County looks back, and ahead |

County looks back, and ahead

Tom Stone

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Eagle County Commissioner Tom Stone’s State of the County Address that he delivered Tuesday.I am honored as the outgoing chairman of the board to deliver this year’s State of the County Address for Eagle County. First, I would like to recognize my fellow commissioners, Arn Menconi and Michael Gallagher. …The county is also served by a group of other outstanding elected officials. …Joyce Mack, assessor. Joyce has adopted the motto “The assessor is here to serve you.” I only wish all government agencies had the same mission.Teak Simonton, clerk and recorder. What a superior job she did with the election. Teak’s latest effort is to upgrade our public records to provide easier access for the public.Karen Sheaffer, treasurer and public trustee. Karen’s customer service is second to none as she focuses on early tax collections and wise investments of our money.Joe Hoy, sheriff. Joe is currently bringing together community members to assist him with efforts to better serve our community.Also, Dan Corcoran, surveyor, and Kara Bettis, coroner.We are here today to consider the State of the County.In preparing today’s remarks I considered three things to determine the state of the county. I considered first, the county’s accomplishments in 2004; second, the county’s current financial condition; and third, our goals for 2005.I’m pleased and proud to report the state of Eagle County is very positive. 2004 was full of county accomplishments … .The county’s current financial condition remains strong. In fact, our entire county debt will be paid off this year when we make our final bond payment on the facility we sit in today.As far as tomorrow, the future is so bright I will have to wear shades.Our current condition was made possible by the hard work of many of you in our audience today. …Eagle County is known as a leader, as well as a cooperative partner, when it comes to a variety of county efforts, but especially capital projects. In testimony of this tradition, let me begin with a highlight from 2004 that has taken years to accomplish and exemplifies the common theme of 2004 – “Partnerships: Getting Things Done.”For years this board has worked to solve a significant air traffic control problem at our airport. Hundreds of aircraft are denied access to our airport during high air traffic periods or bad weather, costing our community millions of dollars in lost revenue. With the assistance of our congressional delegation, and in particular Sen. Campbell’s efforts, and the cooperative efforts of the county and the FAA, a solution has been found which will lead to the installation of an instrument landing system as well as radar. Because of this partnership, the first of its kind, our airport’s capacity will double, air travel will be safer, and our economy and future will be even more secure.My thanks to Ovid Seifers, our airport manager, and Chris Anderson, our airport office manager, for all you do at the airport.Thanks to the creation of our open space program, for generations to come citizens will benefit as we evaluate and fund projects that will permanently preserve lands of significant scenic, cultural and environmental quality within the county. What a remarkable job Cliff Simonton has done staffing the open space committee.One of the many challenges in the county, as we all know, is providing options for our citizens to find well-priced homes. I am pleased to report that our new for-sale housing development at Miller Ranch is a success. In less than two years, nearly 90 percent of the homes are sold and 100 families are now calling Miller Ranch home. My thanks to our county attorney, Diane Mauriello, and our housing director, K.T. Gazunis, for all their hard work on this project.In a cooperative effort, the county, the chambers of commerce, and community businesses continued to support the very successful summer flight program. Passenger numbers this season were up almost 61 percent over 2003. With the continuation of these flights, Eagle County’s airport will become the choice of travelers for all seasons. Deborah Churchill has led the marketing effort for this important program.Once again, an example of how powerful partnerships can be is the completion of the trail between the Dowd Junction pedestrian bridge and the River Run Apartments. This was one of the most challenging sections of the entire 45-mile-long planned regional system from Glenwood Canyon to Vail Pass. The Avon to Dowd Junction trail project, totaling $2.3 million, was funded by the ECO Trails sales tax fund, a matching grant from Eagle County capital improvements fund, private donations, and by a grant from the state of Colorado and the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. A wonderful job headed by Ellie Caryl, our trails coordinator.Eagle County continues to be a leader when it comes to providing real time live information to our citizens. Web site enhancements allow our citizens to access current flight information, our public records, on-the-scene emergency information, as well as our aerial maps. More than 60 of our employees update information daily on our Web site. Thanks go to Donnie Robinson and John DeNardo in our IT department.Thanks to our engineering department, CMC, Eagle County School District, and CDOT, the Miller Ranch Road Bridge opened to traffic this year. Known by some as the “blue light special,” the opening completes a $4 million project which provides a new transportation route, connecting three neighborhoods in the greater Edwards area. Helen Migchelbrink, you did a fabulous job and the UFO community has come to love your blue lights.We added two additional multi-purpose playing fields at Freedom Park and completed the construction of a lake with a recreational path. Working with local veterans and emergency services personnel, we began planning for the soon-to-be-built memorials honoring local veterans and emergency personnel. The county funded the architectural design for the park, while a community group begins to work on the fund-raising efforts for the actual build-out costs. Once completed, the memorials will be located on the west side of the lake and provide quiet, reflective areas for those wishing to remember their loved ones. My thanks and thoughts go out to our facility and management director, Rich Cunningham. Rich headed up most of our capital projects last year. Rich is currently recovering from a rock climbing accident at the Craig Rehab Center in Denver. Please drop by and see him when you are in Denver. We all hope he returns to have him back on the job soon.One of our chief responsibilities is to plan for the future. Our planning commissions and members of our community development department have been working on updating our county comprehensive plan, formerly known as the master plan. Once completed, it will paint Eagle County’s vision for the future. Our long-range planner, Rebecca Leonard, continues to head up this effort.You can determine the size of a community’s heart by how well it takes care of those less fortunate. Just listen to these numbers…– In 2004, over 500 families at risk of child abuse and neglect were counseled and connected with family services.– Nearly 1,500 households were provided financial assistance to help some people get through tough times.– Nearly 11, 000 individual visits were logged with our public health department.My thanks go out to all our employees at Health and Human Services. They are under the able leadership of Kathleen Forinash.The ever-popular Eagle County Youth Conservation Corps completed their fifth season in 2004. This year 25 youth groups completed 40 projects for the Forest Service, Sylvan Lake State Park, town of Eagle, Vail Nature Center and several private property owners. Projects included creating wetlands at Eagle Ranch, building multi-use trails, campground maintenance and fire mitigation on private property. This program is coordinated by Sharee Wettstein in our office. Thank you, Sharee.It’s important for us to celebrate our accomplishments. But it is even more important to carefully plan our future. The blueprint for 2005 is detailed in our approved budget. Some of our lofty, but achievable, goals include the following:– Through our partnerships with such entities as the Eagle County School District, Colorado Association of Realtors, Vail Board of Realtors, GOCO, WECMRD, and several metro districts, our youth will continue to have numerous recreational opportunities in 2005. A new, state-of-the-art skateboard park and a children’s playground that will surpass all others will be built and serve as a great complement to the already popular soccer-multi-use fields at Freedom Park. The county has budgeted more than $1 million next year to support non-profits and other community requests, including organizations like the Youth Coalition, Catholic Charities, Project Graduation, Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability, the chambers of commerce, and Bravo!, just to name a few. The board has also budgeted monies to partner with our towns for items such as a new West Vail fire station, the Eagle Park Pavilion, a new recreation center in Gypsum, and an Avon skier shuttle. An additional $120,000 has been made available for our health and human service non-profit grants.We will break ground this spring on a new county child-care and community center facility at Miller Ranch. Once completed, the facility will be home for 80 children in a safe learning environment for early childhood development, as well as a much needed meeting space in the mid-valley for community groups.The senior center will be expanded in Eagle. The expansion will allow the seniors to enjoy a larger kitchen, dining and exercise area. Some say that with a large kitchen comes the need for a larger area to exercise. Santa Claus loves to have lean and fit seniors on his lap. Thanks go to John Lowery for keeping them that way.As Eagle County continues to grow, we realize the need for a new fairgrounds multi-use facility. This 24,000-square-foot facility will help preserve our Western heritage hosting such events as jack-pot and team roping and barrel racing. Additionally, events such as car shows, concerts with seating for almost 2,000, or graduation ceremonies will now have a downvalley, indoor venue. The economic benefits to our community are endless.Replacing the old and frankly tired exhibit hall, the new facility will host such events as the livestock market and showmanship and sale along with all of the 4-H projects, both general and home economics under one roof during the fair and rodeo. These events, thanks to Glenda Wentworth and staff, continue to grow each year and will now have a new home. You can imagine how excited we all are to finally begin construction of this new facility after more than 14 years of planning.Eagle County’s roadway network is viewed as one of the best in the state. In 2005 the county will continue to work with the state to find solutions to traffic issues on the Edwards Spur Road, as well as making the I-70 airport interchange program a reality.In an effort to better inform our community, Eagle County will launch ECO TV this winter. …As we ring in the New Year, let me be the first to welcome our new commissioner elect, Peter Runyon as well as commissioner re-elect, Arn Menconi. Commissioner Tom Stone was the chairman of the board in 2004.Vail, Colorado

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