County Update: Looking forward to 2021 and beyond

Beth Melton

2020 was unprecedented in so many ways. It has been extremely challenging for everyone, and Routt County’s resources have been narrowly focused on pandemic response — delaying and postponing projects so that we could respond to this emergency. All of us are looking forward to getting back to normal, and the Routt County Board of Commissioners are looking to the future as we plan our topline priorities for 2021.

Public health

As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet, and response will continue to be a top priority in 2021 — our focus will be on efficient and widespread vaccine distribution to facilitate the return to normal that we are all anxiously looking forward to. In addition to pandemic response, long-term sustainability for the public health department is a top priority as well. Public health is a core responsibility of the county, and it was outsourced until July 2019. We have all become very familiar with public health’s role in a pandemic, and their task of protecting health and increasing equity will remain equally critical once the pandemic is in the rearview mirror.

Economic resilience

Fostering economic resilience is always a top priority for Routt County. There are several risks to our ongoing resilience and working to mitigate these risks will be a focus for Routt County in 2021. We are facing a transition away from coal-powered energy generation, which will greatly impact energy jobs and the tax base. The pandemic has wreaked havoc on our service-based economy, hurting service and hospitality-based sectors. Unprecedented growth in both recreation and real estate are stressing our community’s resources. To move forward, we must continue to foster smart growth and innovation while emphasizing resilience, diversity and security for our economy.

Master plan

The Master Plan represents our community vision for land use. The current 2003 document has served Routt County very well — ensuring the protection of open rural and agricultural space we all value. A plan should always be forward-looking, and it is critical that we check back in with the community regularly to confirm and amend the vision as needed. We started this process in 2019, put it on hold in 2020 and will be resuming in 2021. Stay tuned for opportunities to share your input.

Climate action plan

Climate change threatens the future of recreation, agriculture, water and our way of life. While one county alone will not solve this monumental challenge, Routt County is committed to doing our part. We have partnered with the city of Steamboat Springs and the other municipalities in Routt County to develop a climate action plan. This plan will be presented in its final version within the next few months, and we are committed to identifying the appropriate steps from the plan for both short- and long-term implementation to ensure that we are conserving Routt County for future generations.

Health and Human Services building

The Routt County Human Services building is long overdue for repairs and updates, and we are excited to move forward with this project in 2021. The new building will accommodate both public health and human services and be renamed the Health and Human Services building. It will be constructed on the current site of the human services building, and the historic cabin on this same site will be relocated and preserved. Due to many years of conservative fiscal policy, the county will be able to fund this building without requesting additional tax dollars from the community.

County manager

In March 2020, Routt County’s longtime manager Tom Sullivan retired. Since that time, we have been operating under the strong leadership of interim county manager Mark Collins. We appreciate Mark’s commitment to supporting us through this transition and look forward to resuming the search process with the goal of having a permanent county manager selected by summer. This is a critical role in overseeing the day to day operations and personnel of the county, and we look forward to identifying our next manager.

Beth Melton is a member of the Routt County Board of Commissioners.

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