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Nancy Sharpe is in her second term as an Arapahoe County commissioner, and is currently the board’s chair. She talked with us about the board’s plans for 2018.
What is Arapahoe County doing right?
Definitely we are listening to our citizens about their priorities and meeting them in a fiscally responsible way.
There are three goals we have in our Align Arapahoe program: quality of life, fiscal responsibility and a service-first mindset. We have a really good team of people both at the elected level and employees that are really focused on doing a good job.
We’re trying to work and collaborate with cities to solve problems together. A good example is our crime lab.
Arapahoe and Douglas counties and Aurora have gotten together and formed a crime lab. The problem was that DNA was sometimes not collected in crimes because after being sent to the Colorado crime lab, it could take years to get back.
When our crime lab opens in 2018, we’ll be able to process DNA really quickly. If we get DNA from a break-in, that could help us solve other crimes.
We’re also working well collaboratively with our partners on transportation and congestion. We want to bring our limited resources to that problem.
What challenges does the county face in 2018?
We have formed a long-range budget committee to look at how we finance the mandated services we provide. Road maintenance in the unincorporated parts of the county is challenging. On the capital side, how do we go forward with the impacts of a growing population on our courthouse and jail? Our courthouse is 31 years old, and we’re putting a lot of money into maintenance there. There might be an opportunity for a book-and-release center that could relieve some of the pressure on the jail.
We keep expanding the courthouse. We need to look ahead to see how we’ll handle that.
What are the board’s plans for 2018?
We’ll be holding a workshop at the end of February to look at our mandated services and our priorities. We’ll be looking at funding very closely.
There are always things going on with transportation and human services, and working with our partners in the private and nonprofit sectors to address things like mental health and the opioid crisis. We had two opioid town halls last year. We’re trying to make sure we’re doing everything we can to educate the public. We’re getting the Tri-County Health team involved. It’s a major health issue in the country and we want to make sure it doesn’t get worse in Arapahoe County.
We’ll be working with the Denver Regional Council of Governments to divide up transportation dollars among subregions. We’ll be looking at how to prioritize projects to work together on.
We have a robust open space program and we’ll continue to work with our cities to make that better. Playgrounds, trails, open space — all those things our residents enjoy and appreciate.
What issues need more attention than they’re getting?
We’re one of eight counties out of 64 in the state where our general fund is subject to the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR. I see that as a good thing — it forces you to prioritize. We’re focused on how to spend our dollars most effectively, and we have to discuss issues thoroughly with our voters. Budgets are challenging and resources are limited.
Mental and behavioral health and affordable housing are areas where we need to keep working with cities. Law enforcement and creating safe communities are always priorities. That can mean protecting children and seniors from abuse and neglect. We’ve worked with District Attorney George Brauchler to ensure we have adequate resources to prosecute people convicted of those crimes.
What is the board’s approach to dealing with growth?
It has to be careful and responsible. We have to pay attention to where growth is happening and its effects on traffic. About 15 percent of our citizens live in the unincorporated parts of the county. The rest of the growth issues are largely dealt with by cities, but we want to work in cooperation.
Growth is on everybody’s mind. Too much density is, too. People like Arapahoe County because of our diversity of housing options. We need to balance the need for growth with quality of life.
I am really proud of Arapahoe County, and our employees and officials. We step up in so many leadership roles across the state. I’m proud of our collaborative approaches.
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