What’s the county up to?

RBC I As we approach the end of third quarter of 2014, employees and elected officials of Rio Blanco County continue to accomplish many capital improvement projects, planning processes and advocate for our county and residents.

Each week, Herald Times readers will have the opportunity to keep up to date with what is happening in our county through articles written by the Rio Blanco County commissioners.
Commissioners Hill, Eskelson and Bolton want to provide their constituents an avenue of communication so residents can be aware of items concerning us at a local level. For more information on any of these topics, please visit www.co-rio-blanco.co.us for contact information and written updates.
The commissioners and department heads are overseeing a variety of projects including the Justice Center construction, modifications to the fairground complex in Meeker, renovation of the Health and Human Services building in Rangely, improvements to the White River Museum, furthering off highway vehicle (OHV) projects such as the construction of a new connector trail and the finalization of the Trails Master Plan, designing and planning a construction project to improve the intersection of County Road 5 and State Highway 64, dealing with natural resource issues, including conservation agreements and acting as a cooperative agency on BLM processes, working to expand broadband capabilities, beginning the 2015 budget process, and advocating for our county to U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner of Colorado.
The Rio Blanco County Justice Center project is under way. FCI Constructors, Inc., based in Grand Junction, has been selected as the construction management/general contractor to handle the project. FCI will be hosting town-hall style meetings to familiarize local contractors and tradesmen with the project and opportunities for contracting the construction of the building. More information concerning meeting dates and time will be advertised on the county website (www.co.rio-blanco.co.us) and in the Herald Times.
Currently asbestos abatement is being handled by Elite Environmental of Denver, and all abatement should be completed by Aug. 15. The anticipated project completion continues to be December 2015.
Improvements to the Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds facility in Meeker are being made. Goedert Construction of Meeker has been selected to complete work modifying and updating water piping and installing an appropriate, up-to-date, manhole for water services to the 4-H building. During August, an invitation to bid will be released, soliciting paving services to improve the safety and drainages surrounding the building.
Rio Blanco County was recently awarded grant funds in the amount of $150,000 from Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) through its Energy Impact Assistance Fund. Funds will be used to help offset the cost of renovation expenses for the Health and Human Services Building in Rangely.
In 2013, Rio Blanco County acquired the property located at 101 E. Main St. in Rangely for the purpose of relocating the Health and Human Services from their current location within Rangely Town Hall. The project scope includes building renovations and parking area improvements which will serve citizens visiting this building, the Rangely Public Library and Rangely Town Hall. A request for proposal will be released in August, soliciting bids for renovation expenses.
Exterior rehabilitation of the White River Museum will begin by the end of August. Chinking and staining of the old historic garrison buildings will be completed by the end of September. A request for proposal has been released, and contractor selection will take place in the next two weeks.
The Rio Blanco County Trails Master Plan has been presented, and the finalized plan will be accepted by the commissioners at their Aug. 18 regular meeting. Rio Blanco County contracted Great Outdoors Consultants to complete the planning process, which features several expansion ideas of recreational trails located in Rio Blanco County. The first phase of this plan calls for development, marketing and promotion of trails around Rangely, in the Indian Wash area, and potential grant funds will be solicited in the coming months.
Construction of the OHV Connector Trail expanding OHV riding from School Street to County Road 8 in Meeker will begin soon. An Invitation to Bid will be released in August with construction anticipated to begin in September. A significant amount of funding for this project was awarded by Colorado Parks and Wildlife through their OHV registration fund. This project will include construction of approximately 1.5 miles of trail in the right-of-way of State Highway 13, connecting the Town of Meeker to the Wagon Wheel OHV Trail System.
Rio Blanco County Road and Bridge Department was awarded grant funds in the amount of $200,000 from Colorado Department of Local Affairs through their Energy Impact Assistance Fund. Funds will be used to finish design and utility planning and right-of-way acquisition to make needed improvements to the intersection of County Road 5 and State Highway 64. Completion of this design plan will be utilized while Rio Blanco County solicits additional grant funds for intersection construction.
On July 22, commission Chairman Jon Hill signed the Graham’s and White River Penstemons Conservation Agreement, signifying an agreement on a cooperative effort by Rio Blanco County, Uintah County, Utah, State of Utah Trust Lands, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, private property owners and other entities to protect these plants.
By signing the agreement, Rio Blanco County assisted in avoiding the listing of the plants as threatened or endangered, and will also be a member of the implementation team.
This week, Rio Blanco County will be meeting with the BLM as a cooperating agency to begin the processes for development of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the Roan Plateau and the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Previously Issued Oil & Gas Leases on the White River National Forest.
Providing reliable, affordable broadband service (including high speed Internet, cellular capabilities, and emergency services) to the residents of Rio Blanco County, both in the towns and in the unincorporated areas of the county, is an initiative set forth by the commissioners.
Blake Mobley, the county’s IT director, has created a planning document titled “Rio Blanco County: A Modern, World Class Destination” that focuses on implementing and maintaining IT infrastructure and services targeting a set of goals in Rio Blanco County.
These goals are to position the county as a modern, world-class destination for tourism; business growth, safe, healthy, happy living and as an ideal place to raise, educate and retain your family. A request for proposal will be released soon requesting internet, cellular, and emergency services providers to supply information on how their company can form a public/private partnership with Rio Blanco County towards fulfillment of these goals.
Rio Blanco County’s IT office has been in meetings with many potential partners and regional organizations including Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, Associated Governments of Northwestern Colorado, Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Colorado State Office of Information Technology, fiber optic companies, cellular companies, emergency services initiatives, wireless providers, Rangely and Meeker community group meetings and others in an attempt to learn about successful models, funding, legal approaches and more.
This fall, there are plans for a ballot issue to go in front of the county’s voters to remove a potential roadblock in Senate Bill SB05-152.
U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner met with the commissioners in Meeker on Friday. The many issues, at the federal and state levels, were expressed to Gardner. Some issues addressed included abuse of the Equal Access to Justice Act and the Endangered Species Act, the endangered listing of the Greater Sage Grouse, the newly proposed definition of “Waters of the U.S.,” the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program, Federal mineral lease funds, annual Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT), oil and gas regulations, and regulatory threats to water rights and property rights.
Creation of the 2015 Rio Blanco County Budget is currently under way. All department heads are submitting their budget requests for approval, with a mid-December adoption of the final budget.
This is just a snapshot of the projects the Rio Blanco County commissioners and employees are involved in. If readers have any questions, you are encouraged to contact county staff. Contact information for each department can be found online at www.co.rio-blanco.co.us.

By Katelin Cook
Rio Blanco County
Economic Development Coordinator