Officials say county is improving overall |

Officials say county is improving overall

Commissioner Jill Ryan speaks to Eagle County staff members during the annual State of the County Address in Eagle on Tuesday. Ryan dubbed these members "unsung heroes" for the local work they have accomplished and the quality with which they have done it.
Anthony Thornton | |

EAGLE COUNTY — After years of budget cuts and job losses, the county government feels good enough about its future that it gave $2.5 million in grants to local nonprofits last year.

County officials gave their annual State of the County presentation Tuesday morning, outlining accomplishments and goals.

What’s the state of the county? It’s improving, they said.

Commissioner Jill Ryan called the county staff “unsung heroes” because they get so much done and make it look easy.

For example, Ryan said that during the recent snowstorms that buried the county, crews worked from 2 a.m. to midnight two straight days keeping the runways clear at the airport. The sad part was that the planes couldn’t get in. But they kept the runways clear in case they could.

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The county’s road and bridge crews kept working on the roads during those storms. Still, the snow was coming so fast that by the end of their shifts, some of those roads looked like they hadn’t been plowed. That led to phone calls from people asking when their roads would be plowed.

They had been, and would be again.

“Be proud of who you are. Be proud of what you do. The vast array of services you provide is uncanny,” said Keith Montag, Eagle County manager.

It wasn’t all sunshine and flowers. The county had to cut 75 full-time positions in the last budget cycle, Ryan said. However, 2013 also saw the county’s finances start to rebound.

Last year was the first time in years they had the money to give community grants, $2.5 million to local nonprofits. The county gave grants to 60 local organizations.

Among the highlights:

Open space: In June, the Eagle Valley Land Exchange was completed. It’s 1,549 acres involving nine partners from both the private and public sectors. The county’s open space director, Toby Sprunk, called it one of the most complicated land deals he’s ever been part of. That deal was part of 2,200 acres in open space preserved last year.

Connect for Colorado: The county, along with Garfield and Pitkin counties, won a $750,000 federal grant to hire staff to help guide people through signing up for Obamacare.

Senior Care: The county purchased and donated land for the Castle Peak Senior Care Community facility. It will be owned and operated by Augustana Care, and they’re raising the last $4.4 million to build the $21 million facility. It’s expected to break ground in the next year. The senior center has been in the works for 25 years. It will have room for 130 people, create good income jobs and help keep $43 million in the community that left every year, said Kathy Chandler-Henry, one of the three county commissioners.

15 x 15: The county is working toward saving another 15 percent in energy consumption by 2015. That will keep 103,000 metric tons of carbon out of the air, the same as taking 230 cars off the road.

ECO Transit: The county’s ECO buses rolled 1.3 million miles carrying 780,000 passengers.

Repair and replace: Internally, they replaced 17,000 square feet of tiles on the county building, the same size as Jay Leno’s garage, according to officials.

Open book: The county’s finances are now completely online.

Reefer regulations: There are still eight marijuana retail licenses available.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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