At the Aug. 3 Crawford Town Council meeting, trustees voted unanimously to continue discussion of a proposed mill levy increase to the Aug. 17 work session and possibly vote on a related ballot question to be placed on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.
In light of recent and steep declines in mineral tax revenues, the town is considering increasing the mill levy from the current 2.420 to 7.420 mills. The increase would return the town to 1995 levels when several coal mines were operating in the North Fork area. In a draft letter to town real estate owners, Mayor Wanda Gofforth and council explained that the increase will "... increase revenues to subsidize the budget losses resulting from the decline in the mineral leasing and severance tax monies."
The letter includes a recent history of the mill levy, a rundown of annual losses of mineral tax revenues since 2014 due to decreases in coal mining activity and specifies how funds will be used. The letter also notes that rumors spreading about the mill levy increase going to fund a municipal court are "totally false. These rumors are a result of those who are uninformed, refuse to ask questions, or attend the town meetings, yet they spread falsehoods for their own purpose of creating chaos and unrest among the citizens of Crawford."
In 2014, Crawford voted 119-25 to approve a ballot question allowing the town to retain existing tax and fee revenue for construction of roads, maintenance of Town Hall and other structures. A July 1 letter from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs confirmed that, based on the results, the town is not limited to a 5.5-percent increase in the mill levy.
In June the Delta County Assessor's Office provided the town a listing of all the in-town properties, actual and assessed values, the amount of taxes levied on each for 2016, and estimates of how much taxes would increase for each of the properties based on increases of 1 and 3 mills. Mayor Wanda Gofforth said that continuing the meeting will also allow the town time to collect data from the assessor's office on how increases of 4 and 5 mills would affect property taxes by the work session. The chart is available for review at Town Hall during regular business hours.
Council also approved changes to the town's "Personnel Policy and Procedure Manual." The changes address probation periods for new hires, performance evaluations, attendance, benefits, vacation, compensation, overtime, sick leave, personal leave, notification of absence, reimbursements for seminars, training courses and educational programs, use of alcohol and drugs on the job, the grievance process, and the "confined space entry procedure" for Public Works personnel. In addition, the town designated Delta Country Memorial Hospital Family Medicine in Hotchkiss for non-emergency health situations that arise at work.
The town amended the draft changes after trustee Tammy Broughton inquired about annual performance evaluations. Current policy states that evaluations may be requested by council or the employee. Trustees agreed to change the wording to state that the evaluations shall performed on an annual basis and on the anniversary of the hire date. Per the change in language, evaluations will be performed by council, and may be done in executive session at the request of the employee.
"Well, I think it needs to be done," said Broughton.
Council also voted 4-1 to approve a draft policy concerning access by the public to public records. Trustee Broughton cast the dissenting vote.
The draft is in accordance with Colorado Revised Statutes regarding the state's open records laws. Copies of public documents will now cost 25 cents per page. Charges for records to be sent by fax are $1 per page for local faxes, and $1.50 for long-distance faxes, with a maximum of five pages. The fee for certified copies will be $1.25 per document.
A research fee of $15 per hour will be charged for staff time in excess of 15 minutes to produce requested information. Public records requests must be submitted in writing to the town clerk, who can take up to three working days to research and provide records. The five-page public records policy document listing all charges is available at Town Hall.
In a time of declining revenues, said Mayor Wanda Gofforth, charges are necessary to meet the town's costs for use of the copy machine, electricity, equipment and staff time.
Council also tabled a vote on purchasing three security cameras proposed for installation at Town Hall to allow more time to research options and pricing. Council is also considering installation of a safety mirror in the office to allow staff to see anyone entering the building. The town is proposing to install security cameras with sound recording in the lobby and office area and in the Susan Hansen Council Room.
Council also held an executive session to discuss with town attorney James Brown the Aug. 2 hearing in Delta County Court regarding a restraining order against Crawford citizen Carl Page. The court declined to authorize the restraining order.
In approving payment of expenses, Trustee Broughton voted "Nay" in a motion to accept the town's expenses through Aug. 3. Broughton asked for clarification of several bills, including a $59 payment to the Delta County Sheriff's Office. The expense paid for the Sheriff's Office to serve the civil protection order against Crawford resident Carl Page filed in June by town clerk Cally Gallegos.
"And why are we paying for that?" asked Broughton.
"Because it happened at work," said Gofforth.
The election results are in at the local, state and national level, and as expected, Democrats are doing well in state and national races. Colorado has elected Jared Polis as governor; nationally the Republicans appear to retain control of the Senate while Democrats now control the House of Representative.
With a ballot full of local and state measures, voter turnout in Delta County topped 71%, with 15,889 ballots cast. Statewide, voter turnout was just over 52%.
Of the three Delta County residents seeking state offices, Matt Soper won over Thea Chase in State Representative Dist. 54; Mike Mason lost to Julie McCluskie in State Representative Dist. 61; and Olen Lund lost to Kerry Donovan in State Senate Dist. 5.
Locally, in the City of Delta voters rejected a .5% sales tax increase to fund recreation, as well as recreational marijuana sales. The sale of medical marijuana and cultivation/manufacturing facilities was approved by a slim margin. Delta voters also gave the city the green light to move forward with selling or trading the Cottonwood and Riverbend Park, and to sell the old Municipal Light and Power Building.