Public health and safety top spending requests |

Public health and safety top spending requests

Tamara Miller

The number of families needing public assistance in Eagle County has grown by 73 percent since 2002. The number of staff handling those requests has grown by a much smaller amount – about 15 percent.

Ask most department heads at any company or government agency and they will likely tell you they could use more people. And Eagle County public health director Kathleen Forinash would tell you that only people can get the job done in her department.

“It’s difficult to say ‘Use computers to be efficient’ because it’s all personal contact,” Forinash said.

Forinash has four vacant positions in her office and is requesting one additional position – a senior services site coordinator who would be stationed in Minturn. The jobs in her department are just some of the 20 vacant positions, and 21 additional positions, county officials had to consider when preparing a recommended budget.

The budget that likely will be submitted to the county commissioners would add just one position – the senior services site coordinator – and take away another in the community development department.

Sheriff Joe Hoy acknowledges his budget request contains some “wish list” items. Every year, Hoy requests funding to replace the department’s plane. The current plane, purchased about six years ago, is used primarily to transport prisoners. But it cannot fly in inclement weather, Hoy said.

“I know I’m not going to get a plane,” he said. “That was kind of a pie-in-the-sky kind of thing, but it’s starting to become a big issue.”

Hoy estimates by selling the department’s current plane, the cost to the county for a new aircraft would be about $350,000.

The Sheriff’s Office request also includes 15 new positions, including 10 more patrol deputies and two computer support employees.

Right now, part of the department’s tech support is provided by the county. But those specialists can’t have access to all of the Sheriff’s Office computer files because some are confidential, Hoy said.

The department also has five vacant positions.

“This is the first time we’ve added positions,” Hoy said. “We have asked since the mid-90s.”

The facilities management department, responsible for overseeing construction and operations of county-owned buildings, is requesting three more employees, as well.

County officials estimate it would cost an additional $2 million on top of the already over-budget expenditures to fund all the new positions requested.

Tamara Miller is a staff writer for the Vail Daily. She can be reached at

Vail, Colorado

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