Input wanted on expanding board
EAGLE COUNTY – Commissioners Peter Runyon and Arn Menconi don’t want to waste any time trying to fulfill their campaign promises. If both commissioners have their way, Eagle County voters may soon be asked to form a committee that will re-write the way this county is run. Both commissioners say there is a desire in the community to expand the Board of County Commissioners from three to five members. The only way Eagle County can expand the board is to become what’s called a “home-rule” government, which will allow Eagle Countians to write some of their own rules and procedures. Right now state law dictates how Eagle County is run.The board has tentatively scheduled a meeting for 6 p.m., April 13 to hear residents’ ideas.But Commissioner Tom Stone said he is skeptical that there is significant public support for the idea. “Bigger government isn’t necessarily better government,” he said during Tuesdays’ county commission meeting. Menconi said Runyon’s election to the board last November is proof enough to him. Runyon ran for the commissioner seat on a platform of expanding the board from three to five commissioners. Runyon said he believes Eagle Countians will be better represented that way. Only Colorado counties with populations of at least 70,000 can have a five-member board. Because Eagle County’s population is fewer than 70,000, the county must become a home-rule government to expand the board. There are two ways Eagle County can pursue home-rule status. One way is for 5 percent of voters to petition the county to pursue home-rule status. Stone said he prefers this method because it would show that there is some citizen support for the idea. The other way, which Menconi and Runyon seem to prefer, allows the Board of County Commissioners to start the process.Either way, Eagle County voters must approve a ballot measure to form an 11-member committee that will write the county’s governing document, or charter. Eagle Countians also will elect the members of that committee, said Chip Taylor, legislative director for County Commissioners Inc., an organization that aims to help Colorado’s county commissioners. The committee must have three representatives from each of the current county commission districts – in Eagle County’s case, from the eastern, middle and western parts of the county. The remaining two representatives can represent any part of the county, Taylor said. Typically voters are asked to create a committee and elect the members on the same ballot. “It seems there would be little expense in putting this on the ballot,” Runyon said, adding that if voters decide against forming the committee, there would be no expense. The charter will dictate how certain positions, such as the treasurer, sheriff, coroner and assessor will be selected – by appointment or election. Now, those are elected positions. It also will determine how county commissioners will be elected. As it is now, county commissioners run to represent one of three areas of the county: the east end, the middle, and the west end. But all Eagle County voters, regardless of where they live, can cast ballot for the candidates in each district.The committee gets 240 days to write the charter, according to County Attorney Diane Mauriello. County attorneys are still trying to determine when these elections could be held. It is possible that Eagle Countians could be asked to adopt a new charter and a new county commission with five members by November 2006, Runyon said. Weld County, one of the only two in the state that has less than 70,000 people and five commissioners, allows three commissioners to be elected only by voters living in their respective districts. The other two commissioners are elected by all of the county’s voters, much like how all three of Eagle County’s commissioners are elected now. Runyon said he would like the Eagle County Board of Commissioners elected similarly. Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or firstname.lastname@example.org.