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RBC I Shawn Bolton was elected chairman of the Rio Blanco County Board of County Commissioners at its first meeting of 2012 and said he is “looking forward to this year.”
“I want to see a better working relationship between the county and all residents and taxpayers of the county,” Bolton said after the meeting. “There is always room for improvement.”
Past chairman Ken Parson will be the chairman pro-tem and commissioner Kai Turner was appointed as the representative to the Colorado River District board, the e911 board and the county’s representative to the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado (AGNC).
Also during the morning session of the meeting, Kent Borchard was reappointed as county attorney, Chris Singleton as budget director, Bonnie Ruckman as director of social services and Dave Morlan as director of the road and bridge department.
During the afternoon session, commissioner Turner had requested a workshop to discuss the county’s impact fees. The commissioners, Borchard, Singleton, Morlan, county administrator Kim Bullen, planning director Jeff Madison, sales and use tax director Deb Morlan and Mike Dinwiddie attended the workshop.
Impact fees were implemented by county commissioners in August 2008 after a study by the Rural Planning Institute identified capital projects in the county and a way to fund them.
The 2005 RPI study identified capital improvements in three categories: roads and bridges, law enforcement, including a criminal justice center, and administration and improvements to the courthouse and other county buildings.
However, the main purpose of the funds generated (approximately $3 million per year the past two years) is for Rio Blanco County Road 5 (Piceance Creek).
According to Madison, the impact fees have generated more than $10 million since 2008 and will be used as matching funds for state and/or federal grants, which are hard to come by at this time.
The study was required by Colorado statute in order for the commissioners to establish a countywide impact fee and while most of the new fees and 95 percent of the costs are related to energy extraction activities, there is also an assessment on new housing and new commercial building in unincorporated areas of the county.
“We may be stymieing residential and commercial development,” Madison said at the workshop. “From the beginning, the intent was for what’s best for the county as a whole but now with the new conditions we may need to make appropriate changes.”
Turner said some energy executives have told him they are happy the county is streamlining the permitting process, “they just want to know the ground rules and want us to keep our mill levy low.” Rio Blanco County’s low mill levy is one of the main reasons companies have built gas plants in the county.
“It would be good to have the numbers for the public, too,” Turner said.
“We need to analyze all of the costs in county and see if we are pricing ourselves out of the job market,” Bolton said. “We need to get our businesses back on track and I think it ties back into the impact fees,” Bolton said. “We need to take a hard look at everything and see where we can make things better. I want Rio Blanco County to be the place where businesses say, “that’s where we want to be, where we want to do business and create jobs.”