Communication challenges Rio Grande County

DEL NORTE— During their morning meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 13, the Rio Grande County Board of County Commissioners learned about communication systems to repair at the jail, the Baxter Communication Site and between county and event planners using the McMullen Building in Monte Vista.
Road Supervisor Patrick Sullivan described the gulf between expectations and the logistics of maintaining the McMullen Building for events like the 2019 Southern Rocky Mountain Agricultural Conference and Trade Show on Feb. 7. Sullivan described cleaning out the inside of the building before the Ag Conference, but “the building wasn’t in the same condition” when he returned after the event. “We cleaned up straw. We also fixed a door and reset one of the gas heaters,” Sullivan explained. The board agreed to designate a single point of contact and manage reservations and check-outs differently.
Communication from the Baxter Communication Site near South Fork is silent, according to County Administrator Roni Wisdom a couple days before leaving her Rio Grande County position. No one is currently using the site, and it has fallen into disrepair. Commissioners agreed to investigate the potential of the county asset when the snow clears. For an annual Bureau of Land Management permit payment of $170, it could help the county communicate.
Undersheriff Ed Raps noted another threat to county communication.
“We lost the console and the box. It just quit, period,” Raps explained of one of three radio systems. “It’s totally dead. If we let it go, it will take down the rest of the communication system.”
Wisdom said they replaced a console a few years ago. But the recently defunct communication channel needs separate attention. In addition, commissioners identified this as a good time to follow up on a suggestion to install sufficient battery power to protect against other system failure. The board directed Raps to replace the equipment.

Rural Philanthropy Days
Up next, High Valley Community Center Executive Director Adrienne Atencio asked for sponsorship to help host Rural Philanthropy Days (RPD) in Del Norte on Sept. 17–19. Rotating to the San Luis Valley every four years, the event took place in Saguache eight years ago, and Creede had the honor in 2015. RPD generates instant income for three days and increased potential donations in the future.
Atencio thanked the commissioners for their support in the past, noting how much HVCC has grown in 10 years with the help of the board and community. In the beginning, HVCC served an estimated 10 percent of the K–12 children with after-school programs and additional instruction. Today, HVCC helps about 90 percent of local school-age children year-round when classes are not in session.
Atencio estimated 250 people in town for Rural Philanthropy Days this September, many staying overnight. With hospitality gobbling up much of the budget, the $200 registration fee for each participant doesn’t cover all the costs (seven complementary meals, signage, guest speakers and a big outdoor tent).
Since the Anschutz Family Foundation increased focus on rural communities two decades ago, philanthropic funding outside cities has increased from three to 20 percent.
“They donate financially,” Atencio explained, adding that the concept is to inform other donors. “They want to see local skin in the game.” The board agreed to discuss options before the July 15 sponsorship deadline.

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