Commissioners ask Polis to move Routt County into a different regional planning district

The Routt County Board of Commissioners are asking Gov. Jared Polis to take executive action to move the county from Region 11, which is run by the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, to Region 12, which is run by the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments. (Screenshot)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Routt County Board of Commissioners approved sending a letter Tuesday to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis asking him to move Routt County into a different regional planning district, aligning it with a region to the east the commissioners feel better represents the economic needs of the county.

In the letter, they ask Polis to use executive action to move Routt County from Region 11, which is facilitated by the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, to Region 12, which is run by the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments.

“As commissioners, it has become apparent to us that Routt County and its citizens would be better served by an association and regional planning entity whose members align with our current and future economic and social programming and policy needs in the public and private sectors,” the letter reads.

The move is another step in the process of leaving AGNC, which includes Moffat, Rio Blanco, Garfield and Mesa counties as well as some municipalities. Commissioners said they would leave the regional organization last month by directing staff not to pay the county’s dues, and they have signaled an interest in joining NWCCOG, of which the city of Steamboat Springs is a member.

Sending the letter is not the only option the county has, but interim County Manager Mark Collins said representatives from the Department of Local Affairs recommended sending the letter as the simplest way to make the move happen.

“For lack of a better word, this is the shortest distance between two points,” Collins said, referring to his conversations with DOLA.

Jon Stavney, executive director of NWCCOG, said, as he understands it, if the move is approved by the governor, all the services attached to the regional planning district would move with the county.

Another option would be to change membership to NWCCOG and then change each of the agencies individually, but that could take some time and will require treading through some bureaucracy, Stavney said.

Collins said if the letter is well received by the Governor’s Office, the process of switching districts could happen quite quickly.

One of the concerns with making the change is that services provided through the Area Agency on Aging could be disrupted, as that is currently run through AGNC.

“Our goal here is that whatever path we choose to follow, that we do not negatively impact any of our citizens,” Commissioner Tim Corrigan said.

Erin Fisher, who runs the Area Agency on Aging for NWCCOG, said there really isn’t that much of a difference between what they do and what is already being done by the current agency in Region 11. The main difference is that about 40% of services provided by NWCCOG are in-house, where most of the services currently provided in the county are contracted out.

“My main goal, if this happens, is to make sure that there is continuity of services and that older adults and caregivers don’t really see a change,” Fisher said. “It could look different if we do take some of those services in-house.”

What will likely happen, Fisher said, is they will pick up many of the contracts already in place with AGNC to provide these services in Routt County initially. The request for proposal process for these contracts will start up again later this year and early next year, and that is when larger changes could happen.

Fisher said she wants to get more feedback before deciding which, if any, services she would move in-house and which ones can be better served if contracted out.

“It would require me first to go up to Routt, meet all those providers, meet the older adults, find out what those needs are in the community,” Fisher said. “I need to figure all of that out before I could ever say it would be better for us to provide those services in-house.”

One concern among providers is that this move could interfere with their funding.

In the short term, which Stavney said he considers to be the next 18 months, NWCCOG would likely continue all of its current contracts for services in Routt County, but he made clear their goal in the tong term is to provide good services in an efficient way.

“Our priority is the seniors and not the providers and not making sure providers are whole in the long run,” Stavney said. “While short-term continuity is number one, long term, it is about delivery of service, and we’re going to make the assessment, with your input and the community input, about what is best for that.”

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