Previous Creek Boss Back At the Helm For the Third Time
~ by Rick Langenberg ~
Ray White, a familiar figure in government circles in Cripple Creek, has returned to the front lines again on a temporary basis.
Only this time, White’s focus will mainly deal with overseeing COVID-19 safety precautions and helping to man the city’s fiscal ship through some unsteady waters, rocked by the coronavirus epidemic.
Early last week, White assumed a role he has held in the past, serving as a part-time interim administrator for the city of Cripple Creek from now through March 2021. He is coming on board to relieve Finance Director Paul Harris of the city’s administrative duties.
Harris served as finance chief and interim administrator for the last five months. But at the outset of his recent appointment, Harris maintained that he could only act as the town administrator for a limited period due to the many duties associated with that of the city’s finance chief.
With this move, and with the current financial struggles facing the city, Cripple Creek has put its pursuit for a full-time and permanent administrator on hold. The city is just not in the financial position to fund a new full-time administrator, according to officials.
This is White’s third stint as Cripple Creek’s head boss. He actually started working for Cripple Creek in May 2008 as the city’s heritage tourism director. Then, he assumed the position as the city’s head administrator in early 2010 and held that position for nearly five years, stepping down due to health and personal reasons. Then in 2018, White was brought back again to serve as a part-time interim administrator for a limited period.
His role now is similar to his previous stint, with White working as the city administrator on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and on an as-needed basis. “It is a band-aid fix,” admitted the interim administrator, who stressed he is stepping in while the city’s finances are still in a state of flux.
In an interview last week, White made it clear he is really focused on COVID-19 safety and the city’s financial situation, in the wake of the coronavirus impacts. “The city’s finances have been devastated. It (the coronavirus epidemic) has impacted everything.”
As a result, he said adjustments in staffing, time allotments (with the state ordered work-at-home mandate) and money will constantly be made. Unfortunately, White contends that the $2.2 million in initial revenue slicing may just represent the beginning of fiscal reductions. Besides the nearly $1 million the city lost in not being able to collect gaming device fees for two and a half months during the casino shutdown, the town government must now deal with associated losses in tax revenue, impacting their historic preservation fund and other regular payments from the state.
However, in reviewing protocol during the coronavirus pandemic, he said he is quite impressed by actions taken at the staff level and by elected leaders in abiding by COVID-19 stringent safety precautions. “They have done an outstanding job,” said White.
Although the recent decision to cancel the Salute to American Veterans Rally was unpopular, White lauded that move as a good public safety decision. “This council has come to fruition with what had to be done,” said the interim administrator. That said, he admits the city is taking a huge beating on the social media front, but contends that the safety and welfare of the citizens can’t be compromised.
As another example of extraordinary safety steps, he cited the sanitation and cleaning services, headed by Debra Hack, as second to none “They are surpassing state standards. It really is quite impressive.”
White also cites the model safety efforts done by the local casinos and many businesses in southern Teller He notes that none of the barrage of new coronavirus cases have originated from any casino activity or from people or businesses in Cripple Creek.
As the city’s new interim boss, he said he plans to take actions to maintain that track record. “We are doing everything we can,” said White.
Surviving COVID-19 County Probation
But on the downside, Teller County has in essence been placed on COVID-19 probation, based on a recent letter sent out by the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment. Coronavirus activity in Teller has increased by nearly 160 percent since July 3, according to current figures (see related story). The county was told it could not increase its new coronavirus case volume by more than 12 between July 27 and August 9, and already a handful of COVID-19 incidents have occurred. This has prompted concerns about the county losing its variance, or having to impose new restrictions, such as further limiting the size of public gatherings or business capacity levels.
“We are just holding our breath,” said White.
He said Cripple Creek plans to continue to emphasize the strong role it has taken to maintain public safety. Masks are required to visit city hall and to attend any public meeting, a mandate that is heavily enforced, according to White.
The interim administrator said he is working as an independent contractor, with his length of employment expected to last through March 20201 At that time, he hopes the city will be in a better position to recruit a permanent, full-time administrator.
The city has not had a permanent, full-time manager since the town government parted ways with Mark Campbell earlier this year.
White is quite familiar with the city’s government operations, serving as both a full-time and interim administrator. He mentions his familiarity with all the city’s departments and with area government officials as definite advantages.
As another important aspect of his new position, White will take a key role in monitoring the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act monies to assure Cripple Creek receives its fair share. Cripple Creek has entered into a cooperative agreement with Teller County and Victor to secure these funds. A portion of these will be allocated towards economic development, an area that Cripple Creek hopes to bank on.