County Beat: March 14, 2019

RBC | Members of the public present for Monday’s meeting of the Rio Blanco County Board of Commissioners urged the board to “use every tool in the tool box” to fight back against SB19-181.
“There was a power failure in Rangely yesterday [Sunday],” said Rangely resident Jimmie Dearman, 80, who came to the meeting to “observe a little bit.” Dearman described conditions during WWII when towns like Meeker and Rangely were forced to become self-sufficient. “I can’t envision us going back to that. I don’t think the Millennials could survive that.” Dearman encouraged the commissioners to keep trying to “turn this thing back.”
The bill, a sweeping reform of oil and gas regulations, was introduced March 1 and fast-tracked through multiple committees, despite vociferous opposition from the oil and gas industry and residents and elected officials in counties economically dependent on the industry for jobs and tax revenue. Proponents say the bill will preserve health and safety for Colorado residents living in the midst of energy development. Opponents say the bill will destroy Western Colorado communities and economies, and suck millions from the state’s coffers, as well.
Despite hours of testimony last week, including some from Rio Blanco County residents and leaders opposing the bill, SB 19-181 received preliminary approval in the Colorado Senate late Tuesday.
“The biggest problem with this bill is it’s five or six things rolled into one. We’re trying to get some of the verbiage changed. Some parts of it should be done over on the eastern slope that would protect property owners over there,” said Commission Chair Jeff Rector. “But it would absolutely devastate this side of the mountains.”
The bill now moves to the state House. If it passes in the House it will go to the governor for his signature.
The commissioners intend to draft an official resolution opposing SB 19-181.
The commissioners have also signed letters opposing a bill that would remove Colorado from the electoral college in presidential campaigns, joining the state’s popular votes to an agreement with a number of other states. Proponents believe the bill upholds a democratic principle of “one person, one vote.” Opponents say joining the National Popular Vote compact would mean California and New York will decide who wins the presidency, devaluing Colorado’s 9 electoral college votes. If Governor Polis signs the bill, Colorado would be the 12th state to join the compact.
In response to questions about the so-called “red flag” bill, which would allow law enforcement to take firearms from individuals accused or suspected of being a danger to themselves or others, Rio Blanco County declared itself a “sanctuary county” in May 2018 by resolution. Rio Blanco is joined by Custer, Fremont, Kiowa, Montezuma, Otero, Weld, Moffat and Teller counties.
Commissioner Woodruff said in the last two weeks he met with Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District Director Alden Vanden Brink about the proposed Wolf Creek reservoir, attended the Meeker Airport master plan meeting and the Chronic Wasting Disease study meeting, among other things.
Commissioners Rector and Gary Moyer traveled to Washington, D.C., last week in support of Colorado Counties, Inc. (CCI).
Moyer said he was “pleased” with what he heard from the new Forest Service chief. “She’s very pro-management of timber. If we don’t manage for the health of the trees we lose everything else. We haven’t heard that out of D.C. for a long time.”
Rector said he “got in trouble a little bit” for pursuing the Jordan Cove agenda during the trip, but thought it was worth it.
“Jordan Cove is my passion. I truly believe it will bring economic stability to RBC and the Western U.S.,” he said. We really made some incredible traction this time,” he said. “I’ll apologize right now for spending some taxpayer money to go back to Washington to support this.”
Moyer expressed his appreciation of the relationships Rector has developed at the federal and state levels and the benefit those relationships have had on local issues like the Jordan Cove project.
In other business, the board:
– Heard from Human Resources Director Laura Smith about revisions to drug and alcohol testing policies and revision of current sick leave policies.
– Heard from Communications Director Cody Crooks about collaboration with WREA on broadband projects. Crooks also said T-Mobile has reached out to the county.
– Heard from Mikayla Barton in economic development and ERBM Executive Director Sean VonRoenn about e-bikes and obtaining support for e-bikes in the BLM’s travel management plan.
– Maintenance Director Eric Jaquez asked about having a steering committee of users/stakeholders for the Columbine Park facility; said interim RBC Extension Agent Karla Farrand has requested some modifications to the front office of the extension office; and said they are budgeting to complete the community pens.
– Heard from Public Health Director Julie Drake and former county clerk Nancy Amick about an informational program to educate the public about the dangers of human trafficking coming to the county in April for public events at the 9Health Fair in Meeker, an event at the Meeker Public Library, and hopefully an event coordinated with the Rangely School District. The commissioners agreed to “figure out” how to help Amick fund the remaining expenditures for the events. (See PAGE XX for additional information.)
– Appointed Natalie Harvey to the Meeker Regional Library Board; Henry Hames to the Rangely Cemetery Board; and Bill Jordan to the Fairgrounds Management Board.
– Awarded bids to Westfall O’Dell for a 6×4 truck for $177,991 and U.S. Tractor and Harvest for a UTV for $14,862.
– Road and Bridge Director Dave Morlan said his department will “probably struggle this year” to get high country passes open for traffic by the Memorial Day goal. Snow totals at Ripple Creek, as of Monday, were at 109 inches, with high water content.