What’s the May 3, 2022 Special District Election All About?


What the heck, we just finished one election – the Delta County Municipal Election, electing officials to the various governing bodies of Cedaredge, Hotchkiss and Paonia. And we have also gone through the Precinct Caucuses, the County Assembly and the State Assembly to nominate candidates for the June primary for the November General Election. So, what is this new election all about?

The Colorado Legislature has passed numerous laws concerning various governmental entities – local, county, municipal and special districts. Laws related to special districts are under Title 32 of the Colorado Revised Statutes (CRS). The purpose of Special districts is stated in CRS 32-1-102 (1) “The general assembly hereby declares that the organization of special districts providing the services and having the purposes, powers, and authority provided in this article will serve a public use and will promote the health, safety, prosperity, security, and general welfare of the inhabitants of such districts and of the people of the state of Colorado.” Examples of special districts are Ambulance District, Fire Protection District, Forest Improvement District, Health Service District, Mosquito Control District, Parks and Recreation District, Safety Protection District, Sanitation District, Solid Waste Disposal District, Street Improvement District, Television Relay and Translation District, Transportation District, and Water District. Often these districts provide services that people want but that individuals or businesses cannot provide and are not part of regular government operations. So they organize to build sufficient support and capital to provide the service.

For Delta area voters the first ballot measure is the election of Delta County Fire Protection District 1 Board of Directors. Board members on all these Boards are volunteers. The District # 1 Fire Protection Board is a five-member board. The current members are:

Adam Suppes Chairman, his term expires in 2022.

Larin Jones Co-Chairman, his term expires in 2022.

Will Hutchins Treasurer, his term expires in 2022.

Randy Hines Member, his term expires in 2023.

Todd Hollenbeck Member, his term expires in 2023.

The mission of the Delta County Fire Protection Board #1 as stated on its website is: The Delta County Fire Protection District #1 and its Full-Time & Volunteer Members are committed to providing the residents and visitors of its district a safe and secure community. We are dedicated to the preservation of life, the protection of property and the safety of fellow firefighters. Our mission is to provide the highest quality of fire prevention, fire suppression, rescue and public education to assure a superior quality of life. We pursue our mission with determination and resolve.

The candidates running for election are:

R. Todd Queen

Fay Mathews

Daniel Cano Jr.

Edward Michael Sandridge

I don’t have any information on these candidates.

The second measure on the May 3 ballot and it is county-wide, concerns the Delta County Health District Board of Directors. Delta Memorial Hospital is a Health Service District. Its purpose is to “maintain, or operate, directly or indirectly through lease to or from other parties or other arrangement, public hospitals, convalescent centers, nursing care facilities, intermediate care facilities, emergency facilities, community clinics, or other facilities licensed or certified.” The Board of Directors provide oversight on the operation of the special district.

According to the Delta County Memorial Hospital website “Delta County Memorial Hospital, doing business as Delta Health, is a non-profit hospital district, with an annual payroll of $41,334,062 and annual net revenue of $86,282,643 in 2021. Delta Health is a county-wide healthcare system and goes between the largest and second-largest employer in Delta County.” The Hospital District and the School District go back and forth on being the largest employer in the County.

The Delta County Health Board of Directors is a five-member board. The current board consists of Jean Ceriani - Board Chairman; Doug Speedie M.D. - Vice-Chairman; Bruce Mixter M.D. - Board Secretary and Treasurer, Tamie Smith - Board Member; and Matt Soper - Board Member. Speedie, Mixter and Smith’s terms have expired and they are running for re-election. There are four candidates running for three open positions on the Delta Health Board of Directors – they are:

Bruce R. Mixter Incumbent, running for a second term.

Terrence Daniel O’Brien Candidate, running for the Board a second time.

Douglas Speedie Incumbent running for a second term.

Tammy M Smith Incumbent running for a second term.

There have been a number of articles in the Delta County Independent (DCI) on the various candidates and Ballot Issue 6A. There is a number of articles on the candidates and the ballot issue the April 27, 2022 issue of the DCI. I realize many of you have quit the DCI – I did for a year and a half. We resubscribed so that we could respond to their coverage. However, this is one of the better articles I have seen in the DCI for a while. I recommend reading it for more information on the candidates and Ballot Issue 6A.

According to DCI Bruce Mixter was associated with Delta Family Physicians for nearly 25 years before retiring in June 2017. In 2019, he decided to take his hospital and health care management experience to the ballots, where he offered to serve as a liaison between the hospital board and its employees with whom he had come to know over the last two decades. Mixter’s 2022 campaign platform is focused on the hospital’s financial and operational stability, as well as maintaining local control of Delta Health.

The same DCI article, reported that Terry O’Brien is a former Certified Public Account (CPA), taking a second shot at a seat on the Delta County Hospital District Board of Directors. O’Brien’s platform revolves around financial transparency, healthier finances and financial transparency from the hospital board.

Doug Speedie, M.D., was associated with Internal Medicine Associates of Delta for 23 years before he went to work for Rocky Mountain Health Plans in 2005. In 2017, he welcomed the opportunity to resume working in Delta County and he joined the Delta-Montrose PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) program as medical director.

Tammie Smith is rounding out her first term as a board member and now joins the four candidates vying for one of the three open board seats. While Smith doesn’t have a medical background, she leaned on her eight years of experience on the Delta County School Board (where she served two years as president) throughout her first term on the Delta Health board. Smith’s campaign platform focuses primarily on ensuring long-term care for local residents so they don’t have to travel long distances for quality health care. Her platform also emphasizes the hospital’s need for financial viability, providing quality services and care and employee satisfaction. It has been noted that the current Board works well together and understands the needs off the community and the direction the Hospital needs to go.

I’m not making recommendations on which candidates to vote for, because we are still limited by the “Pre-primary neutrality” restriction in our Bylaws for these non-partisan races.

The next item on the May 3, 2022 Special District ballot is the election of three members of the Board of Directors of the North Fork Pool, Park, and Recreation Board. This involves Precincts 15 to 20. CRS 32-1-103 (14) states a “Park and recreation district” means a special district which provides parks or recreational facilities or programs within said district. The North Fork Pool and Recreation District has a five-member Board. The current board members are:

Kathyrn Oxford Chairman, from Hotchkiss, Incumbent, term-limited. Ken Butcher Vice-Chairman, from Paonia, Incumbent, term-limited

Sara Sharer Secretary, from Paonia.

Kim Egging Treasurer, from Crawford, Going off the Board.

Sven Edstrom Member, from Hotchkiss.

There are four candidates running for three open positions – they are:

Charles Carlson from Crawford.

Daniel P. Ihnot from Hotchkiss.

Michelle Lee Pagone from Hotchkiss.

Rebecca Ela from Hotchkiss.

Rather than trying to repeat what is in the DCI, I’ll just mention that that there is an article in the April 27, 2022 edition, in the North Fork Times section on the candidates for the North Fork Pool and Recreation District. I think there is some useful information there that may help you make your decision on these candidates.

The third item on the ballot is probably the one that concerns most voters. This is the issue of increasing the sales tax to increase funding to Delta Memorial Hospital – Ballot Issue 6A. The specific ballot language is, “Shall Delta County Memorial Hospital Districts Taxes be increased by an estimated $2.7 million annually by the implementation of an additional 0.8% sales tax (example 8 cents on a $10 purchase or 80 cents on a $100 purchase) for a limited eight year period, beginning July 1, 2022 and ending in collection year 2030, with the monies from such sales tax to be deposited into the General Operating Fund of the District and used to provide quality health care in Delta County including but not limited to:

  • Recruitment and Retention of nurses and health care staff.

  • Capital Improvements to existing buildings and medical technologies.

  • Payment of supplies and equipment related to the provision of health care services.

And furthermore, shall the District be authorized to collect and retain and spend all revenues from such taxes and the earnings from the investment of such revenues as a voter approved revenue change under Article X Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution?

Yes - is For the issue No - is Against the issue.


Increasing taxes is always a concern. So, what will this mean if we vote for it? The following table shows the current sales tax, for the different parts of the county and what the total sales tax will be if the measure passes.

Delta County and Municipalities Current Tax Rates and with new 0.8% tax:

Delta County

State Sales Tax: 2.9%

County Sales Tax: 2.0%

City Sales Tax: 0

Delta County Public Improvement District Tax: 0.8%

Current Total Sales Tax: 5.7%

Total Sales Tax with New 0.8% Tax: 6.5%


Delta City

State Sales Tax: 2.9%

County Sales Tax: 2.0%

City Sales Tax: 3.0%

Delta County Public Improvement District Tax: 0.8%

Current Total Sales Tax: 8.7%

Total Sales Tax with New 0.8% Tax: 9.5%


Cedaredge

State Sales Tax: 2.9%

County Sales Tax: 2.0%

City Sales Tax: 2.0%

Delta County Public Improvement District Tax: 0.8%

Current Total Sales Tax: 7.7%

Total Sales Tax with New 0.8% Tax: 8.5%


Hotchkiss

State Sales Tax: 2.9%

County Sales Tax: 2.0%

City Sales Tax: 2.0%

Delta County Public Improvement District Tax: 0.8%

Current Total Sales Tax: 7.7%

Total Sales Tax with New 0.8% Tax: 8.5%


Paonia

State Sales Tax: 2.9%

County Sales Tax: 2.0%

City Sales Tax: 3.0%

Delta County Public Improvement District Tax: 0.8%

Current Total Sales Tax: 8.7%

Total Sales Tax with New 0.8% Tax: 9.5%


Crawford

State Sales Tax: 2.9%

County Sales Tax: 2.0%

City Sales Tax: 0

Delta County Public Improvement District Tax: 0.8%

Current Total Sales Tax: 5.7%

Total Sales Tax with New 0.8% Tax: 6.5%

According to the Delta Health website, the Delta Health District was formed in 1975. I don’t have specific information as to why a County-wide Health District was formed but, in all likelihood, it was probably to make sure there was a hospital in Delta County and quality health care was available to county residents. Is this still a need? I believe so. If the measure does not pass will this mean Delta Hospital will close? Possibly but not likely. Does it mean the Hospital will continue to operate like it is now? Very unlikely. There have been rumors that St. Mary’s Hospital would buy Delta Hospital. The truth of the matter is that St. Mary’s is now part of Intermountain Healthcare, a large healthcare provider based in Salt Lake City. They have 33 hospitals in Utah, Idaho, Montana and Colorado and over 59,000 employees. If Delta Hospital was purchased by Intermountain Healthcare would that change the operation of Delta Hospital? Intermountain would surely say there will be no downsizing of employees or increase in prices. An article in the Colorado Sun Digital newspaper dated April 1, 2022 reported that the State of Colorado had just approved the merger of SCL Healthcare with Intermountain Healthcare - https://coloradosun.com/2022/04/01/scl-health-intermountain-healthcare-merger-approved/. SCL Health has been the owner and operator of St. Mary’s Hospital. The article noted that the state had approved the merger because “the deal would meet the two requirements for nonprofit mergers: It would not change the charitable purpose of SCL Health and it would also not cause a “material amount of hospital assets” to leave the state.” However, the review did not look at the effect of the merger on prices that the Hospitals would charge under Intermountain management. The article noted that a 2020 report by the Rand Corp., a nonpartisan think tank, looked at how much hospitals across the country charge privately insured patients relative to how much Medicare pays for the same services at those hospitals. The report found that SCL’s hospitals charge patients 187% of Medicare prices, on average. That was below the national average of 247%. The report found that Intermountain’s prices were 271% of Medicare’s. Does this indicate that prices would increase under Intermountain? We don’t really know. However, it is certain that if the Delta Hospital was purchased by Intermountain, there will be less local control of the Hospital and the Hospital would be part of a much larger corporation. It’s also hard to believe there wouldn’t be some consolidation of some administrative services, such as Purchasing and Personnel, and even some medical services, resulting in a loss of jobs here in Delta County. We saw business mergers and consolidations in the 1980s and 1990s. Those often resulted in losses of employees and reduced services. Seeing the impact of the loss of jobs from the coal mine closures, it is hard not to be concerned about the potential loss of good paying jobs in our county. I share the belief that the fewer taxes that are placed on the citizens, the more money the citizens have to live their own lives. And limited funds can force people and organization to work more effectively with the resources they have. But there are situations when community support can actually provide better a better solution, as I noted above on describing the purpose of Special Districts. I believe this is one of those situations. I plan to support Ballot Issue 6A.

At last Saturday’s Perc & Politics, one of the attendees made the following statement on the issue of the ballot measure.

“Have you considered NOT voting for the Hospital Sales Tax on the special election in May? Let me tell you why I think it should pass!

There is only 1 hospital in Delta County. The others are in Montrose which would be a trip of 40 plus miles from Cedaredge, Paonia, Crawford and Hotchkiss, one way. Or if you go to Grand Junction, add another 20 miles to that figure. PLUS, the time involved to get to those 2 cities for medical care could cost you your life! The amount of money involved is very small, and it will automatically STOP in 8 years! It's not like this is for eternity! And it's only 8 cents on $10.00. Don't tell me you can't afford that, when you consider the jobs lost, the extra mileage for medical care and the general loss to the community of other health facilities and offices that support the businesses in Delta. VOTE for Delta County, not against it!”

I hope this information is helpful to you in filling out your ballot. I just ask one thing on this election – VOTE! We are privileged to have the opportunity to help decide how our institutions are run and what taxes we pay to run them. Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy that privilege – VOTE by May 3, 2022.

I want to mention U.S. Senate candidate Ron Hanks, who made an appearance on Sunday April 24th at the Surface Creek Church in Austin. Representative Hanks who currently represents Colorado House District 60 is from Penrose, CO. He is currently serving in the current Colorado Legislative Session. Working around his Legislative schedule, he is trying to get around the state to meet voters and over the past weekend he appeared at the Garfield County Lincoln Day Dinner in Glenwood Springs, in Fruita on Sunday morning and in Delta County on Sunday afternoon. He spent nearly three hours talking to a group of over 50 voters. This was not a Delta County Republican Central Committee (DCRCC) event. Representative Hanks scheduled the event through Hotchkiss area resident Ali Laing. It was an informative session and I enjoyed the opportunity to hear and talk to Representative Hanks. He stated he would be hitting the road hard after the Legislative Session ends on May 13th. Note Hank’s opponent in the Primary is businessman Joe O’Dea. Mr. O’Dea did not participate at the Colorado Republican State Assembly. He petitioned to get on the Primary ballot. Mr. O’Dea did visit Delta County at the Delta HQ on Monday February 28, 2022. I appreciated the opportunity to meet and hear candidate O’Dea. It is always helpful to meet and hear these candidates in person.

A final note – the Outreach Committee is planning to have a booth at the Ute Car Show in Hotchkiss on Saturday May 7th. It will be behind Zach’s Barbeque, from 9-2 pm. This is the same weekend that the Hotchkiss Sheep Dog Trials are held. So this would be a good time to visit Hotchkiss. Note, any PCPs for Precincts 15, 16 and 17 should try to help out at the Booth, if you can. But any Central Committee members or even any Republicans are welcome to help out. Contact Donna Deleff at 970-209-1539 to make arrangements or if you have any questions.

Look forward to seeing you all at the next monthly meeting of the DCRCC. We will be at the Surface Creek Church on Tuesday May 3, 2022. The meeting starts at 6:00 pm. Make sure you vote and we’ll ee you there!

David Bradford

Delta County Republican Central Committee Chairman

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