Garfield County's newly designated Department of Public Health Director Josh Williams. Courtesy photo

The Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meetings are available on the Garfield County website for those who wish to view the meetings in their entirety. Following are but a few highlights from the Dec. 20 regular meeting. 

DHS approvals

Department of Human Services (DHS) Director Sharon Longhurst-Pritt had several items for the BOCC’s consideration. The commissioners oversee human services for the county. 

First, they approved November’s electronic fund transfers and electronic benefit transfers, totalling $1,285,233.

“We’re still distributing at full allotment for food assistance, and continue to be locked-in on our Medicaid clients,” explained Longhurst-Pritt, “and we started LEAP [low-income energy assistance program] payments again.”

Longhurst-Pritt requested approval for a number of intergovernmental agreements (IGAs) for 2022. The first IGA the commission approved was between Garfield and Rio Blanco counties for the provision of child support services, not to exceed $24,000.

“Helping out our neighbors to the north,” Chairman John Martin stated before signing his approval.

“They need it,” Commissioner Mike Sampson chimed in.

Subsequently, the commissioners approved a similar IGA with Pitkin County for child support services for 2022, not to exceed $15,000. Commissioner Tom Jankovsky was curious as to why the amount was less for Pitkin County, which has a larger population than Rio Blanco. “I guess that rich people pay their child support,” he quipped.

“The numbers are just lower,” Longhurst-Pritt clarified, “the hourly rates are the same.”

The commissioners approved a third IGA between the county, the state of Colorado and Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) which allocates funds for county-wide senior transportation services. The county’s contribution for 2022 will be $440,568. Additional funding will come from six other municipal governments included in a memorandum of understanding (MOU). Parties to the MOU include the county, each of its municipalities (excluding Parachute) and RFTA.

“I’ll note the total contribution is $690,255 to RFTA,” added Jankovsky. The commissioners also committed funds for the county attorney’s office to provide legal services to DHS in 2022. The sum is not to exceed $172,900 for child welfare and adult protection cases, and up to $45,000 for child support cases.

Department of Health

Department of Public Health Director Yvonne Long appeared in front of the BOCC, which also acts as the county’s board of health, for the last time in that capacity ahead of her retirement. 

“It’s really been an honor to serve this county through this time period,” said Long. “While there’s been a lot of struggle and heartache, it’s still been something I will cherish.” Long served as the director for the past eight years.

“As everyone knows, this is not over yet,” Long said of the pandemic. “We don’t know when it’s going to give us a break; it continues to give us a twist and turn at every opportunity that it can. It’s sort of a wait-and-see situation as to where we move next. (Diazepam) ”

Garfield County Public Health Specialist Mason Hohstadt presented about COVID-19’s effects in 2021 compared to 2020. In 2020, the number of documented positive cases in the county reached 4049 — or 13.9 per day.

As of Dec. 10, the number of cases this year had reached 5121 — 14.8 per day. COVID caused 37 deaths in 2020 within the county. This year there have been 37 deaths attributed to the disease with seven more pending investigations.

On a lighter note, the commissioners formally designated Josh Williams as the new public health director for the county. Williams will officially assume the position on Jan. 4. He currently works as the county’s environmental health manager.

“I am honored and humbled at being selected for appointment as the next Garfield County public health director,” Williams said. “I look forward to bringing my past public health administration experience, as well as my continued dedication to local public health service and quality improvement to the director position.”