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Port budget contains wage increase

POMEROY–A preliminary Port of Garfield 2021 budget was discussed at the recent Board meeting. Diana Ruchert, Port of Garfield Director requested a merit wage increase of four percent for Tina Keller, stating she has taken on more responsibility by assisting Doug Leuck with some of his duties, as well as assisting Ruchert with the additional sanitizing of the USFS offices according to COVID-19 requirements. Ruchert added there was enough extra work to justify hiring another person, but because Tina has pitched in, there was no need. She estimates by doing the sanitization of the USFS offices themselves, rather than hiring the janitorial company to do the extra work, the Port saves $12,000 per year.

Ruchert also provided a list of suggested Capital Projects for the board to consider including in the 2021 budget, and asked for any other suggestions to add to the list.

Broadband construction is reportedly seventy-five percent complete on stringing fiber and underground construction, according to the new contractors, Zero DB. New poles have been installed except on Main Street where they are awaiting Department of Transportation (DOT) permits to finish that portion of the project. “They are doing a very professional job, and will have no problem being finished before the December 31, 2020 deadline,” Ruchert projected. “Although some work was delayed due to high winds making the bucket trucks a little dangerous, they are still ahead of schedule. Customers who have already signed up with an internet service provider offering broadband service through the Port should begin hearing from those providers in November.”

Ruchert also stated that the Port will go out to bid this week through the small works roster for the extension of the fiber to the fairgrounds on behalf of Garfield County Public Works. Contractors will submit sealed bids, with a required project finish date of December 31, 2020. Ruchert recommended the board authorize her to sign contracts once the bids have been received, and the lowest bidder has been accepted and checked that all bid requirements have been met. This would help expedite the process since there is such a short-term completion date, and otherwise a special meeting would be needed, and would have to be advertised for two weeks in advance. The board approved her recommendation as long as the lowest bid is $100,000 or less, and at least one commissioner also signs the contract.

It was reported at the October 6, 2020, meeting of the Port of Garfield Board of Commissioners that Charter Communications had applied to offer cheaper rates to serve low-income users for broadband service. Charter would depend on grants to help finance their project, and because the Port is already working under a state grant for the project, the Port filed an Application Objection form. Ruchert reported Charter has since filed an official withdrawal letter for Garfield County.

Over the last several months, the Port has been involved in making improvements and upgrades to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) offices. One of the final upgrades needed is to replace the carpeting, which was delayed until the USFS closes its offices in the winter months, usually from November through February. This would make it easier to remove furniture and not be disruptive during times of high activity. It has been difficult to attract bidders to the job because they have backed-up schedules caused by COVID-19 shutdown and restrictions. In addition, the USFS building is large, and has a large amount of furniture to remove, which limits the number of carpet companies who can handle the job. Ruchert stated the plan now is to have two different companies work together, one to remove furniture, and one to install the carpet, and optimistically planning for a December completion date.

The board approved setting the third Tuesday of each month as their regular monthly meeting date, and any other needed meetings will be set as special meetings, and scheduled as the need arises. A Supplemental Budget Meeting will be needed and the special meeting will be held November 17, 2020 at 6 p.m.

The next regular meeting will follow on November 17, 2020, at 7 p.m.