Meet Suzanne Bassinger. She’s from the government and she’s here to help.
“Part of my job is to help the survivors of the High Park fire by finding any source of funding and pursuing it,” Larimer County’s new Fire Recovery Manager said. “I put people with needs together with resources that are available.”
Bassinger was hired on Sept. 20 to fill the $75,000 per year position, which is funded for one year. This allowed Gary Darling to return to his existing job as head of the county’s Criminal Justice Division. Darling had volunteered to spearhead recovery efforts until a full-time manager could be hired, then spent three weeks helping Bassinger get up to speed.
“I can’t believe all the work Gary did,” she said. “He has his own full-time job, and a new Alternative Sentencing facility to open and operate. He has been incredibly helpful, too.”
Now coordination and facilitation of all the programs and assistance available to survivors of the High Park and Woodland Heights fires falls to Bassinger. Her position is a central contact point for any questions, concerns or needs of those affected by the fires.
Bassinger sees her role as an ombudsman. Because her office isn’t part of any specific department, she can help different departments share information and resources, and let them know whether people are satisfied or dissatisfied with their services.
“I can also bring people’s concerns to the county commissioners, because they really want to know what’s going on,” she said.
Bassinger has spent several days walking the burn areas to see conditions for herself, both the devastation left by the fires and the impact of stormwater runoff.
She looks at the land with a professional eye, having earned a civil engineering degree from Colorado State University. Bassinger has lived in Larimer County, working in the water resources field, for 35 years. She has also served on various county boards and task forces, and is familiar with how the county bureaucracy works.
Since her first day on the job, Bassinger has been writing grants to secure funding and working the Long-Term Recovery Group’s case managers to identify individuals and families with unmet needs.
Other funds should become available soon through the Denver Foundation’s High Park Fire Fund, Wilderness Restoration Volunteers for erosion control, Natural Resources Conservation Service for reimbursement for reseeding, NoCo Rebuilding Network for structural work, and other private sources.
Larimer County Fire Recovery Manager Suzanne Bassinger can be reached at 970-498-7148 or 970-420-0832; her email is firstname.lastname@example.org. She also maintains the county’s recovery resource page at Larimer.org/highparkfire.
“Is it taking too long to get funds out to people? I think so,” Bassinger said. “There is money waiting to be distributed. One of the challenges is letting people know what’s out there and then getting them in to fill out the paperwork.”