Since the Republican County Assembly, I have been thinking of topics for a column. Then, a few days ago, I ran into a man who grew up in Rangely and left in 1993. He was a senior when I was a freshman. He had recently been in Rangely and we discussed how it had changed since we graduated.
While growing up, we had a car dealership, a movie theater, a clothing store, a drug store, a roller skating rink, two grocery stores and more restaurants than now.
The question now is what can Rangely, Meeker and Rio Blanco County do to encourage new business? Maybe we cannot reacquire the types of business we used to have, but maybe we can do something that will improve life and opportunities here and which may encourage other businesses to follow.
Your current Board of County Commissioners is being as pro-active as resources will allow in this department. We believe we are moving the county in a positive direction that will set us up to be able to meet the needs of modern business and also the demands of the modern population.
It would do us no good if we convinced a multi-national company to relocate to Rio Blanco County, but our children did not want to live here because we did not consider their needs and wants.
Following is a partial list of items we are working on.
We started by working on our regulations and have instituted a moratorium on impact fees. This has earned us the title of Most Business Friendly County in Colorado by the Oil and Gas Association.
Regarding OHV trails, you need to promote what you have, and outdoor recreation, whether it is motorized or non-motorized, will be enhanced by the trail system being put together by us. It will be up to private groups or individuals to take advantage of them. The trails along with the Rock Crawler Park could become a large drawing card for the area.
Rangely once had a snowmobile dealership, so maybe someone will start a new OHV dealership because of the trails becoming popular.
The Wolf Creek Dam is a project the board is highly supportive of, and I personally believe it could be the catalyst for a multitude of recreation-related businesses from boats to fishing guides. The dam will also help protect White River water rights.
Our broadband project is key to attracting new business as well as retaining old business. It is also of utmost importance to our citizens.
Last January a downriver resident told me how much her child needed our project to be finished so he could do a better job on his homework. She asked if we were going to able to continue financially and what might happen if I was not re-elected.
I told her that now the rest of the county and the current board is fully committed, we have the funds and will not back off. I told her that there was no guarantee what a new commissioner might do. This is a question that needs to be asked of the new candidates and answered now.
Better Cities, this joint project between the towns and the county, has developed several possibilities attracting new business. The towns will be the driving force in deciding what fits each community.
Columbine Park and the Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds: We are completing plans for improving those facilities. Improvements will bring in more events.
We were getting to the end of the planning process last fall when we had a request to put in a bid for the Colorado Pro Rodeo Association finals. We decided to submit an application knowing that the Fairgrounds arena would not meet specs but on the premise that we had plenty of time to make the grade before the September Rodeo would be held.
My belief was that if we could get established with the CPRA, we could then get the Columbine Park plan in place and possibly be able to add Rangely to the CPRA circuit.
After losing the bid, we decided to move forward with some of the plan and get ourselves in a better position for the next opportunity.
Right now, we are starting some long-needed work that will make the fair better for participants and spectators alike.
One aspect we have scrapped for the time being is the RV spaces. Public dissent has left us no other choice.
The reason we proposed them is that every year during the fair quite a few county people bring their campers and stay on the ball field to take care of their animals, and it also happens during other events. We had planned to run hookups around the field, then the CPRA specs required regular spaces so we added them to the plan. These spaces would only be used by event participants and never for the public.
All other campers would be required to use the private RV Parks. It needs to be noted that the improvements at the Fairgrounds are being built by local contractors.
Through all this we have continued to balance the budget. We have increased the principal on the County Capital Improvement Trust Fund to the highest levels since 1983. This will also increase interest earned, which increases the amount available for grants to the schools and special districts.
The raises we gave to employees this year were singled out for complaint. The statement has been made that we should not have done it in bad economic times.
I voted for the raises with the knowledge that we could and should do it this year in case we could not afford it on down the line. Keep in mind this means 150 people are stable and have the ability to recirculate dollars back into the community.
I believe I have done a good job for Rio Blanco County and ask for your vote on June 28.
Jon D. Hill
RBC County Commissioner