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Commissioner Conti talks county concerns

Chair pro tem says problems include traffic, homelessness, rats

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Kathleen Conti represents Arapahoe County's District 1 on the Board of County Commissioners, an area that includes Littleton, Englewood, Cherry Hills Village, Sheridan, Bow Mar, Columbine Valley, parts of Centennial and some nearby portions of unincorporated Arapahoe County.

She recently completed her first full year in office, and is chair pro tem in 2018.

We caught up with Conti last week and posed her the following questions:

What challenges does the county face?

When the Arapahoe County jail and courthouse were built they had a 25-year life expectancy, and they just had their 31st birthday. Many of these years, the jail endured triple-bunking of prisoners and the infrastructure is starting to require major maintenance and repairs.

Addressing these needs are especially important to ensure the safety of our sheriff, deputies and judicial servants. Unfortunately, the magnitude of repair issues at the jail is growing, putting additional stress on the capital maintenance budget.

What are the biggest issues facing your district?

Based on meetings with our local city officials, there are a variety of issues of concern. Columbine Valley is very concerned about the fact that the Colorado Department of Transportation doesn't want to add an extra stoplight on Platte Canyon because they say it doesn't meet their standards. A builder in the area will be building about 95 new homes, and neighbors fear traffic will increase exponentially. They're asking for a second light.

We met with the City of Littleton, and one of the top issues for them was the increasing reports of rats in the area. They're thinking this is happening because of the decrease in coyotes and foxes, and may also account for the increase in rabbits.

The increasing homeless population is an issue. We're getting reports that Denver police are putting homeless on the light rail to get them out of town, and Littleton is of course the last stop. There are some camping on the soccer field by the High Line Canal trailheads.

In Cherry Hills Village, one of their top concerns is how to pay for an underground tunnel to cross under Hampden Avenue near Colorado Boulevard to access the High Line Canal safely. What are the construction and maintenance costs?

What's on the board's agenda?

In 2017, the board created a long-range budget development committee, which is comprised of county commissioners, elected officials, county staff and community leaders. The committee has been meeting to try to come up with some “outside the box” solutions on how to address the county's budget needs not only today, but in the future.

This committee has been trying to develop plans for how to deal with changing criminal justice issues, as well as growing transportation and infrastructure needs. In the Road and Bridge Department we will be working with the Denver Regional Council of Governments and our partner cities on how to prioritize projects that we can tackle together.

What issues need more attention than they're getting?

Addiction prevention. Opioids, including prescription painkillers and heroin, nationally killed more than 33,000 people in 2015, more than any year on record. Nearly half of all opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription drug, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

More work is necessary at a local, state and national level, both public and private, to combat and prevent these needless deaths.

This is why I'm working on a joint project with the state film director and the University of Colorado film studies program to produce a video that will educate and encourage kids, target age 11-12, to avoid going down the drug path and attempt to be the ounce of prevention in the discussion.

What is the board's approach to dealing with growth?

We need to keep it responsible and in keeping with our “Service First” mission, vision and values. As Colorado's first county, our focus is ensuring Arapahoe County continues to be a great place to live, work, raise a family and retire.

Our county is now the third largest in the state, and with a population of 630,000 and growing, maintaining our “Service First” approach is a continuing challenge. Time and again, our wonderful employees step up and deliver incredible customer service and are dedicated to ensure we provide a “Service First” experience every time a citizen conducts business with us.

What can the county do about traffic congestion concerns?

The county is solely responsible for the roads and intersections in unincorporated portions of the county, which are seldom in population centers. Even some of those, such as Arapahoe Road, University Boulevard and Santa Fe Drive, are state highways. CDOT usually partners with cities on those. Sometimes the county partners in.

What resources does the county provide for seniors?

We have a Homemaker and Chore Services program, which provides free housekeeping and home repair services to seniors, so they can stay in their homes longer.

We try to be a resource for seniors, and connect them with the wealth of services available in the area. Folks interested in finding out more can call our Senior Resources Division at 303-738-8080.

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