Eagle County government boosts efforts to bond with Roaring Fork constituents
IF YOU GO:
What: Roaring Fork Fridays
Who: Eagle County government officials will meet with constituents
When: Fridays from 9 a.m. to noon
Where: Eagle County building by Crown Mountain Park
Eagle County government will ramp up efforts to stay in touch with constituents in the Roaring Fork Valley by providing access to senior staff members in El Jebel each week.
The county is launching Roaring Fork Fridays this week. Treasurer and public trustee Teak Simonton will be the featured official. The county commissioners, Kathy Chandler-Henry, Jeannie McQueeney and Matt Scherr, will join on select Fridays.
“To me it’s just about relationship building,” Eagle County Manager Jeff Shroll said Wednesday. “It’s long overdue.”
The Roaring Fork Valley portion of Eagle County accounts for 13% of the overall land area in the county and 17% of the population, according to the planning office.
Eagle County officials have promised for years to make their accessibility in the Roaring Fork Valley sliver of the county a high priority. The county seat in Eagle is about 50 miles away from El Jebel, so that’s adding to feelings of separation. Promises of better communication usually are made during election campaigns — with varying degrees of follow-up after the votes are in. Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry has been credited in the Roaring Fork Valley for regularly coming to a Basalt breakfast joint and inviting residents to stop by with questions or concerns.
County officials also earned praise for their response to the Lake Christine Fire in July 2018. County officials visited the Basalt area daily, particularly in the early days when the fire was raging.
However, relations between the county government and a sizable contingent of midvalley residents were strained over land use and development issues in 2017 and 2018. The commissioners approved the Tree Farm project, which had already divided the community. The former planning director also purged the Roaring Fork Valley Regional Planning Commission of members who were particularly critical of county government.
As a result of the differences, a citizens’ group called Our Valley Our Voice tried to get the Eagle County commissioners to support their effort to explore getting out of Eagle County and annexing into Pitkin County.
The secession effort fizzled from lack of support in the two counties.
Shroll, who has been the Eagle County manager for about 18 months, said Roaring Fork Fridays isn’t a reaction to that effort.
“I don’t know that we’re trying to respond to the ‘Let’s leave Eagle County and join Pitkin County (sentiment),’” he said.
Roaring Fork Fridays is in a continuation of settling in, getting staff in place and making an effort to better serve county residents, he said.
Visiting county officials will dedicate time between 9 a.m. and noon for “walk-up hours” at the Eagle County office building and community center in El Jebel. No appointments are necessary.
The location of the officials will be clearly signed, Shroll said. He is slated to come over Dec. 6. Deputy county managers Angelo Fernandez and Kelley Collier with also regularly appear. The standing event will continue in 2020.
Shroll said the gatherings are open to anyone from the Roaring Fork Valley, not just Eagle County residents.
“The goal is to have better dialogue and communication throughout the valley,” he said in a statement. “We also hope this will be an opportunity to growth strong connections with our partners like Basalt, Aspen, Snowmass Village, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, and Pitkin and Garfield counties.”
People who cannot attend between 9 a.m. and noon on Fridays can seek a couple of alternatives, Shroll said. They can arrange to meeting officials later in the day or they can send emails with their comments and questions. Eagle County government can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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