Commissioners determined to resolve flooding problems below airport

RBC | Rio Blanco County Commissioners revisited an unresolved problem with flooding on the properties surrounding the Meeker Airport Monday. Since the airport update was completed, property owners below the airport have reported repeated trouble with flooding and subsequent road damage following heavy rain or runoff.

“We’re flooding people out,” said Commissioner Si Woodruff. “I’ve got video on my phone. Who was responsible for building this road?” The video was sent by Mike and Patti Hoke, whose property has flooded several times and whose car was damaged as a result of road damage from the flooding. The county addressed the vehicle damage claim earlier this year, but the road flooding occurred again during last week’s storm.

Jeremy McAlister of GDA Engineers, who designed the road, said the road was designed according to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards and “looked at independently several times.” Following two flooding events in 2013, they put in a bigger pond, put in a reducer and check dams in an effort to fix the problem.

“We’ve done some things, but apparently we’ve had another event,” McAlister said.

Commissioner Shawn Bolton said the county sent the road and bridge department out to clean the drainage channels, which has helped to some degree, but not enough.

“For some reason we seem to have more water coming down there than in previous years. The problem is not going away,” Bolton said.

According to McAlister, when the airport was improved to meet the safety requirements for the size and number of planes coming in, it increased the amount of flat surface area, which potentially increased the amount of water runoff to properties below the airport.

Bolton suggested using county funds and the road and bridge department to put in a drainage pipe for overflow that will channel excess water to the natural drainage west of the airport, a proposal he believes will be cheaper than trying to “get it across the highway” to the river, and faster than waiting for FAA funding.

“I just want to get that water away from those people’s houses so we can stop dealing with this,” Bolton said.

McAlister said he would like to be involved in the process. 

The airport will be creating a renewed master plan with the help of GDA Engineers, which has been the airport’s consultant for almost 25 years. The master plan will inventory airport use and traffic to determine if the current airport infrastructure still matches community needs.

The commissioners also heard from USDA Wildlife Services District Supervisor Dave Moreno about the proposal to fund a county-wide wildlife specialist to deal with nuisance and predatory wildlife problems. The cost to provide the specialist for one year is just over $100,000, $34,000 of which would be provided by federal funds.

“Everybody’s under the assumption right now we’re at a $34,000 match, but now we’re talking about a $70,000 match, and the stockgrowers are saying that’s beyond what they can afford,” Bolton said.

According to Moreno, in the western states, woolgrowers organizations have been the ones who have paid to maintain these programs. Creating this position for the entire county will require cooperation between the county, both towns, area livestock producers, and outfitters, both financially and in prioritization of duties.

The commissioners agreed to set up a work session to work through expectations and funding issues in April.

“I think that this program will sell itself,” Moreno said. The wildlife services officer would be authorized to deal with nuisance animals like prairie dogs and turkey vultures, as well as problematic predatory animals like bears and mountain lions.

In other business, the commissioners approved the purchase of a rock separator for the road and bridge department for $14,000 or less,

– Approved resuming acceptance of non-friable asbestos at the county landfill effective immediately. Non-friable asbestos includes asbestos materials that cannot be crushed, crumbled or pulverized by hand pressure.

– Awarded bids for pest control and noxious weed spraying projects to Coulter Aviation, Elder Weed Spraying and Noxious Weed Management, LLC for a total of $180,000.

– Approved a grant application for the implementation of a broadband marketing and tourism business development project for a grant not to exceed $30,000,

– Approved an agreement for services with Ducey’s Electric to finalize the necessary wiring for completion of the AC/DC power plant for RBC local network systems in Meeker and Rangely.

– Approved modification of an agreement for services with Ducey’s Electric for the installation of conduit and heat tape on the Meeker Road and Bridge building, increasing the contract amount to $111,380.

– Approved a non-exclusive network and use agreement with Local Access Internet LLC to provide final broadband installation, maintenance and services to RBC consumers. Commissioners heard from Hugus Building owner Mary Kay Krueger that there are concerns about how the fiber connection was installed in the building by LAI.

In commissioner updates, Woodruff said the group working on the algae problem is short about $30,000 in funding, and is working on requesting a grant. He has had someone bring questions about term limits, which will be on the next agenda.

Bolton said he received an email from a citizen asking about using the Anvil Points funding for the new high school. Anvil Points funding for the county is estimated at $7.2 million. Costs for a new high school for Meeker have been estimated at close to $50 million.

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