The Douglas County commissioners gave their updates on the county’s economic recovery, major road projects and more during their annual State of the County Event on Oct. 27.
The event, located at the Denver Marriott South in Lone Tree, included breakfast for nearly 200 attendees and was livestreamed to the community. A recording of the talk is posted on the county’s YouTube page.
During their presentation, commissioners provided updates on current projects, gave data on employment in the community and spoke briefly about their newly-formed public health department. The three commissioners took turns speaking about various topics.
Ten videos produced by the county were played throughout the presentation, ranging from subjects like the county’s Winter Shelter Network and the East/West Regional Trail to the Mental Health Initiative and the Youth Crisis Response Team.
This was a return for the event, which was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commissioners shared information about the county’s economic recovery following the pandemic shutdowns.
Some quick facts given include:
• Existing home sales in Douglas County increased by 4.7% between the first quarter of 2020 and the same period in 2021.
• In that same period, residential building permits increased by 173%.
• Also during that time, 740 new businesses came to the county.
• About 3,700 housing units were added to the county in 2020.
• In April 2020, county unemployment was 10% but decreased to 4.2% as of August this year.
During the pandemic, the county was also able to distribute more than $20 million in federal CARES Act money to restaurants, small businesses and nonprofits, according to the presentation.
Commissioners are also in discussions about how to spend $68 million in American Recovery Plan Act funds and are considering supporting work in mental health, water and wastewater, broadband, the workforce and other economic recovery projects, Commissioner Lora Thomas said.
The county plans to give a “temporary property tax credit” for the 2021 taxable year, which will be collected next year, Commissioner Abe Laydon said.
In 2022, the county is set to pay off its final debt payment on open space bonds, making the county debt-free, Commissioner George Teal said.
New health department
During the pandemic, the commissioners had a series of heated disagreements with Tri-County Health Department, their public health agency for the past 55 years. On Sept. 1 the commissioners voted to form their own health department following a required mask mandate approved by Tri-County.
The day before the State of the County speech, that new health board’s first-ever public health order was temporarily halted by a federal judge. The health order, which allowed anyone to opt out of any mask mandate in the county, was put on pause for at least 14 days after the school district filed the legal action against the county’s health department. Thomas and Teal are both on the new health board.
Commissioners didn’t speak about the judge’s decision and only briefly mentioned the new health department.
“Our goal is that Douglas County will have an effective and efficient public health department, delivering public health services that represent the true public health needs of Douglas County,” Laydon said.
A community health assessment, which was set to be completed in October, will be used to create a public health improvement plan and will inform the budgeting process in 2023, Teal said. The county had previously decided to continue receiving all public health services from Tri-County until the end of 2022.
Tri-County has since ceased providing COVID-19 services to Douglas County, according to a Nov. 1 announcement from the county.
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 110,000 tests for COVID-19 have been given and almost 80% of county residents have gotten at least one vaccine dose — as of the day of the State of the County event — according to the commissioners.
Among the announcements around transportation was a timeline for the $419 million, 18-mile I-25 South Gap project, which is scheduled to be completed by November 2022, Thomas said. That project includes widened shoulders, new express lanes, added bridges and deer fencing for the major roadway.
Teal spoke about the Waterton Road extension, from Rampart Range Road to Moore Road, which is set to be finished by fall 2022. Laydon added that construction on the C-470 Trail over Yosemite Street will begin later this year and is expected to take one year to finish.
Other projects discussed include the widening of County Line Road between University Boulevard and Broadway, the widening of Crowfoot Valley Road and improvements at the intersection of Havana Street and Meridian Boulevard.
The board also gave notes on various other programs in the county.
A few of the facts provided include:
• In 2020, there were nine wildfire missions and in 2021, there were four. This year, there was also one search and rescue.
• The Douglas County Homeless Initiative was formed this year.
• In 2020 nearly $164 million were given in Veteran Affairs compensation, pension, education and medical care in the county.
• Volunteers donated more than 5,700 hours of their time to help older adults in the community in 2020.
• This year, the county began work on restoring the historic Greenland Post Office and the Rock Ridge Cemetery.
• Lisa Frizzell was named 2020 Colorado Assessor of the Year by Colorado Assessors Association.
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