By Kristin Stephens
As I look back over the past year, I am filled with a profound sense of gratitude for the hard work of Larimer County staff and the engagement of our community. Together, we’ve accomplished goals that have made our county more caring and resilient.
In May, we presented the Larimer County Regional Water Existing Conditions Report. The report provided a comprehensive look at our water providers, watersheds, and future challenges we face from drought conditions. In October, we secured funding to create a Water Master Plan which will help our region address these challenges.
We were pleased to appoint a new Larimer County Manager after Linda Hoffman retired in July. Lorenda Volker, who had previously served as our Assistant County Manager, was the unanimous choice. Her professionalism and experience have helped us stay on track with our strategic plan and budgeting.
In September we announced our plan to purchase Heaven’s Door Ranch, a 1547-acre ranch that will become part of our open space portfolio for future recreation. This beautiful space, just south of the Big Thompson Canyon, possesses important wildlife habitat and will offer future public access opportunities.
September also brought news that the final segment of the North I-25 expansion, from CO56 to CO66, has the needed funding to be completed. The expansion will ease congestion, provide more safety, and allow the Colorado Department of Transportation Interregional Express Bus Service, called Bustang, to double its frequency. This month, regional partners also committed to creating a Transportation Management Organization to work on transit in the US 34 corridor. This busy route from Estes Park to Eastern Weld County currently has no transit options.
In October, we announced plans to exempt period products, diapers, and incontinence products from county sales tax. Starting in January 2023, county residents will not pay county or state sales tax on these expensive, but necessary items.
We held our Climate Smart and Future Ready kick-off in October, and over 50 entities and 70 individuals from Larimer County will use the public feedback we’ve received to help develop an action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build resiliency in our communities.
In November, we received confirmation the Environmental Protection Agency awarded Fort Collins, Larimer County Department of Health and Environment, and CSU, $500,000 to complete an air monitoring study for Larimer and western Weld County. The study’s goal is to provide further information on the hazardous air pollutants in our area, and the source of those pollutants with a particular focus on underserved communities.
Throughout 2022, we’ve been working on ways to allocate the $69.3 million we received from the American Rescue Plan Act. From the start, we wanted to invest in transformational projects across the county and have committed millions of dollars to projects like a youth shelter, a K-12 Workforce Development Center, and a 24/7 Homeless Shelter. We also knew it was important to invest in smaller projects that have a big impact on communities like the upgrades to the Livermore Community Center, and support for the Wellington Community Services Center.
The new year will bring new challenges. We will continue to work on equity, climate, air quality, and water issues and we will create a strategic plan for addressing housing shortages and affordability. We look forward to engaging with you in the coming year. Happy Holidays.
Kristin Stephens is a Larimer County commissioner representing all of Larimer County.