, even at this level, must have some obligation toward the needs of its citizens.

The Commissioners will take a second crack at the goals statement at an upcoming meeting, using the reality check of the budget hearings to help guide them in determining what is really achievable in 2015.

Nobody ever said this was going to be easy…