Attorney: Resume in-person meetings

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Ouray County Attorney Carol Viner told county commissioners on Tuesday they need to discuss how to start having in-person meetings again.

"These meetings are not legal and proper," Viner said of the virtual meetings commissioners have held for more than a month. "The longer this goes on the less of an emergency it is."

Viner pointed out that the federal government doesn't meet over Zoom and told commissioners they had a leadership role to play in getting the county back on track.

Commissioner Ben Tisdel said he still considered the county to be in an emergency, as COVID-19 hasn't disappeared. He suggested the county wait on more guidance from the state.

Commission Chairman Don Batchelder said there was a lot to consider, such as the availability of sanitation and masks.

Viner clarified to commissioners that citizens should not be calling her with complaints, as had occurred the day before.

She ticked off the variety of ongoing projects she is working on for the county in an effort to show where her allotted time is used. She is dealing with an encroachment issue with Deeply Digital over broadband fiber installed in the county right-of-way on County Road 1, ongoing litigation over County Road 5, a water rights case, research the commissioners asked her to do on how Ouray County could become a "home rule" county, broadband contracts, work on merging the Cedar Hill and Dallas Park cemetery districts and the pending non-commercial camping ordinance. She said she is also assisting with the sheriff recall election and with public health orders and attends every county meeting to answer questions, among other duties.

Stream management plan

The commissioners and Viner met in an executive session to discuss legal questions regarding the Upper Uncompahgre Cooperative Stream Management Plan, which would divert water out of Cow Creek into the Uncompahgre River and store it in Ridgway Reservoir in preparation for times of drought. The county is a co-applicant on a water rights application, which, if approved, would allow for that use.

After the session, Viner said there would be a final meeting of the steering committee tasked with developing the plan on May 21. The report will be finalized after the meeting and then be submitted to the state, which will then reimburse the county money it is owed, Viner said.

The reimbursement will cover the services Wright Water Engineers provided to develop the plan. The county received a grant from the Colorado Conservation Board for $108,200 to develop the plan and matched it with $26,750 of its own d ollars. The county pays the engineer and is reimbursed from the state funds, but must submit the plan before the final reimbursement is made.

The steering committee was established in 2017 and is made up of 20 stakeholders of various groups, from local ranch representatives to the Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership, a conservation group.

UWP board treasurer Scott Williams wrote a letter to commissioners earlier this month expressing frustration that a draft plan had been developed by Wright Water Engineers without UWP input or knowledge, and that the deadline for comment was two days away.

Williams asked for a two-week extension for his group to review the document and offer comment. He was granted one week by Viner, who told him his group can make comments but cannot edit the report.

In his letter Williams also requested another meeting of the steering committee.

In other business, Social Services Director Carol Friedrich said Medicaid enrollment in the county was up 250 percent. She expects this trend to continue as the economy suffers and people remain out of work.

Commissioners discussed concerns with Gov. Jared Polis' orders not to travel more than 10 miles from home for recreation.

Commissioner John Peters said he thinks the county should request a waiver from the order, but Tisdel was hesitant to do so. Batchelder agreed with Peters and said they would ask Ouray County Unified Command to look into it.