Commissioners-Elect Promise "Transparency" And More
by William C. Thomas
At the Conservative Breakfast meeting on Saturday, December 8, 2012, both Commissioners-elect Rowland and Ross promised "Transparency" and new ways to address the County's financial problems as they appeared with Commissioner Schlegel in the Exhibit Hall before about 100 paying guests.

Bob Lewis, host of the Conservative Breakfast Association, began the proceedings by inviting Joel Frinkel of Elizabeth Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 10649 to say grace. Members of the only VFW post in Elbert County founded in 1983, they were cooking and receiving 80% of the $10.00/person charge for the meeting. Alan Beatty, spokesman, talked of the senior dinner they sponsor in November, the Car Show in September, and the Easter Egg Hunt they sponsor in spring every year. They also handle disposal of American Flags and teach "flag etiquette" to Boy Scouts and other groups.

Robert Rowland, asked first to speak, said that "transparent" was an overused word; however, he would still continue to use it, and stressed that the Budget was a first priority. "We know where we are now," he said, and that the 2013 Budget, which will be completed for a vote on Wednesday, had been reviewed and revised by Commissioner Schlegel. "He's done a fantastic job."

Stressing that "employees are the most valuable asset" that the County has, Rowland said that payroll would be met in January and February.

Rowland then turned to the issues regarding Oil and Gas, saying that the methane reported in the water in Weld County was "from water wells dug 100 years ago;" not from hydraulic fracturing now. He completely supports the vote made regarding the Sylvester Well and feels the "process" that was followed for its approval was appropriately extensive.

Finishing with a call that every citizen needs to participate, Rowland suggested that many people should serve on the County's various committees and boards.

Larry Ross, who followed him, spoke favorably of the current BOCC hiring a new financial manager, and talked about how tough the last ten years have been for cattlemen throughout the County. He also urged citizens to participate in government.

Commissioner Schlegel, who noted that House 64 State Representative Tim Dore was in attendance, spoke of Dore's "Conservative commitment" and how well he and Dore would work together on "new legislation" toward solving the County's problems. Then Schlegel spoke of the fact that the Contingency Fund, which should have $500,000.00 in it, only has $22,000.00 in it. However, he said, that should be rectified by the end of 2013.

Schlegel said he wanted to attract business and growth to Elbert County and spoke of "short term pain" in order "to reach our goals," but did not specify what pain. In the coming year, Schlegel hopes to "finish redistricting," which the BOCC delayed this year and "approve" the Memorandum of Understanding with the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission "that is above their regulations."

In the question and answer session that followed, Schlegel said the County was given "verbal permission" on its Compactor Reclamation Plan, which was administered by the Army Corps of Engineers. He said they have "9 test wells they check" for contaminants, all of which have little or no contaminants. He said that the County is looking into an offer for a "private trash transfer operation" at the site.

All three spoke on the question of a "forensic audit" being done, with Rowland saying it was a "criminal investigation;" Schlegel pointing out that it would cost $200,000-$400,000.00 to perform, and Ross saying that it was not needed because they're "coming into office with a clear picture of what the Budget is." Schlegel, however, did concede that "skeletons keep falling out of closets" from previous administrations, pointing out that various accounting methods had been performed whereby funds had been incorrectly diverted from one account to another and he credited Eidebailly, the Auditor, with finding a great deal of it. The cost of Eidebailly is $34,500.00, he pointed out, and "it's as close to a Forensic Audit as we will be coming."
Oil and Gas revenue was discussed by Rowland, who explained that one well could pay $40,000.00 and "we'll know more about the tests done at the Sylvester Well by January or February" whether or not tapping the resources in Elbert County will be a reality. Echoing Jill Duvall's observation that machinery was not taxed, Schlegel promised to reinstate the 1% tax on machinery and equipment used in the County by drillers, previously suspended by the BOCC.

Although both Rowland and Ross were complimented by Dr. Jim Eller for being the "best prepared and trained" commissioners-elect to take office, Eric Hartsough asked whether the imbalance of funds the County faces wasn't a result of lack of checks and balances within, which neither answered. Instead, Schlegel pointed to hiring a budget director.

Rowland promised "a new type of approach to the office" and Ross said, as he did during the campaign, that there would be "progress tracked" on the County website.

Echoing his predecessor, Del Schwab, Rowland warned the audience not "to pull stuff off the Internet," but "to find out whether it's true or not."