County Votes Down Child Welfare Hotline Contract, City Considers Opting In

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For lack of a second on a motion to approve a contract with the State of Colorado, the idea of developing the Child Welfare Hotline Help Desk project was defeated during a special Prowers County Board of Commissioners meeting, Friday, September 19. Earlier this summer, the commissioners submitted an RFP, request for proposal, to the state for consideration of developing the hot line in Prowers County.  Prowers County received the go-ahead from the state, but the logistics and timetable of developing the line at the Prowers County Annex, under the direction of the Department of Human Services, proved to be what some commissioners decided was a major obstacle.

Commissioner Wendy Buxton-Andrade, who had been working on the Hot Line development for 18 months, was upset that the Hot Line office was not supported by the other two commissioners, Joe Marble and Henry Schnabel. Marble had supported the initial request for consideration, but neither voted to second the motion to submit the contract to the state for approval during Friday’s session.

Prior to the motion, Buxton-Andrade stated to her fellow board members, “We’ve always said during our campaigns that the future of Prowers County is in our best interests, and I truly believe this is something that will bring economic growth to our community. Ronnie Farmer talked about the dollars that will be turned over in our community seven times.  It’s important to the board that we can show we stand together for our community and constituents and make decisions that’s in the best interests of our community.”  She added, “I appreciate your hard work over the last two months to come this far expressing your concerns about the contract and that’s to get the state to make the contract changes.”

Commissioner Schnabel expressed his observations and concerns to the residents who attended the meeting, “This is quite an issue for us to make, it’s an issue of jobs and possibly a department that can become solvent and even possibly generate income. Some of the decisions we’ve had to make, you know nothing about, and that’s a lot to do with the contract and other issues we have to face. I didn’t see being able to get this plan implemented in the short time and I had concerns about the contract.  One of the big objections I had to this is the time frame in which it has to be done.  We don’t have anywhere to put it yet and it has to be done by the 15th of October.  We also have to have the supervisor position in place by the 22nd of October.  And all this has to be implemented and put into place by the first of the year.”

Schnabel continued, “If we had the opportunity to spend six months to a year this plan, I believe it’s possible that it might be a good possibility for the county. There are a lot of issues that aren’t coming to the surface simply by saying jobs and money.  Those issues are those that can be implemented correctly without any errors in this short time frame.  We have to evaluate that it’s something we want to pass, because of pressure.  We have a responsibility to make decisions in the best interests of the county.  Jobs would be wonderful as it doesn’t cost the county any money.  Thanks for expressing your opinion.”

Following the lack of a second on the motion to accept the contract, Commissioner Buxton-Andrade expressed her displeasure at the results, “This was 100% state funded jobs. The legislation has allowed $1.4 million from the JBC to be put into our community for jobs.  The jobs will go somewhere in the state of Colorado, no matter where these jobs are created.  Prowers County had the opportunity to bring those jobs to the table as well as future growth.  Twelve would be created by the first of January.  There was also a potential to double that number for the next year and a half and my fellow commissioners do not want to see growth in this community.  And I’m very displeased because this has been a one and a half year of work to bring these jobs and growth to our community and we chose to halt that growth.  There will be no second chance.  This has to be implemented by legislation by January 1st and it was a board decision to submit an RFP, and as you just saw, they decided to back out on their RFP and the state of Colorado will look very poorly on that.”  Initial plans proposed installing the call-routing operation in the county annex building and using locally trained personnel to direct incoming calls to the proper Colorado city regarding child abuse questions or reports.

Commissioner Buxton-Andrade said the City of Lamar picked up interest on the option to develop the center. “Both the county and the city are discussing options this morning,” (Monday) she related in a follow-up call.  The loss of the call center would mean having to re-bid for the project.  She explained, “The state can’t hand the project over to the city.  Because this is a legislative-funded project, it has to go back out to bid the way it was handled before when Prowers County was awarded the contract.”  She added the timetable for the project is still set to start at the beginning of the year, no matter if another city is awarded the bid, they’ll be working on a shorter timetable than Prowers County had for the first of the year deadline.

Update:  The commissioners have reviewed the contract language with a state representative during a meeting held this past Tuesday, September 23.  The commissioners will review their vote on the amended contract during their meeting at the Granada High School on Thursday, September 25.

By Russ Baldwin

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