Summit County commissioner Q&As: Karn Stiegelmeier
Ryan Summerlin October 16, 2012
I have enjoyed my first term as commissioner. I believe I have done great work for the people of Summit County. I am proud of the collaboration and cooperation producing excellent solutions for all citizens. The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement (CRCA) ends decades of conflict, gives us certainty for our water future, protects streamflows, lake levels and improves our watershed. The cooperative project co-locating a community center with our new library on Harris Street and renovating this historic icon is a win for Summit County taxpayers. Completion of the circle of recpaths around the lake is another win for our community. The Zero Waste Task Force is still in process. Collaborative solutions can take a long time. However, the end product includes consideration of all stakeholders needs so that the solution really works for our community. These examples of collaborative projects, saving taxpayer dollars are the way governments should be doing business, working in the best interest of all citizens.
• Further reduce our utility bills – more energy efficiency and solar electricity• Better transportation movement – less congestion, more transit• Improved fire mitigation + public education/awareness regarding emergency planning• Additional workforce housing completion • Added protection for key open space parcels• Protection of West Slope water resources – we have the CRCA, but there is still more work to do • Enhanced early childhood and school-age programs• Broadband and cell service improvements • Implement zero waste solutions
When I took office in January 2009, I saw the “fiscal cliff” of property tax declines hitting us in 2012, and immediately began considering appropriate actions. All possibilities of restructuring, including privatization, were evaluated. Proactive action was taken in ’09, ’10 and ’11 in preparation for the revenue decline of 2012. Expenditure reductions were achieved with staff reductions, cross training, technology and cooperation. I continue to look at ways to be more efficient. Our revenue reserves today, are double that of 2009, giving us a cushion of flexibility going forward. We are facing 5 percent residential property tax decline that will hit us in 2014. That revenue loss will be offset by new construction, new utilities and mining infrastructure, additional staff realignments savings and continued savings from team efforts by departments every year. We are on a sustainable path going forward, due to the tough work done in ’09-’11, planning years into the future. Resurgence in our economy is reflected in recent building and real estate markets. Our role as county government is to provide efficient services and infrastructure, so the private sector can thrive to reinvigorate our economy.
We have the structure in place: our County Wildfire Protection Plan and the wildfire council, including county, towns, fire departments, USFS, state FS and local citizens. Summit County is a leader in collaborative efforts, using private, neighborhood, HOA, county, state and federal resources to engage property owners, and volunteers.Next steps include: • continue to prioritize the most vulnerable locations in the county, reach out to homeowners to further reduce our wildfire risk. • continue emphasis on forest health with our CSU Agricultural ext. office, and reaching out to the less organized or prepared neighborhoods. We have development reviews in place requiring defensible space for new development, but unless it is a requirement of a PUD or HOA, there is currently no ability for the County to require ongoing maintenance. I am supportive of State legislation giving us more flexibility to have authority to require ongoing defensible space, like the towns can do today.