By Caitlin Switzer
MONTROSE—(October 1, 2013) The name is VERN, but it’s not your ornery brother-in-law. The Vocational Electronics Recycling Network (VERN) includes the non-profit Blue Star Recyclers of Colorado Springs and a number of other partners, employs people with disabilities—and it just may be expanding to Montrose.
“VERN will come to Montrose and do a feasibility analysis for $1,300,” Montrose Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Sandy Head told the group of public officials at the MR COG meeting at Friendship Hall Sept. 26. “ReclaMetals does not see them as competition—this kind of recycling takes a lot of work, but there is a lot of money in what is being shipped out.”
Head asked for cooperation between City and County in paying the study fee.
“Why would we pay for a study to have a private business venture come in?” asked Montrose Mayor Judy Ann Files.
“This is a business expansion venture,” Head responded. “It could bring in five to seven jobs, and there are ongoing grants available-this could be something that helps ReclaMetals expand.”
“Economic development is our number one priority,” commented Montrose County Commissioner Gary Ellis. “…We need to support people who have challenges butwho want to support themselves.”
Fellow Montrose BOCC member David White concurred.
“There is a state law that kicks in July 1 that allows no e-waste in landfills,” White said. “We are charged with making sure that we are in compliance with the Board of Health.”
The informal governmental council known locally as MR COG (Montrose Regional Council of Governments) is intended to give Montrose municipalities the chance to engage in productive problem solving in a less formal setting. The quarterly gathering was open to the media as well as to representatives of the cities of Montrose and Olathe, Montrose County, the Region 10 League for Economic Assistance & Planning and Montrose Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).
Region 10 Executive Director Michelle Haynes offered an update on the non-profit organization’s coordination of regional transit and transportation, discussed efforts to coordinate regional broadband, and recalled the success of Region 10’s six-county business loan fund.
“Our revolving loan fund brings job creation,” Haynes said, noting that Region 10 awarded $150,000 worth of loans last year and hopes to expand. “We are also about to launch our Small Business Development Center(SBDC) Connect 2 program, which helps local contractors access Colorado Department of Highway (CDOT) contracts.
“We think this will benefit the region.”
Region 10 has also has completed the six-county Community Economic Development Strategies (CEDS) plan, to be released in mid-October and implemented in 2014, Haynes said.
Haynes discussed the ongoing senior meals-on-wheels crisis as well.
“The Region 10 Area Agency on Aging (AAA) has had to make some difficult decisions,” she said. “They are having to reduce the number of meals from 120,000 to 75,000 per year—cutting the program by one third.”
Contractor and meal provider Volunteers of America has sustained the program at a higher-than-Federally-funded level since taking on the contract several years ago, she noted, and Region 10 kicks in $400,000.
“Home-delivered meals are a very needed service,” Haynes said. “There is a direct correlation to institutionalization.
“There is just no easy way to have these conversations.”
Bob Brown offered an update on the Downtown Development Authority (DDA)’s progress toward hiring a new Executive Director to replace Scott Shine, who left in June.
“We had 38 applicants, which we narrowed down to five last week, and then down to two on Monday,” Brown said, noting that hiring is probably still four to five weeks out, as both finalists are from out of town. He spoke of the need for better communication in the wake of the Aug. 23-24 street closures for a zombie movie that caught many Downtown business owners and shoppers off guard. Brown also reminded those gathered to come to the Fresh Fest in early October, which combines a number of local events including the Montrose Oktoberfest in Centennial Plaza on Oct. 5.
When questioned by County Commissioner Gary Ellis as to whether DDA has brought any proven benefit and value to Downtown, Brown, who is serving as interim DDA Director during the hiring process, responded that the organization is still undercapitalized, but using its tax funding as judiciously as possible, and focusing on business retention.
Broadband was also a topic, initiated by Montrose County Coroner Thomas Canfield,
“The City and the County need to cooperate on broadband,” Canfield said. “This could bring high-caliber money to this community.”
Michelle Haynes spoke about Region 10’s ongoing work to coordinate regional broadband, which has involved getting member communities to agree to work together rather than separately.
“Delta County has really been struggling because of the broadband issue,” Haynes said.
MEDC Director Sandy Head talked about progress made to date.
“We have gained a lot in the conversation,” she said. “It will take the strength of all of us together to get this done.”
Montrose City Manager Bill Bell suggested the possible formation of a new officially-designated West Central Council of Governments, headed by him and possibly Delta City Manager Justin Clifton, though Region 10 currently serves that role through its regional board.
“We don’t need another regional organization, with meetings etc.,” Sandy Head argued.
“We already have a mechanism in place,” Ellis said. “Region 10.”
The free-ranging discussion touched on a variety of other topics, from the Oct. 10 Montrose County presentation featuring world-famous motivational safety speaker Charlie Morecraft at Friendship Hall, input and concerns from Mayor Pro Tem Wayne Blair of Olathe, and a lengthy back and forth concerning a potential shared City and County staffer.
MR COG will convene again at Friendship Hall at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 12.