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As the first order of business and with PT Wood sworn in, the Chaffee Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) moved to elect a new chair for the 2023 fiscal year. As his first motion, Wood nominated Commissioner Keith Baker to chair the board, a motion that passed unanimously.

The Chaffee County Board of County Commissioners, for 2023. Left to right, Chair Keith Baker, PT Wood and Greg Felt. Photo by Jan Wondra.

In making the motion, Wood said “I’ve thought a lot about this and Greg has led us through four years of difficult times, but fairness and equity say it’s time to share this and I’m nominating Keith Baker as Chair.”

“I echo PT about the superb job navigating us through some rough waters,” said Baker. “I want people to know the tone of the considerations I’ve had for our county organization does deal with the chairmanship. Most counties I’m familiar with rotate the chairmanship on a regular basis. My intent is to occupy the chairmanship for one year. I  have no preconceived notion of what is next. That way we would rotate regularly so that there is experience being chair on this board, before the next election.”

Baker is two years into his second term. The discussion turned to the suggestion that when he and Felt leave office in two years under term limits, that it would be good for Wood to have had chairmanship experience during their final year, when both are available for Wood to consult with.

“One of my priorities, because the chairman does help shape the agenda,” added Baker, “is to continue to improve our organizational effectiveness, and use our strategic plan as a management and leadership tool in county government — to establish a legacy with those items.”

“I just spent four years as chair, and when you do a job you love you come to identify with the role,” said Felt. “Looking back over my experiences it all makes sense. It prepared me for the serious challenges. Thanks to Keith and Rusty for putting their trust in me — for the teamwork,” he added. “And thanks to staff, Bob [Christiansen] and Dan [Short] and Beth [Helmke]. Adversity is the source of growth. Looking back — the fires, the gas outages, or the pandemic, OR … you name it. Getting Common Ground to full operational status — there were a lot of great moments. I’ll always be grateful for the last four years and working with these colleagues.”

The agenda for the day was purposely light. The BoCC reviewed their new list of committee liaison assignments and they approved a small amendment to the Highway Users Tax Fund (HUTF); changes made by Road and Bridge Supervisor Mark Stacy.

The BoCC got an update on the last section of the private lands camping for workforce housing section still to be finalized as part of the updating of the Chaffee Land Use Code (LUC), which has gone through eight reviews during the process. The topic was continued to their February 14 meeting.

The BoCC got an update on the funds allocated from the Lodging Tax Reallocation voter decision. In November, county voters approved a reallocation amount of up to 60 percent of the total, with 40 percent retained for the Visitor’s Bureau.

“In the 2022 budget we budgeted $510,000 in doing taxes,” said Dan Short. We have also picked up for this budget the $270,000 for the Rec Ranges. We have $242,000 left to address housing needs…. we have some discretion on parts of that puzzle.

The BoCC will take up a specific request related to workforce housing for use of the lodging tax during their January 17 meeting. Short said that staff anticipates that there will be $600,000/year to plan with, and added that counting on $1 million/year is probably too high.

Chaffee County Assistant Attorney Miles Cottom did a brief short-term rental (STR) update for the BoCC. All active STR licenses expire on January 31. “Per the new LUC, renewals are required to be in 21 days prior to that – which is TODAY. We’re preparing for a bunch of late applications.”

“Only 70 percent of them have taken any steps for renewal,” added Cottom. “We are seeing enforcement issues; things like booking unpermitted rooms, [some] have occupancy, or septic violations. He added that every STR owner has been contacted with the rules and the January 31 expiration information.

Featured image: the gavel hand-off from Commissioner Greg Felt to incoming Chair, Commissioner Keith Baker. Photo by Jan Wondra.