by Tara Walker
Grand County employees were recognized at the April 26 Board of County Commissioner’s meeting. Jason Schroer with Road and Bridge was recognized for 5 years of service. Two employees were recognized for ten years of service; Kyndra Gore with the jail and Janette Fudge, clerk and recorder. Grand County Coins were awarded to computer technician Mark Jensen, water quality specialist Katherine Morris and executive secretary Kelly Oxley for their excellent service for Grand County.
Eden Recor questions information on the website
During public comments on April 26, Eden Recor with Grand County Internet Services expressed concerns over the county website lacking documentation he was seeking. He was concerned about the county paying Century Link to run fiber. Recor went on to explain his concerns over the county’s collection process of money and checks for permits, “If we take money, it should be given at a central place. It would be a better checks and balances system. I don’t want to see us getting into problems again with checks missing.” Commissioner Linke responded that cash is no longer taken and Manguso thanked him for voicing his concerns.
The Grand County Library District gave an update to the BOCC. Library President Sally Leclair, “So many young people depend on our libraries for socializing, research, and a safe trusting place to be. They are reading and studying while using computers, but have a camaraderie built up.” Executive Director Stephanie Ralph thanked the BOCC for their communication with the Hot Sulphur Springs Library while they were working to reopen the library. She also gave an update that the board is now full with 7 members. Director Ralph said that as changes occur in society, libraries are also changing to meet new needs. Director Ralph explained, “There are big changes and shifts. People are looking for face to face communication opportunities with community members as a result of over-reliance on phones. Libraries are community centers and a resource for social communication. This is profound. People are more interested in coming into the libraries and interacting with each other. It’s exciting and engaging.” She went on to explain that the library hosts the Grand County community of writers meetings as well as students from the online high school. The library is offering the Career Online High School free of charge for Grand County residents age 19 and older. Ten students under the supervision of Jeanie Johnson are getting GEDs and seeking career counseling. Director Ralph praised the success of additional programs offered for families, “After school support and preschool story hours are a place where caregivers and parents can get to know each other and prepare for kinder. Heidi had 60 participants at preschool story hour recently.” Finance Director Tara Ingle explained that expenditures have been reduced in 2017 and the 2018 budget has increased expenditures in media and personnel as a response to the cuts in 2016. Ingle reassured the BOCC that the Grand County Library District has a balanced budget to offer services for all 5 branches.
Short Term Rentals
County Community Development Director Tom Leatherwood gave a presentation updating the BOCC on short term rentals (STRs). Currently, there are 850 short term rentals in unincorporated Grand Count. 525 have obtained operating permits while 325 are considered noncompliant. He presented revenue proposals that show if fees continue where they are, shortfalls will occur. He proposed a possible flat fee plus an occupancy fee known as a “pillow count”. These fees would mean an increase, but Leatherwood also showed fee comparisons showing that Durango, Grand Lake, Steamboat Springs, Crested Butte and Bozeman all have higher STR fees than our county.
Leatherwood mentioned concerns over the impact that short term rentals can have on our community. He has seen commercial operations move into other communities to buy up properties for short term rentals.
Leatherwood said, “The impact on workforce and housing is undeniable. It is clear that in order to support tourism that short term rentals are a part of, we will need to have a workforce that needs to be housed. It’s a tragic irony in all the mountain communities, we are seeing an increasing gap in disparities.”
Manguso explained that while it goes against her nature to increase regulations, she does not like the idea of commercial operations buying up property for STRs, “I would like to find a way to stop that from happening. Our sense of community is affected.”
Sheena Darland with the housing authority stated, “The long term rental market is being substantially impacted by short term rentals. Because of that, our services are also being impacted. Employers are having a hard time keeping employees. Everywhere we go, there are help wanted signs. Tourism is extremely important, but we have to be able to support tourism with services which means we need rentals for affordable housing. We don’t want to lose perspective.”
Community Development Department states in 4/23/18 report that June 2017 to present show 519 permits reporting $77, 850 in revenue. Manager Lee Staab, “If you look at revenue to people that own homes, Short term rentals is the largest business in the county.”
Community members voiced concerns during the workshop and the BOCC explained they want to respect private property rights while respecting rights of neighbors. Fee structure changes will be recommended next month, but no action was taken by the county board during the workshop. The community is invited to participate in further short-term rental discussion on May 22.