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Cortez Fighting Misinformation War over Refuse Department Troubles

2/22/2022

The City of Cortez is battling a misinformation war after City Manager Drew Sanders identified budget deficits and other financial woes in the Refuse Department. Cortez now has a new Economic and Community Development. This story is sponsored by FASTSIGNS and TruWest Auto Outlet

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The City of Cortez is battling a misinformation war about garbage collection services after City Manager Drew Sanders informed employees about the financial challenges the department faces. You're watching the Local News Roundup brought to you by Fastsigns and TruWest Auto. I'm Wendy Graham Settle. Cortez City Manager Drew Sanders tried to dispel rumors about outsourcing city garbage pickup services during the city council meeting on February 8th. Sanders told the council that the refuse department's expenses exceeded revenues by nearly $170,000, repair costs on the city's aging garbage truck fleet increased by nearly $135,000, and two trucks need to be replaced at a cost of more than half a million dollars. No decisions have been made about how the city plans to address the budget shortfalls. But when Sanders explained the situation to refuse department employees the previous week, incorrect rumors about layoffs, contracting services with outside waste management companies, and skyrocketing garbage collection fees began circulating in the community.

Unfortunately, one of the workers up there opted to put that out on social media, which has led to all kinds of consternation and misunderstandings and just flat out misinformation out there. So unfortunately, we would normally come to the community with a package of "this is what the problem is, "this is what our proposed solution is", but that choice was taken away from us. So I'm going to discuss it this evening.

Sanders said that no course of action has been taken to resolve the issue beyond identifying the problem.

The rumor is out there amongst our employees that somehow I have been in contract negotiations with waste management for months, which is absolutely untrue. I have not spoken to anybody there and I don't know where that information came from but that is a piece of information that I would like on the record and clarified that that has not been the case.

The city has two choices: keep trash collection in-house but make significant operational changes to make the program more cost effective, or outsourcing services with a private company. No matter which decision the council selects Sanders said he has a commitment to ensure that refuse department employees are either transferred to other departments or that a winning bid on a contract be required to hire city employees if they choose to work for the private company. Sanders said that any decision would try to avoid increases in collection fees and the city would retain billing and payment services.

This is not about laying people off. We want to absorb them and find any way we can to maintain jobs while being fiscally responsible. The easy thing for us to do, and the easy thing for me to do, would've just been to kind of maintain course and speed and just let it happen. That's not the right thing to do. The right thing to do is to bring it to our council and address the problem as we found it.

To watch the city council meeting or to see a question and answer sheet on the issue, visit cityofcortez.com. The city of Cortez has a new economic and community development department to support local businesses and guide citywide economic recovery following the pandemic. The city has combined several functions, including planning, building, code enforcement, and event planning under the umbrella of economic development to address pandemic recovery comprehensively. The new department will focus on strengthening existing businesses, economic diversification, and developing infrastructure to meet business needs. Rachael Marchbanks, former economic development coordinator for the town of Mancos, will be the new Cortez community and economic development director. Contact her at rmarchbanks@cortezco.gov. The Southwest Colorado Small Business Development Center and the Region 9 Economic Development District will share an office in the new Cortez Business Resource Center that will open at 20 West Main Street. Developed by the Cortez chamber of commerce, the business resource center will include affordable co-working, meeting, and event space. A grand opening is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 26th. Visit cortezchamber.com for more information. Thanks for watching this edition of the Local News Roundup. I'm Wendy Graham Settle.

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