County presentation outlines some of its accomplishments in the last year | VailDaily.com

County presentation outlines some of its accomplishments in the last year

EAGLE — The Eagle County commissioners hosted their annual State of the County presentation earlier this month, and they say the state of the county is pretty good.

Sure, the county has the same money hassles we all do — there's never enough of it to do everything they want to do.

The commissioners celebrated what they did last year, and the people who actually did the work.

"You are our most important asset," said Brent McFall, county manager, told the assembled county staff. "That's the key to being a high performing organization."

The county took a tax revenue hit when property values plummeted during the recession. While home prices have rebounded, any tax revenue increases have been consumed by rising health insurance costs — up 50 percent in five years, McFall said.

To help, the county's implemented a program to find the best prices for medical procedures. The staffer gets 20 percent of the money saved.

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Making green by being green

Money doesn't need much encouragement to run away like it's escaping from prison. It's quite another thing to earn money while reducing your carbon footprint, said Jill Ryan, county commissioner.

Actually, Ryan was sick, so Aric Otzelberger, deputy county manager, presented her part of the State of the County.

Eagle County added three more solar arrays to its rooftops, making it five total.

The reduction in greenhouse gases is the equivalent of taking 411 cars off the road, or 178 homes off the grid, Otzelberger said.

Using solar energy saves the about $327,000 annually.

Investing in solar energy generates a 7 percent return on investment, Otzelberger said. Standard investments pay less than 1 percent, since interest rates plummeted during the recession.

It worked so well that some money in a reserve fund earmarked to close the landfill in 50 years, which was paying nothing, was reinvested in a solar array in Rifle, which is paying a 6.5 percent annual return, Otzelberger said.

The county's landfill took in 4,260 tons of materials last year. Work release inmates from the Eagle County jail do some of the labor there, saving the county more than $190,000.

The glass goes back to Coors for beer bottles. The plastics go to make baseboards and the money comes back to Eagle County — more than $307,000 in 2015 from selling recycled materials.

The county's ECO buses hauled 900,000 passengers in 2015 — a 9 percent increase over 2014 — more than 1.5 million miles, all safely, Otzelberger said.

Plan to succeed

It's all part of the county's strategic plan, said County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry.

"We wanted to be clear about where we're going," Chandler-Henry said.

They have other things they want to accomplish and have come up with ways to measure their progress. They post it on the county's website every quarter, Chandler-Henry said.

One of those goals is to make Eagle County a better place to live, said Jeanne McQueeney, county commissioner.

For the oldest residents there's Castle Peak Senior Care Center in Eagle. For the youngest, the county's health and human services received more than 1,300 calls last year from people seeking help for children and families.

Affordable housing remains a challenge, and is a key to a solid middle class, McQueeney said, along with building a more diverse economy.

As far as the county's two main economic drivers, tourism and construction, the county's building department exceeded a record number of permits in 2015, McQueeney said.

"Hopefully that indicates people are going back to work," McQueeney said.

Airport business is also up, which is good because people who travel here by air stay longer and spend more, McQueeney said.

And speaking of tourism, the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships poured $100 million to the county, McQueeney said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.