Commissioner Michael Gallagher finished his duties as chairman of the county board with recounting of Eagle County successes over the past year – and there were plenty – and made sure his talk was well punctuated with genuine applause for jobs well done all around. Most impressive among the achievements was managing a small slew of accomplishments and managing to avoid cuts in staffing or tax hikes. Eagle County has the lowest property tax rate in the state, in fact. No mean feat, there.
They took care of the bottom line while bringing Berry Creek 5th projects to fruition or at least construction, completing the Tree Farm community facilities in El Jebel, purchasing the Golden Eagle senior citizen housing in Eagle, setting up more improvements at the airport, buying emergency services communication equipment and a wildland firetruck, hiring an advocate for the needs of immigrants, setting up a shelter for battered women, among a host of other actions.
A couple of dozen county employees were honored for longevity of service, suggesting a lie by the occasional unnamed disgruntled critic who insinuates during election seasons that the county provides an intimidating work environment.
Most moving were the farewells to elected officials leaving office, and swearing in the new ones. The house was packed by this point, with well-wishers overflowing out of the commissioners chambers.
New Sheriff Joe Hoy had his wife pin new labels to his collar before taking his oath. Later, he wiped tears from his eyes. His opponent for sheriff in the last fall’s elections, Bill Kaufman, not only is staying with the department, but taking a promotion to overseeing the jail operations. In less professional departments, this does not always happen.
Donna Barnes, term-limited out of the coronor office she held for 24 years, will stay on as a deputy for Kara Bettis. Her rival for the position, Bruce Campbell, also will remain on as a deputy coroner. So the team making up the Coroner’s Office will remain intact; there’s just a reshuffling of duties and titles.
Eagle County is hardly perfect, and whether it’s the best to be found in the country might be a cause for debate. But it is good in many ways, and there’s room for plenty of pride. On balance, the county is well served.
What is this, gridlock on Highway 6 from the new stoplight all the way back through the Avon roundabouts just after the new light began operating? Which brainiac engineer missed this cause and effect, a couple of callers wanted to know. Well, it just so happened a Dowd Junction crash was to blame. D.R
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