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Backgrounder

Backgrounder - any briefing or report for the purpose of providing background information

The Board of Commissioners has worked diligently this past year to increase and improve county government’s communication with residents.

An improved web site, an active Facebook page and Twitter Feed, and the county’s growing YouTube Channel are now part of our daily communication tool kit. The great thing about these platforms is that it allows government to communicate directly with residents.

Sometimes topics come up that deserve additional information in order to provide the public with a complete and accurate picture of the subject matter.

We have started this page to serve as a tool to better inform residents about issues that are of concern or presented by the media.

Weld County Government welcomes comments and constructive criticism – that is how government improves.

We think, at times, additional information (background information) can be helpful in fully understanding a topic.

We appreciate you visiting the page and learning more about county government. And if you have comments, questions, or constructive criticism about something regarding county government, let us know.

TOPIC: CPACE

It should be noted that the Board of Commissioners does not support the C-PACE Program, particularly after Fremont County had a C-PACE program default (this information can be found in the March 31 letter).

 Statement from Commissioner Chair Mike Freeman, “Weld County has a history of working very closely with all of our municipalities on economic development projects. This project, which was never presented to the Weld County Board of Commissioners, is asking to use a program that is not recommended by our several of our key staff members including our Finance Director, Treasurer, County Attorney and Economic Development organization. The C-PACE program is the concern for the county, not necessarily the Future Legends Sports Park project.”

Weld County Commissioner Letter about CPACE (two letters in one pdf document)
THE HOME RULE CHARTER AND A CHARTER REVIEW COMMITTEE & WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW (9/12/16)

Over the past few weeks, there’s been a lot of talk throughout the county about the home rule charter and the formation of a charter review committee. While much of the discussion has been informative and exploratory, some of it has been misleading and used to generate fear and misunderstanding.

Forty years ago, the residents of Weld County decided they wanted to have direct say in how their county government was run. In fact, the preamble of the Home Rule Charter states: “We, the people of Weld County, Colorado, in order to avail ourselves of self-determination in county affairs…establish and adopt this Home Rule Charter for Weld County, Colorado.” This is important because the charter is not only the foundation for how our county government is formed and administered but also how it can be changed. Fact one: the only group that can change the structure of Weld County’s government are the residents of Weld County.

Earlier this summer, some members of the Weld County Council expressed the desire to dissolve their group. The Weld County Council cannot make the decision to dissolve themselves so discussion was initiated amongst the Board of Commissioners regarding the formation of a charter review committee. Charter review committees have been used several times during the past 40 years to make recommendations regarding changes and updates to the governing document. Fact two: there are two ways to amend the county charter – by petition(s) signed by at least 5% of the electorate or by resolution adopted by the Board of Commissioners. Either route leads to the same point – a public vote by the residents (registered electors) of the county.

A charter review committee can be tasked to review specific items within the charter or the entire charter itself. Following their review, they provide recommendations to the Board or Commissioners regarding any suggested amendments. The Board of Commissioners can then, by resolution, submit any proposed amendment(s) to the qualified electors. Any recommended amendments, however, must be confined to a single subject for purposes of the ballot. There may be several single-subject amendments on the ballot if that is the wish of the charter review committee. Fact three: the Board of County Commissioners cannot alter the Home Rule Charter – only the public, by way of a vote, can alter anything in document. Simply put, the only way to modify or abolish any county entity, elected or otherwise, is by a vote of the electorate.

You can read the Home Rule Charter for Weld County by clicking here.

 

TOPIC: WHAT DOES THE WELD COUNTY WAY MEAN? (3/17/16)

There’s been a lot of talk about the ‘Weld County Way’ recently, and it has left some people wondering: what exactly does that phrase mean? For the county commissioners, the phrase is more than just a few words, it’s a philosophy – a mantra, if you will – that Weld County Government learned from its residents and applies to the way we approach our work each and every day. It is about taking care of our communities; standing up for what is right; being responsible and accountable; working hard; and leading, not following.

The ‘Weld County Way’ is:

  • being fiscally responsible with tax payer money, which means working within a budget, aiming to save taxpayer dollars, and, in fact, returning money to taxpayers when possible

Weld County only one in Colorado without long-term debt; Denver Post 1/27/11

Weld County residents continue to save thanks to reduced mill levy; 1/14/14

Weld County Commissioners approve 2016 budget; 12/18/15

Liquefied natural gas trucks save county dollars; 11/21/12

Weld County employee honored by Colorado Welfare Fraud Council as 2014 Investigator of the year 7/28/14

  • helping our neighbors by working together to share resources

Weld County transfers unused private activity bonds to Fort Collins housing authority; 9/12/14

Weld County transfers PABs to Larimer County; 8/29/13

  • standing up against those who threaten our residents and our economy

Board passes resolution calling upon COGCC to dismiss setback ruling for oil and gas; 1/17/13

Surface owners’ rights topic of county sponsored workshops; 5/30/13

Weld County Commissioners help defeat bill that threatened private property rights; 4/3/14

  • standing beside those who need assistance, and doing what we can to facilitate aid

Weld County Commissioners declare disaster emergency, urge governor to turn on water pumps to help save crops; 6/11/12

Weld County Commissioners meet with Colorado Governor, learn wells won’t be turned on to help farmers; 6/19/12

Commissioners request assistance from senior surface right owners to help with drought; 7/13/12

South Platte round table approved dewatering plan; 3/13/15

New Raymer post office removed from closure list; 12/7/11

Weld County, Evans bring attention to potential health issues in flood damaged mobile home parks; 2/11/14

Weld County Commissioners and Anadarko partner to bring water to Wattenberg; 4/16/14

Weld County Commissioners and Anadarko Petroleum partner to bring clean water to Wattenberg residents; 7/1/15

  • leading the way in technology and efficiencies

Weld County’s first public CNG station to open June 29 in Firestone; 6/25/12

Second public compressed natural gas station set to open in Weld County next Thursday; 10/15/12

Two more public compressed natural gas stations to open in Weld County next week; 12/12/12

Weld County’s natural gas program sets the standard; 8/27/14

Weld County celebrates completion of CNG station and school bus barn for RE-1; 9/15/14

Weld County public safety communications receives upgrade; 4/22/13

Weld County Regional Communications Center recognized on top ten list; 12/21/15

  • collaborating with local governments to bring services to our region

Commissioners move forward on regional crime lab; 5/21/12)

Government and law enforcement entities gather for groundbreaking of Northern Colorado Regional Crime Lab; 10/3/12

Ahead of schedule and under budget; 8/7/13

  • expressing gratitude to our local businesses who help our local economy thrive

Commissioners thank business community; 3/2/12

Thank you letters sent by board to local businesses; 3/7/13

Thank you letters sent by board to local businesses 3/25/14

Weld County initiates small business incentive program; 1/27/14

Small business incentive program approves funds for first weld county business; 8/13/14

  • recognizing the next generation of leaders for their accomplishments and encouraging them to continue to do great things

Weld County Commissioners proclaim Windsor Wizards Day and University Bulldogs Day; 1/6/16

  • working hard to make Weld County a better place for our residents

Weld County Commissioners successful in changing child welfare allocation formula; county to receive more funds for children and families; 4/12/12

Free Water Testing now Available for County Residents; 9/17/12

Weld County completes Espanola subdivision project; 6/11/14

Weld County launches campaign highlighting restaurant inspections; 11/13/14

Commissioners endorse Senate Bill 82; 2/10/15

Weld County Commissioners launch grant program for residents 9/1/15

Weld County Road 59 and State Highway 52 project complete; 2/11/15

County delivers computers to new Fort Lupton Boys and Girls Club; 2/13/15

Weld County Commissioners donate computers to Weld Faith Partnership Council; 6/24/15

County PC refresh program to benefit Salida del Sol students; 2/25/16

The lists could go on, but regardless of how long the list grows the idea is the same. The ‘Weld County Way’ means working thoughtfully together for the good of our county, creating innovative programs while remaining fiscally responsible, and having long-term vision and goals as well as a plan to reach them.

TOPIC: RESTAURANT INSPECTIONS (posted 12/2/14)

Recently, the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) criticized the improvements Weld County made to its restaurant inspection site.
Below is information the county provided to the media in response to that criticism.

On November 13, 2014, Weld County launched an improved restaurant inspection web site. The changes we made to the site were all focused on making existing information more usable by the public; the inspection process did not change.

Weld County continues to be proud of the improvements we made to our restaurant inspection web site. We have heard nothing but positive feedback from the public, which has been great! The duty of county government is to protect and preserve the health, safety and welfare of the public, and this project is a great example of government meeting that goal. The changes we made to the web site were all focused on making existing information more usable by the public – and those changes are paying off. From November 13, 2014,  (when improvements to the site were made public) to today, user sessions have increased 549% from the same time period last year and page views have increased 1,030%.

One public comment, from Jody Navarrete on our Facebook page from November 17 reads: “I love this site. It has information I can actually use. Thnx.”

A nice feature about the new way information is presented on the web site is that users of the site can easily see a multitude of inspections from one page. Although we state in the disclaimer on the site that one inspection may not be representative of the overall, long-term sanitation of an establishment, by providing information about several inspections on one page we feel the end user can gain a fairly accurate idea as to the overall sanitation picture of the establishment they are researching.  And the new Quick Stats feature of the site shows the public how many great restaurants we have here in Weld County. In fact, 83.7% of the retail food establishments in Weld County received a B or higher on their inspections in 2013. We feel that information is important to share with the public and a way for the county to acknowledge the many great establishments located in Weld.

With the exception of letter grades, the county followed all state guidance related to the communication of risk.  Several other Colorado counties, including but not limited to Larimer, Boulder, the Northeast Counties, and Delta, are using the same state guidance, the only difference is that they are not using letter grades.

CRA criticism: The restaurant industry was quite surprised. We learned about the new system one day before it went live. The restaurant industry was not invited to the conversation of how best to communicate public health safety issues within the foodservice industry.”

Media question: Is this true? If so, why were they not included? 

Weld County Response: Weld County has a team of health inspectors whose sole job is to conduct public health safety inspections, so they are very well versed in public health safety issues. Discussions regarding improvements to the county web site were with the Board of Commissioners and county staff and focused on how the county could improve the user-friendliness of the pages including the manner in which information was being shared with the public regarding restaurant inspections. Our inspections have been on the website for more than 10 years.   Larimer County has had similar information available on their website since 1998.  We didn’t see this as a substantial change. It’s a conflict for the food service industry to direct communications regarding public health safety issues that may be related to their establishments.  The presentation of public health risk communication is a function of public health departments.  We were merely attempting to communicate existing information in a more usable fashion for the taxpaying public.

CRA criticism: I’m told the county tried to do something like this three years ago and restaurants were invited and eventually it was scrapped.

Media Question: What was the thought process behind trying this again? I’m also told it was Barb’s idea after returning from a trip to New Orleans where they did something similar and she put it in motion here? 

Weld County Response: Improving the county web site, including the restaurant inspections, has been an ongoing dialogue between the Board and staff for years. It is the role of county government to make information easily accessible and understandable. Restaurant inspections have been available on the county web site for years but previously it took at least six clicks to even get to the inspection page and once a user was on the page the information was not presented in a format that was user-friendly. There have been several discussions as to how to display inspection information on the web site throughout the years. Many cities and counties use similar means to display inspection information. New Orleans, New York City, Las Vegas all use a letter grade system. Larimer County uses an adjective-based system (Excellent, Good, Average, Inadequate), Boulder County also uses an adjective-based system (Excellent, Good, Fair, Marginal, Unacceptable). The reality is regardless of whether it is a letter grade or an adjective, the inspections in Colorado are all based on the same inspection criteria from the state. Weld County chose to use letter grades because we felt they were most easily understood by the public and less subjective-sounding than the adjective-based terminology.

CRA criticism: The significant problem with score/grading posting is that, often, such a posting does not accurately reflect he food safety conditions in a foodservice establishment?

Media question: Just reaction to that statement. 

Weld County Response: Is the assertion that the inspection itself does not accurately reflect the food safety conditions? The score/grade posting that appears on the county web site is based off of the inspection criteria from the State. To say that a scoring system, whether it is Weld’s, Larimer’s, Boulder’s, etc., does not accurately reflect the food safety conditions of a foodservice establishment is puzzling. It is taking the state system and wording it in a manner easily understood by the public. The full inspection report is available on our web site and the public can read further into the inspection if they would like. This is happening in 9 other counties in Colorado.

CRA criticism: If a serious public health problem is noted during the inspection, the health department’s own rules require the problem to be addressed immediately. Yet a posted score or grade would stand until he next inspection, which could be months away. If no serious problems are noted … one could occur as soon as the inspector leaves. Yet the good score would be posted until the next inspection.

Media question: Reaction

Weld County Response: Yes, if there are serious health problems with an establishment the health department requires it be remedied immediately. That inspection report, however, is still posted on the web site as are the results of any follow-up inspections. The inspection reports, including the number of and type of violations, remain on the site indefinitely whether there is a grade or not.; the inspector records what is observed during the inspection. It sounds as though the Restaurant Association believes there is no value in the inspections.

CRA criticism: An annual or semi-annual inspection lasting an hour is not representative of the overall, long-term cleanliness of a restaurant. For this very reason the USFDA does not recommend the use of scores when performing health inspections.

Media question: Reaction

Weld County Response: We at Weld County feel an obligation to our residents and taxpayers to provide useful information regarding restaurant inspections. To say that an annual or semi-annual inspection is not representative of the overall long-term cleanliness of a restaurant implies that the inspections themselves are not of value to the public, which Weld County Government does not agree with. The majority of the funding for retail food safety is provided at the local level – the county taxpayer. In Weld County, the net County cost of the food program is $549,000 or 70% of the program costs. It makes sense that the public benefit from the program they are the primary funders for and that benefit comes through easy to access and use information.

CRA criticism: The inspection report is the official report of a routine inspection that is needed to alert the operators of the establishment of the potential of problems. Yet is stays with the restaurant until the next inspection occurs, even thought he conditions are most assuredly quite different by the time the public even becomes aware of it.

Media question: Reaction

Weld County Response: The information the county provides on our web site is to inform the public about the conditions of retail food establishments so the public can make informed decisions about where they purchase their food. Facilities that are committed to good food safety practices and that have active managerial control in place shouldn’t have much change in conditions post inspection.  Our website presents three years of data so that the public can view whether or not an establishment’s inspection history is consistent over time. Restaurant inspections are conducted as an audit to ensure that licensed facilities are complying with safe food handling practices and the Colorado Retail Food Establishment Rules and Regulations.

CRA criticism: The “no violations” report is not fair as most all those who get No violations are on a different level of inspection than actual restaurants. i.e.: A corner store that does not actual food preparation is different than say Randy’s who deals with raw meat on a daily basis.

Weld County Response: While some establishments have more criteria which they must follow, such as your example of a corner food store versus a restaurant, no violations means no violations.

Media question: Is there any thought to having a different system for how continually good-scoring restaurants are recognized? 

Weld County Response: The Board and staff have brainstormed ways to further recognize restaurants that continually perform well on their inspections. We are hoping to finalize some of those ideas in 2015.

TOPIC: COUNTY COMMISSIONER RAISES (posted 9/17/14)

What is the role of the Weld County Council?

The Weld County Council was formed in 1976 with the adoption and implementation of the Weld County Home Rule Charter. The Charter, which was written and passed by a vote of the residents of Weld County, clearly defines the role of the County Council as an independent five-member elected board (who is not paid) who shall:

· Set the salaries of all elected officials (this would include the Commissioners, the Sheriff, the County Assessor, and the County Clerk and Recorder)

· Fill vacancies in the Board of County Commissioners by appointment

· Suspend an elected official if a valid petition for recall is presented

· Review all aspects of county government and make periodic reports to the people

 

What is a Home Rule Charter?
Home rule in Colorado for municipalities and counties is allowed through the Colorado Constitution, Article XX for municipalities and Article XIV for counties. Colorado municipalities are allowed functional home rule powers while counties are allowed structural home rule. Functional home rule means the citizens have the right to decide the structure as well as the powers and functions of the municipality. Structural home rule means the citizens have the right to decide the administrative form of their county government.

 

Colorado Constitution:

Article XIV section 15. Compensation and fees of county officers.

The general assembly shall fix the compensation of county officers in this state by law, and shall establish scales of fees to be charged and collected by such county officers. All such fees shall be paid into the county general fund.

County officers shall not have their compensation increased or decreased during the terms of office to which they have been elected or appointed.


Article XIV section 16. County Home Rule

(1) Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, and 15 of this article, the registered electors of each county of the state are hereby vested with the power to adopt a home rule charter establishing the organization and structure of county government consistent with this article and statutes enacted pursuant hereto.

(5)  The provisions of sections 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, and 15 of article XIV of this constitution shall apply to counties adopting a home rule charter only to such extent as may be provided in said charter.

 

Weld County Home Rule Charter:

Section 3-9. Compensation.

(1) Compensation of members of the Board shall be fixed by the County Council.

(2) No member's compensation shall be increased or decreased during his term of office, except as permitted by law.

Section 13-8. Powers and Duties.

(1) The Council shall set the salaries of all elected officials. In the case of the Board of County

Commissioners, the effective date of any change in salary may be delayed so as to provide for equal compensation for all Commissioners at all times.

Weld County and Pitkin County are the only two Home Rule Charter Counties in the Colorado. Denver and Broomfield and Home Rule City/Counties. County Commissioner salaries in non-Home Rule Charter counties are set by the Salary Commission of the State of Colorado and approved by the State Legislature.

 

Why Does Weld County have a Board of 5 Commissioners when other Colorado Counties have Boards of 3?

The Weld County Home Rule Charter, passed and implemented in 1976, expanded the Board of Commissioners from 3 to 5.

Weld County Home Rule Charter
Section 3-1. Composition.

The Board of County Commissioners shall consist of five members elected as follows:

(1) Three members, each nominated, elected and residing in separate geographic districts as established in Section 3-2 of this Article.

(2) Two members, each nominated and elected from the County at large.


What do Commissioners do?

Weld County Home Rule Charter
Section 3-8. Powers and Duties.

(1) The Board of County Commissioners shall be the governing body of the County. It shall exercise all the powers and perform all the duties now required or permitted or that may hereafter be required or permitted by State law to be exercised or performed by County Commissioners in either home rule or non-home rule counties.

(2) It shall exercise all powers of the County to determine policy and to enact legislation.

(3) It shall be responsible for the proper exercise by the County departments and other agencies established by this Charter or by the Board for all executive and administrative powers and duties delegated thereto.

(4) Without limiting the generality of the foregoing or diminishing the total authority and responsibility of the Board as herein provided, the powers and duties of the Board shall include duties and powers to:

(a) Perform or provide for the performance of any duties and responsibilities required by statute or the Constitution of Colorado of County Commissioners in home rule counties and non-home rule counties.

(b) Enact legislation including such means of enforcement thereof as shall be authorized by law, and otherwise formally promulgate county policy. Unless otherwise required by statute, the Board shall act only by ordinance in matters of legislation, contracts, appropriations, and disposition of real property, and by ordinance, resolution or motion, as may be appropriate, in other matters.

(c) Appoint, remove and establish qualifications of department heads, and through them, direct the functions of county offices, departments, divisions and agencies.

(d) Appoint and remove the County Attorney, pursuant to Section 5-1 of this Charter, and retain such other professional advisors as the Board may deem necessary.

(e) Adopt an administrative code.

(f) Develop, or cause to be developed, a system of employment policies, rules, job classification and compensation plans in accordance with generally accepted principles and promulgate such policies, rules and plans, under the authority of and in compliance with the provisions of pertinent Colorado and Federal statutes and this Charter.

(g) Initiate suits or actions on behalf of the County.

(h) Create such agencies, boards and commissions as the Board may deem necessary or as may be required by State law, and appoint the members thereof. The action creating an agency, board or commission shall also set forth compensation, duties, and responsibilities as well as any qualifications and conditions of service. The Board may designate itself to perform the functions and exercise the process of any such board or commission, unless prohibited by State law or this Charter.

(i) Appropriate funds for all lawful purposes.

(j) Establish and levy taxes, charges, fees and licenses.

(k) Regulate, license, and tax utilities to the extent permitted by law.

(l) Purchase or otherwise acquire, hold, own, sell, trade, transfer, divide, lease, encumber, or reserve interest in real and personal property, and receive gifts and grants, in the name of the County.

(m) Approve and execute, on behalf of the County, all contracts. Contracts shall be executed for the Board by the Chairman.

(n) Act as a Board of Appeals to hear complaints on actions taken by county boards, commissions and departments. Procedure for appeals shall be as set forth in the administrative code, or by resolution of the Board. No person shall be denied the right to appeal, provided they comply with the administrative procedures established by the Board.

(o) Establish salaries or other compensation for the County Attorney, Assistant County Attorneys, and all other employees, or appointees not included within the Personnel system.

(p) Provide for reimbursement of actual expenses of food, travel, and lodging necessary for performance of the duties of a County Commissioner, County Councilman, county officer, county employee, or member of an appointed board or commission.

(q) Authorize multi-jurisdictional performance of duties and functions with other units of government, and, under procedures provided by law, cause the County to be included within such districts consisting of two or more counties or parts thereof as may be authorized or provided by law for the joint performance of county functions or the performance of regional functions.

(r) Establish a municipal conference to be called by the Board of County Commissioners not less than three times each year to which all municipal officials shall be invited and appropriate agendas developed in order that mutual problems be considered.

(s) Require that all inspections of whatever type made by county officers or employees be made promptly and without unreasonable delay.

(t) Perform or exercise, or provide for the performance or exercise of, any or all permissive functions, services, facilities and powers that may now or in the future be authorized by law and not specifically mentioned or assigned by this Charter. The Board shall perform or assign any mandatory duty, responsibility or function required of the County by the laws or Constitution of the State, which may have been omitted in this Charter.

Jennifer Finch
Public Information Officer

1150 O Street
P.O. Box 758
Greeley, CO 80632

Email: jfinch@weldgov.com
Phone: (970) 336-7203