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Met Rec getting on with business as usual in absence of GM

Three applicants for full time general manager position

By Alissa Johnson

The Gunnison County Metropolitan Recreation District is doing its best to get on with business as usual despite not having a general manager and despite two board members missing meetings. On May 1, the board moved forward with several matters related to operations, including capital purchases to support television, a personnel review for the operations manager, and financial management. On May 2, they interviewed three applicants for a fulltime general manager.

Gunnison board members Larry Parachini and Paul Wayne Foreman did not attend either meeting, leaving board chair David Clayton and board members Ian Billick and Derrick Nehrenberg to conduct business. Parachini had personal matters to attend to, and in response to a question from the News Foreman said he is making a statement in not attending but did not elaborate.

At the board’s May 1 meeting, Nehrenberg confirmed that Met Rec had received three applications for the position of general manager: Lauren Daniel, a teacher at Crested Butte Community school; former county commissioner Paula Swenson; and Hedda Peterson, who sits on Met Rec’s south valley Citizen Advisory Committee and is stewardship director at the Crested Butte Land Trust.

The board interviewed the candidates the following evening during executive sessions to allow the applicants to be more candid. A hiring decision is expected at the May 15 meeting, as Met Rec’s governing statute requires a two-week waiting period to allow for public input.

As the board made moves toward hiring a new general manager, it opted not to enter into an employment contract with operations manager Bill Cote. According to Clayton, Cote requested that the board consider doing so, but Met Rec attorney Marcus Lock advised against it. Traditionally, Met Rec positions have been at will employment governed by a personnel manual.

“If you want to do something… I would recommend you keep it very simple and incorporate three elements: perform the job description to the satisfaction of the board, at whose pleasure you serve, number one. Number two, you’re an at will employee. Number three, there’s a personnel manual,” Lock said.

The board followed Lock’s advice and decided against a contract but did want to document Cote’s hourly rate. The members also agreed to the personnel committee completing Cote’s review process and revising the operations manager job description. Former general manager Lori Patin started the review but did not complete it. Changes to the job description are intended not for evaluation during this year’s review but to set expectations moving forward.

“I would assume that what we’re going to end up with is a written document that lays out the expectations and plan for the upcoming year so there’s something we can all look back on—the district manager, the board, Bill—that establishes shared expectations,” Billick said, and Clayton agreed.

In the meantime, the board has opted to move forward with a grant application process for recreation funding, with applications due May 31. The board also authorized capital purchases to support television, including $53,000 for a new truck from Phil Long Ford in Denver. Purchasing through the Front Range dealer enabled Met Rec to use a State Fleet ID number to qualify for better rates, and in the end, get a little more truck for the money. The Ford F350 has a service bed on the back and 4WD to access backcountry sites.

Met Rec will also spend up to $8,000 to purchase batteries for the Wauneta solar site, restoring year-round television service to the 100 or so users in the area. The board will also consider replacement options for backup generators at its May 15 meeting. According to Clayton, they will be looking at size and cost options for both W Mountain and the Met Rec studio. The tech committee will also play a role in going through the capital plan with Cote and outlining prioroties.

The board also authorized financial expenditures, including hiring an outside firm to manage the books. In taking over finances from Patin, Billick noted several opportunities to improve the process and recommended Stotler & Young, PC from Salida as an entity that is up to date on best practices. Though a bit more expensive than others, he felt they were more experienced and therefore likely to be more efficient.

“My take is we’re talking about public tax money, a public entity,” Billick said, “and so there’s a higher standard. Going with a firm like Stotler where you’ve got the full certifications, the training, they do this a lot for very similar entities, even if it’s a little more expensive it’s appropriate for handling tax money.”

The board also moved to hire the outside firm Mayberry to conduct a required financial audit, provided that it can do so in the appropriate timeline. In both cases, Billick noted that it was difficult to find local businesses with the necessary experience and the bandwidth to take on Met Rec as a client.

Finally, the board agreed that moving forward, they will continue to alternate meetings between Crested Butte and Gunnison to allow for valley-wide public comment and participation.

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