County falling short of Strategic Plan goals


SAGUACHE — At the time Saguache County’s Strategic Plan was approved on June 23, 2015, commissioner Tim Lovato asked fellow commissioner Jason Anderson if the Strategic Plan could be integrated with the Master Plan.
Jason Anderson told Lovato he felt the two documents “work together” and could be used to adopt a final plan. Lovato observed the plan was not a “county” plan but a “commissioner’s plan.” Anderson answered that it is only a tool the board is working with that can be changed.
Wyoma Hansen also reminded commissioners that the plan started out as a hush-hush project and county residents were not asked for input. Even elected officials at the courthouse were unaware strategic planning meetings were being held. In the fall of 2014, several county residents expressed concerns over the secrecy elements of the meetings, held during work sessions, not regular sessions. This is still a common practice with commissioners. The first discussion of the marijuana moratorium was conducted during a work session, and public comment was forbidden.
Jason Anderson has specifically referenced the Strategic Plan in regards to economic development and the marijuana industry recently, indicating that the development of marijuana as Saguache County’s primary industry is in perfect keeping with the plan. This may be truer than Saguache residents realize.
The day the plan was approved, Commissioner Ken Anderson said there are “opportunities coming up in the Valley,” and the plan will come in handy to address them. He said the county has land to develop, letters sent out and businesses looking to set up. One of the plan’s initial goals was to “Develop growth strategies, policies for manufacturing, agriculture-related manufacturing/processing.”
So were some of the businesses “looking to set up” marijuana growers? If so this was not made clear to county residents attending strategic planning meetings. The county’s marijuana regulations would not go into effect until 2016. And numerous citizens have expressed
By Teresa L. Benns
SAGUACHE — At the time Saguache County’s Strategic Plan was approved on June 23, 2015, commissioner Tim Lovato asked fellow commissioner Jason Anderson if the Strategic Plan could be integrated with the Master Plan.
Jason Anderson told Lovato he felt the two documents “work together” and could be used to adopt a final plan. Lovato observed the plan was not a “county” plan but a “commissioner’s plan.” Anderson answered that it is only a tool the board is working with that can be changed.
Wyoma Hansen also reminded commissioners that the plan started out as a hush-hush project and county residents were not asked for input. Even elected officials at the courthouse were unaware strategic planning meetings were being held. In the fall of 2014, several county residents expressed concerns over the secrecy elements of the meetings, held during work sessions, not regular sessions. This is still a common practice with commissioners. The first discussion of the marijuana moratorium was conducted during a work session, and public comment was forbidden.
Jason Anderson has specifically referenced the Strategic Plan in regards to economic development and the marijuana industry recently, indicating that the development of marijuana as Saguache County’s primary industry is in perfect keeping with the plan. This may be truer than Saguache residents realize.
The day the plan was approved, Commissioner Ken Anderson said there are “opportunities coming up in the Valley,” and the plan will come in handy to address them. He said the county has land to develop, letters sent out and businesses looking to set up. One of the plan’s initial goals was to “Develop growth strategies, policies for manufacturing, agriculture-related manufacturing/processing.”
So were some of the businesses “looking to set up” marijuana growers? If so this was not made clear to county residents attending strategic planning meetings. The county’s marijuana regulations would not go into effect until 2016. And numerous citizens have expressed to commissioners since then they do not want Saguache County to focus primarily on marijuana for economic development.

Economic development hampered over the years
“It isn’t Saguache County, it’s ScSEED county,” a participant at the Strategic Plan meetings noted in 2015. ScSEED, initially founded by Commissioner Linda Joseph, has worked for economic development in the county since the 1990s, with grant monies secured from various sources over the years. The comment was made that the county could eventually replace budgeting with grant seeking, which should be a supplement to county funds but not a major source of revenue.

Some believe this has already occurred. Essentially the organization took over the role of the county’s economic development department, usually a separate office within county government.   
Many pointed out at the time that because Joseph remained an officer of ScSEED and was its founder, this presented a significant conflict of interest. The failure of the county to attract at least compatible light industry, solar projects and other businesses into the area during the years Joseph remained in office as commissioner is still a sore point with some county residents.
While ScSEED no longer plays the major role in economic development it once did, there has never been a department within the county strictly dedicated to pursuing economic development. As a result, even the research and development as well as the workforce goals established in the Strategic Plan seem, for the most part, to have fallen by the wayside. Alternative energy development also appears to have waned. So why, between the two documents, have so many important goals not been met?
Those directing the Strategic Plan identified the managerial practices of elected officials  as deficiencies that would prevent the Strategic Plan, which the county spent at least $30,000 to undertake, from successful implementation.

Faulty leadership the issue
Marvin and Marty Wiedner with the firm Managing Results guided Saguache commissioners through the final phase of their Strategic Plan. Wiedner told commissioners and administrators that unless they first addressed issues at the elected officials’ level in the county, they would not be ready to implement the plan. Commissioners are the body that appoints county administration.
“In our assessment, you are not up to accomplishing this yet,” Wiedner said. “Your managerial leadership is inadequate to make this happen.” Despite the observation regarding managerial leadership, the county left the oversight of all marijuana applications to land use/administration only a year later, without making any changes in management.
The Strategic Plan was revisited last year. No plan to implement the goal of establishing “performance plans and evaluations or observable core competencies describing expected behaviors” for county employees was proposed or discussed, at least publicly, even though the target year for this goal was 2017. The current personnel manual for county employees is dated 2007, and is reportedly in the process of being “updated.”
A second goal in the plan was to: “Define and launch county practices, procedures, tools, performance measures and standards [usually listed in a policy manual], to enhance county services, customer satisfaction and make “One County, One Community” a reality in county government.” This goal was set to be realized by 2016.A recent Colorado Open Records Act request to county administration for a county policy manual failed to produce results.
Two weeks later (Feb. 14, 2018), three title pages of the policy manual were filed with the county clerk’s office. The filing included the minutes from Jan. 16, 2016, when the policy was presumably finished. A note was attached to the minutes stating the county’s “intent to record” the manual on that date.
During his assessment of the county in 2015, Wiedner also stressed the need for the community to engage with the county to create partnerships and grow businesses if the plan was to be put to good use. As one citizen said at the time, the plan is heavily dependent on community involvement yet it doesn’t seem county residents are very interested in making the plan work.
Over the past two years, the divide between the community and its elected officials only appears to have widened. And with both the BoCC and SCPC continuing to hold meetings where residents are not allowed to speak and decisions are made contrary to the county’s own regulations and stated goals, the situation is only bound to worsen.Summary
As Commissioner Jason Anderson observed, the Master Plan and Strategic Plan should work together in identifying and realizing the county’s goals, yet this has not been the case; most of the goals in both documents remain unfulfilled. Core values and beliefs have been largely ignored, property rights have gone by the wayside, county regulations have not been observed and the achievement of “one county, one community” seems unobtainable for the present.
Jason Anderson told Commissioner Lovato on the day the Strategic Plan was approved that the plan could be changed and the Master Plan and Strategic Plan could be merged to create a final document. Under the county’s stated strategic priority: one county, one community,” the Strategic Plan states: “The County’s decisions and its employees’ actions will affirm, with respect and equanimity, the oneness of our community.”
The Master Plan states: Individual liberty and private property rights shall be of great concern when considering land use regulations… Land use decisions and policy making should be carried out in a transparent manner and with great integrity. Citizen input should be actively sought in reviewing or adopting plans, policies, and regulations.”
Most of the marijuana growers coming into the county are not county or even state residents. Yet every grow application presented to the SCPC and commissioners has been approved and citizen comment on such approvals limited. Record crowds have protested the approval process at recent meetings, yet the approvals continue. These decisions and actions do not reflect “respect and equanimity,” “great concern” for property rights or the desire to proceed with integrity and transparency.
As many county residents have observed, it is not the plans that need to be changed but the actions and attitudes of the commissioners and the SCPC members. The Master Plan is clear and Wiedner’s words are clear. Change is required from elected officials before commissioners can expect the support of the community.


Video News
More In Homepage