Policy directives pave the road for accomplishments
March 5, 2021
Garfield County Commissioners’ directives help projects, policy come to fruition
Garfield County accomplished much of its 2020 goals through strategic planning and sound policy directives from the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). Setting clear directives early in the year helps the planning process become a reality, fostering in improvements that benefit all the residents of Garfield County.
The board sets policy directives annually; the commissioners weigh the county’s more important needs and direct staff to take on numerous beneficial projects throughout the area. In 2020, these efforts included infrastructure improvements; economic development; community outreach; health and human services endeavors; ensuring a local voice in policy at the local, state and federal levels; bettering organizational services; and much more.
Each year, the BOCC directs the Garfield County Road and Bridge Department to ensure county roads are well-maintained and safe. In 2020, road and bridge completed an overhaul of a section of County Road 107 at the Red Hill Recreation Area near Carbondale, making the intersection safer for pedestrians crossing to the popular hiking destination. In addition, road and bridge constructed a parking lot at the site and trail connections leading up to Mushroom Rock. The department also chip-sealed more than 30 miles of county roads and completed its annual draining improvements in Battlement Mesa on time.
The county completed a $3.9 million ramp expansion project at the Rifle Garfield County Airport, as well as an instrument landing system (ILS) aerial survey in 2020. The apron improvements increased the square footage by 18,000 square yards, creating space of an additional 18 large aircraft. Landings and fuel sales increased in 2020 over 2019, bringing in welcome revenues.
Road and bridge also completed a section of the Safe Routes to School trail in 2020, connecting nearby neighborhoods and County Road 154 with the Rio Grande Trail. This is the first segment of a safe passage to the Riverview School that allows students to walk or bike to school and avoid traveling along busy roads.
The Garfield County Human Services Department worked to provide seniors with a robust meal program throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to ensure they always had enough food on the table. Transportation to grocery stores and to seek medical care was also a priority that was provided by the Traveler service. Human Services and Garfield County Public Health worked closely with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) on COVID-19 throughout 2020, and the commissioners approved $1.1 million for food assistance and financial aid for residents affected by the economic shutdown brought by the pandemic.
The board also directed staff to participate in the 2020 U.S. Census, which saw a 67 percent self-response rate and an overall contact/response rate of 99 percent in Garfield County. The county reinforced its commitment to transparency; the finance department launched its Open Finance transparency portal, and communications provided up-to-the-minute information in English and Spanish on two major wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic on the county’s new and improved website in 2020.
Garfield County’s share of private equity bonds were allocated to the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) to help fund a first-time homebuyer’s loan program in 2020. Commissioner Mike Samson continued meeting with all the mayors in Garfield County, something he has done for several years to find solutions to the county’s housing needs.
The county participated as an active stakeholder in the state rulemaking process that resulted from the passage of Senate Bill 181, which created a one-size-fits-all blanket of regulations for oil and gas production in Colorado. In 2020, Garfield County completed its Federal Lands Coordination Plan and Policies, which requires the federal government to coordinate on all matters pertaining to public lands within the county. These efforts help support positive economic growth for all industries operating in the county.
The commissioners maintained their efforts to preserve historic access routes to public lands, rights-of-way, and county roads throughout the county. The board also directed staff to coordinate with the Department of Interior and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on greater sage-grouse resource management plans. This led to the federal agencies’ adoption of more accurate habitat maps that better represent the varied terrain in Garfield County.
The county also revised its land use code pertaining to gravel and mining extraction, adopting 1041 regulations, which allow local governments to “identity, designate and regulate areas and activities of state interest through a local permitting process.” This ensures a local voice in activities that are on federal lands but affect local municipalities and residents.
The commissioners continue to be active in federal, state, and local policy through participation with numerous policy groups, such as the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado (AGNC), Colorado Counties, Inc. (CCI) and Club 20.
“So, as you can see, even though it was a very unusual year, we were able to accomplish much in 2020,” added Commissioner Samson. “Great teamwork from all made it possible. What a county we live in and work for.”
For a complete list of the Garfield County Commissioners’ 2021 policy directives, please visit garfield-county.com/board-commissioners/policy-directives.