Blue River looks to hire new employee
The town of Blue River has set some lofty goals in its new comprehensive plan — but town officials are worried they won’t have the resources to carry them out without an additional staff member.
A group of residents and community members is working on the plan with the help of Gabe Preston, a consultant with RPI Consulting based in Durango. The plan outlines goals and strategies to maintain and enhance the town’s infrastructure and improve communication with residents. Officials are also aiming to protect homeowners’ rights; provide traffic, law and code enforcement services; preserve natural assets and improve recreational opportunities — all while being fiscally responsible.
While the volunteer town advisory board and less than a handful of employees are eager to build a future for Blue River, officials worry they don’t have the tools to carry out the goals outlined in the plan.
“One of the problems we have is that many of these things require administrative duties and we don’t have the resources to do that,” said Rob Waterman, an advisory committee member.
The state Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) regional manager Greg Winkler came to the advisory committee’s meeting on Monday evening with some good news. The town is likely eligible to receive matching grant funds for a variety of projects, including funding to defray the costs of hiring a town administrator, he said.
“Primarily, what you will be interested in are the services the Division of Local Government offers,” Winkler said at the meeting. One possible funding opportunity could be provided through the Energy/Mineral Assistance Program.
If approved, the grant would provide 75 percent of the salary for a town administrator for his or her first year of employment. DOLA would provide 50 percent of the employee’s salary the following year and 25 percent in the third year. After that, the town would take over the employee’s salary in full, Winkler said.
When Blue River Mayor Lindsey Backas heard about the variety of services DOLA offers, she told Winkler, “You’re my new best friend.”
An additional Blue River staff member would manage town finances, operations and maintenance, and would communicate with residents. The committee shied away from defining the new position as a town manager during Monday’s planning meeting; instead it leaned toward calling it an administrative-based position.
If the town wants to hit the next deadline for grant funding through the Energy/Mineral Assistance Program, it’ll have to apply by Dec. 2, Winkler said.
Backas said she would seek approval to move forward on the staff position during a meeting with the town’s board of trustees on Tuesday.
“With the work on the comprehensive plan we have so much to do, and it’s only going to increase,” Backas said. “The sooner we can get somebody the better off I think it will be for everybody.”
Preston urged the advisory committee to apply for the matching funds.
“My sense is that the town can afford to go down this road right now. It’s kind of gutsy … but I think the town needs to get over this hump,” he said. “I believe in having someone in charge that is accountable to steer resources and who can communicate with the board of trustees and residents.”
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