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Community Counts stays active despite decline in oil and gas activity last year

A continued decline in natural gas industry activity in Garfield County resulted in fewer members and fewer complaints from residents over the past year for Community Counts Colorado.

But, the nonprofit organization that partners with Garfield, Rio Blanco and Mesa counties to serve as a liaison between residents, landowners and Piceance Basin oil and gas operators still had a productive year, Executive Director Nita Smith reported to Garfield County commissioners this week.

“Community Counts was fortunate to lose just six members last year, with a current membership of 62,” Smith said.

One big change in Garfield County was the sale of Ursa Resources holdings in the Piceance Basin to Terra Energy Partners following Ursa’s September 2020 bankruptcy filing.

That wasn’t the only change of hands among operators in the region — changes that could ultimately result in a loss of $7,500 in memberships, Smith said.

“Community Counts will work with these operators that have acquired these other assets to help with this loss, but that won’t be possible until operations have stabilized,” she said. That could take another year, Smith said.

Meanwhile, Garfield County commissioners unanimously approved the county’s $10,000 commitment to remaining part of Community Counts for 2021.

Community Counts provides a toll-free, 24/7 response line (866-442-9034) for the public to reach out directly to operators in the region with any questions or complaints, or to coordinate around any industry activities that are planned.

In 2020, the number of concerns raised through the network was down due to the slowing of new drilling activity, Smith said.

For the year, there were three noise complaints related to the use of truck jake brakes, one odor complaint, one complaint about a gate being left unlocked and a rancher’s cows getting into a wellpad site, and one county road issue.

While Garfield County started last year with three active drill rigs, that number dropped to two in the spring and as of year end it was down to one. However, one rig has been operating back and forth across the Garfield and Rio Blanco county line, said Kirby Wynn, oil and gas liaison for Garfield County, who sits on the Community Counts board.

The organization was also active last year during the summer wildfire season, working with fire management teams related to several fires that burned near natural gas sites in all three counties, Smith said.

“The Pine Gulch and Grizzly Creek fire teams provided daily updates on the fires, as did CDOT (regarding) the I-70 closure due to the Grizzly Creek Fire …,” she said in her report.

When I-70 was shut down in Glenwood Canyon in early August and Colorado Highway 13 north of Rifle became one of the alternate routes, Community Counts worked with CDOT to let them know that holding traffic on Highway 13 due to construction work would become an issue for industry traffic and other motorists.

“They in turn related this information to the engineers, who decided that evening to not to hold traffic till I-70 opened,” Smith said.

The Community Counts board meets the third Wednesday of every other month starting at 3:30 p.m., normally at Parachute Town Hall. However, meetings have been conducted via video conference during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To learn more, visit www.communitycountscolorado.com, or email nita@communitycountscolorado.com

jstroud@postindependent.com

Garfield County District Re-2 transitions more students to online learning, quarantines


Students from Rifle and Coal Ridge high schools were asked Friday to transition to online learning and quarantine for 10 days, Garfield County District Re-2 announced.

The request impacts about 56 students between both schools, according to a Friday news release.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the Garfield Re-2 School District has transitioned some students to online instruction based upon exposures to individuals who have been confirmed to have COVID-19 or COVID-19 like symptoms or illness,” the release states.

This is the second transition of Re-2 students to online learning and quarantine procedures within three days. About 113 students and 10 staff members were also asked to stay home, the district announced Tuesday.

Tuesday’s quarantines included individuals from Rifle High School, Elk Creek Elementary, Cactus Valley Elementary and Rifle Middle School.

Re-2 and all building administrators continue to work closely with Garfield County Public Health to investigate COVID-19 illnesses and exposures.

Rifle City Council begins process of analyzing utility rate structure


Rifle city councilors have begun the process of studying utility rates that will eventually determine whether the city should increase, decrease or keep rates the same.

The rate study is being conducted by Raftelis Financial Consultants, Inc.

Raftelis Senior Manager Todd Cristiano presented during a city workshop Jan. 6 a four-step study for the city to explore in relation to the rate designs for water and wastewater.

The study will closely address how much revenue is needed to fund capital expenditures, which customer classifications need to pay what, what the rate design will look like, and what one-time charges to assess for new development.

“The main goal of this is to give you guys some of the information you’re going to need to make decisions on our rates,” Cristiano said. “There’s going to be some stuff that’s going to take a while to digest.”

Currently, the city charges a monthly rate of $30.63 for the first 2,000 gallons of water a customer uses. Beyond that, the city tacks on variable extra charges if a customer uses more than the original 2,000 gallons per month.

In addition, customers pay a minimum $3.68 in water tank storage charges. The extra fee, which is 12% of a customer’s average bill, came when the city’s water tank was on the verge of failing and required $4.3 million in repairs.

For wastewater, the city charges a monthly rate of $57.16 for the first 4,000 gallons. Customers who use more than allotted 4,000 gallons face additional charges.

WATER

Tier 0 (first 0-2,000 gallons, base rate): $30.67

Tier 1 (2,000-4,000 gallons): $4.09

Tier 2 (5,000-8,000 gallons): $4.34

Tier 3 (9,000-20,000): $5.10

Tier 4 (over 21,000): $6.12

Extra water tank storage charge: $3.68 (minimum) or 12% of total bill

SEWER

Tier 0 (first 4,000 gallons, base rate): $57.16

Tier 1 (over 5,000 gallons): $12.80

Right now, the rate structure applies to all customers within Rifle, whether they fall under residential, irrigation or commercial categories, Cristiano said.

“When you lump the $36.63 plus the $57.16, maybe there’s an affordability question there in terms of do we need to look at addressing lowering the fixed charge somehow … to see how it falls out with the volume metric charge?” Cristiano said.

The city could also take into consideration water conservation practices and how much water should be allowed for customer use.

Providing feedback, Councilor Ed Green questioned whether the city should allow customers enough water without them incurring significant costs.

“When it gets really hot and people need to still water their lawn from keeping it turning brown, how do we deal with that and satisfy customers?”

Mayor Barbra Clifton said that once the analysis is complete and the city makes its final determination for what rates they should charge, there needs to be “customer understanding” and “ease in administration and implementation.”

“I have a lot of people who just do not understand how to read their water bills. They can’t figure out how to calculate their rates, they can’t figure out the change from month to month,” she said. “I’ve even sat down with people and tried to figure it out, and I can’t figure it out.

“It’s pretty complicated.”

rerku@citizentelegram.com

Colorado High School Activities Association directives behind basketball mask requirement

The Garfield County District Re-2 school board was met with several public comments Monday regarding how the district will move forward with winter sports safety rules.

“My son is in seventh grade, and this would’ve been his first year to have an opportunity to play basketball for his school,” Andrea Murr stated in a letter sent to the school board. “He was excited to do so. However, as soon as he heard he would have to wear a mask, he said he would not play.”

With the first games of “Season B sports” — ice hockey, girls and boys basketball, competitive cheer, wrestling and girls swimming — slated for Jan. 25, some athletes will be required to wear masks during game play. In addition, the games themselves will be limited to 50 spectators, 24 team participants and essential personnel, which includes coaches, referees and scorekeepers, among others.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, there are a few exemptions to the mask rule during games and matches, but basketball is not among them.

“… we will only exempt athletes from the statewide indoor mask order when they are actively involved in wrestling, spirit, and aquatics, and masks remain required when they are not actively participating, for example when the athlete is between events,” the CDPHE stated in the letter, which regarded the approval of a statewide variance to allow live sports.

Re-2 officials confirmed on Monday the upcoming COVID-19 rules they aim to follow during live game play is in fact being implemented by the Colorado High School Activities Association, which is under the direction of the CDPHE. The regulations also follow Garfield County’s level orange dial metric.

Another comment questioned whether wearing a mask during vigorous exercise is a safe practice, stating that Garfield County commissioners, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization advise against it.

“It is child abuse,” Sherronna Bishop said over a video communications broadcast of the meeting. “They know we shouldn’t be doing it, they know it’s dangerous.”

During discussion, Re-2 board member Katie Mackley said that if the district does not in fact follows the COVID-19 guidelines, it could be problematic.

“If we choose to not follow these guidelines, no one will come play us,” she said.

CHSAA does have the power to penalize any individual or team under its jurisdiction if they’re caught not following the rules put in place. Director of facilities John Oldham said this could include barring a team from participating in postseason play.

“Therefore, we have to follow the rules of CHSSA or we are not allowed to participate in sports,” board member Tom Slappey said.

Mackley encouraged parents to take their energies to the CDPHE to try and lobby for looser restrictions. She used the NCAA as an example, saying they test their players for COVID-19 on a regular basis.

Until restrictions are loosened, the general consensus is to follow the rules to avoid being penalized.

“If we really put our children at the base of this debate and we use common sense, it would tell me that in order to get any stability to our children that we can, that we mask up and we play,” board member Meryia Stickler said. “Do I like it? No. But I want our children to have as much opportunity for stability of their normal activities as we can possibly give them.”

Slappey agreed.

“If we can find a way to keep our spectators, plus our participants safe, we can find a way to make this work,” he said. “ … I’m not asking people to like it, I’m not asking people to understand it … and instead of working against us, work with us.”

District Re-2 is now in the process of developing fan protocols for live games, said Oldham.

rerku@citizentelegram.com

Todd Casebier hired on as new Rifle High School dean of students, football coach

Newly hired Rifle High School dean of students and head football coach Todd Casebier sits on a bench at Bears Stadium on Tuesday. Ray K. Erku / Citizen Telegram

New Rifle High School dean of students and high school football coach Todd Casebier officially joined staff Tuesday.

The Garfield County Re-2 District Board of Education on Monday confirmed Casebier’s position after approving all administrative letters recommending he be hired.

“Todd will be a great addition to our team, and though he will be developing relationships with all students, specifically, his role will be working with students that struggle with attendance, helping students complete their journey to graduation, and helping students find their place in school and community,” Rifle High School Principal John Arledge said a recent news release. “He will be a strong advocate for kids and help us develop pathways for kids.”

Casebier, who’s in the past taught and coached at Fruita Monument, Montrose and Palisade high schools, most recently coached at Castle View High School.

Casebier’s career has consisted of using his multi-tiered roles to help students achieve success, according to the release

“I’ve been in several positions where I work with students to get them the support they need to graduate. I think I can bring these skills to the table at Rifle High School, and I’m excited about joining the team,” Casebier said in the release. “I’m a Western Slope kind of guy. I’m excited to be coming back to the Western Slope.”

Casebier gets set to take over the helm from now former Bears Football head coach Damon Wells, who stepped down this winter.

Wells has now taken job as activities director and head football coach for Jefferson City High School in Jefferson City, Missouri.

Wells’ feats coaching RHS football are impressive, to say the least. As head coach, he accrued 118 wins to 35 losses. And, he led the Bears to three state title games — 2005, 2012 and 2014.

But when it comes to football, Casebier is also no stranger to the win column. Voted “Mile High Sports Magazine Coach of the Year” in 2018, Casebier’s exploits include leading the Castle View Sabercats to 20 wins since 2018.

Casebier led the Sabercats to 20 wins since 2018. His tenure included a top-10 finish, multiple playoff appearances, the school’s first ever 5A playoff victory and three Coach of the Year awards, the release states.

Casebier said he looks to bring continued success for RHS football.

“I’m the only guy in the world that will be coaching in two different COVID football seasons,” Casebier joked in reference to coaching Castle View in the fall and now Rifle in the modified spring Season C. “I’m very familiar with Western Slope football, and Coach Wells built an exceptional program. I’m excited about this opportunity, and I know that Rifle has a great winning tradition that I hope to continue.”

Casebier’s coaching skills, however, are not the greatest asset he will be bringing to Rifle High School.

“He builds young men to be better in their character, better citizens, better student-athletes, and better people. That’s where I’m excited to see him make an impact,” Arledge said in the release. “He is successful if you measure by wins and losses, that is for sure, but he is also successful in taking kids that may be struggling to find their way and helping them become better people.”

Each interview during the Garfield County District Re-2 hiring process consisted of a committee of administrators, counselors and teachers.

rerku@postindependent.com

Rifle City Council locks in support for 5-Star business variance program


After Garfield County commissioners on Jan. 4 approved to seek permission from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to adopt a 5-Star business variance program, the city of Rifle on Wednesday opted to follow suit.

The approved letter of support seeks leniency for local businesses and restaurants required to follow COVID-19 regulations implemented by Gov. Jared Polis. City Manager Scott Hahn said that the state will allow for these establishments to operate under the less-strict conditions, if they follow certain precautions and stipulations.

With COVID-19 cases continuing to see drops across Garfield County, the state dial metric went from red to a less-severe level orange Jan. 4. The metric allows restaurants to operate at 25% capacity — even though some local restaurants have continued to operate at 50%.

If the 5-Star program was currently implemented, that would mean Rifle bars and restaurants could operate at a less-severe level yellow. Yellow allows for all establishments to legally operate at 50% capacity, while last call would extend 11 p.m.

Hahn said, however, that the 5-Star program does set a high level of standards.

“I had some comments from some restaurants — if they had to comply with that, they’d have to be out of business,” he said.

Another concern regarding the 5-Star standard relates to HVAC system improvements. The council worried that if in fact a business is required to make improvements to their HVAC system, it could become too burdensome.

If and once the 5-Star program is officially implemented, Hahn said that the city will not be responsible for making inspections.

“If the restaurant can’t comply or doesn’t want to comply with that, that’s up to them,” he said. “But that’s not something that we’re going to dive into.”

The council’s approval for the letter of support comes just as officials have recently been contacting restaurants across the city of Rifle, threatening to enforce COVID-19 regulations that would hamper indoor dining, said Rifle City Clerk Kristi Doll.

“They were pretty upset, because the county was in orange and liquor enforcement contacted almost every liquor-license establishment in Rifle,” she said of local restaurants. “(They’d said) if you serve indoors, we will suspend your liquor license.”

Hahn said he continues to meet with county and other city officials to determine the language and potential costs of the 5-Star program.

rerku@postindependent.com

Plans delayed for cafe-style recovery center in downtown Rifle


Plans for a recovery center in Rifle have been delayed due to zoning complications.

Gabe Cohen, 50, had originally planned to open a storefront to help people struggling with trauma, addiction, homelessness and other mental health challenges in downtown Rifle. Called Discovery Cafe, Cohen said the facility would provide nutritious meals, recovery classes and various other activities for members who are at least 24 hours sober.

However, after making a $900 deposit with the landlord and applying fresh paint to the interior walls, Cohen was told he had to find some place else to open the cafe.

“It’s disheartening,” Cohen said. “It sucks.”

Rifle City Planner II Brian Rusche explained that Cohen did not contact the city first regarding the specific use of the storefront.

“What we do with any project that comes in, if someone has an idea and has a location, we see what they’re looking to do with the zoning code and see if it fits in the zone,” he said.

“That’s why we encourage people who are opening businesses or anything like that to contact us first and to talk through what their ideas are to see if that fits within our codes,” Rusche said.

Other nonprofit entities in Rifle that also provide free social services include places like LIFT-UP, Reach Out Colorado and St. Mary’s Catholic Church, among others.

Currently, Cohen is looking for a new location to open Discovery Cafe in Rifle.

A STORY OF RESILIENCE

Navigating homelessness can require all sorts of dangerous activities, Cohen said.

“What I knew how to do well was survive on the street,” he said. “I didn’t know how to get into society and maintain. You could drop me off anywhere and I feel like I could survive.”

Without a place to live with a persistent drug habit, Cohen, 50, remembers spending his vagrant days middle-manning drug deals to get high for free, committing petty theft and keeping tabs on where the nearest soup kitchen was.

“It’s that vicious cycle of, I could get on my feet, get a couple months clean, get an apartment, get a job, relapse, go back to jail, lose my apartment, lose everything, get out, be homeless,” Cohen said. “I was homeless several times.”

Cohen became addicted to cocaine when he was 15 years old. Cohen said he went to therapy and classes to rid himself of the cycle.

Now a recovering cocaine addict, multiple felon and someone who’s flipped his life upside down 180 degrees, “the life” has compelled this New Castle resident to pursue opening the Discovery Cafe.

He looks to help other Garfield County residents struggling with afflictions like drug addiction, homelessness and mental health issues.

The “Discovery Cafe” aims to deliver a community of belonging to its members, said Cohen. Intervention elements such as recovery meetings, peer-to-peer support classes and daily nutritional meals, among other amenities, will be provided to people that fall in these categories.

“It’s not a crash pad for people that are out there getting high that want to come in and get warm and get something to eat,” Cohen said. “I’m not going to not feed somebody if they’re hungry, but to be a member you’ve got to be sober, you’ve got to attend a recovery meeting and you’ve got to help run the cafe.”

So far, Cohen has been approved to receive a $50,000 grant through the Recovery Cafe organization, a Seattle-based network that has more than 20 cafes around the country. He said those funds will help support the upcoming Discovery Cafe in Rifle.

Cohen said the Sonlight Foursquare Church has also helped with the fundraising process.

In addition, once the cafe opens — the plan is some time next year, Cohen noted – he said it won’t just be open to those without a home, drug addicts and people with mental issues. The cafe will also be open to lower-income people who simply need a place to go and a bite to eat.

“My mission is to be obedient to my calling,” Cohen said. “I believe this is what God wants me to do right now… I didn’t plan it, but I’m going with it.”

WHAT’S NEXT?

Cohen has already found several prospects as to where the Discovery Cafe should find its home.

He said a church community meeting this past Saturday has prompted people to propose their ideas on where the cafe should go in Rifle.

“I’m basically waiting for people to get back to me,” Cohen said.

rerku@citizentelegram.com

Rifle Gap, Grass Valley reservoirs teem with ice fishers

Clint Charboneau and his dog, Toby, do a little ice fishing Saturday at Rifle Gap Reservoir. Ray Erku / Post Independent

Nestled among a slew of bright-colored ice shacks dotted on the frozen surface of Rifle Gap Reservoir, Clint Charboneau braved the rough winds as he kneeled with his dog Toby beside a bored out hole, an ice-fishing pole in his grip.

It was a little after noon, and the Rifle appliance repair company operator had already been out on this tundra-like surface for a couple hours. His father, Don, sat perhaps a little more cozily inside the tandem’s nearby ice-fishing shack.

Rifle resident Don Charboneau catches a fish Saturday at Rifle Gap Reservoir. Ray Erku / Post Independent

Meal worms on the younger Charboneau’s hook, nibbles from rainbow trout were occasional, as distant mountain peaks shone bright beneath minimal cloud coverage.

“We put ‘em back,” he said, dressed in thick layers as Toby looks on anxiously. “They were eaters but we weren’t keeping ‘em today.”

A lack of bites didn’t really matter for the Rifle native, an avid hunter and fisher. Since December, when the water finally hardened to a safe sheet of ice, he said he’s already been out fishing four times. Plus, it’s just good to get out of town.

“I go about every weekend,” Charboneau said. “I just like getting out here — it’s better than sitting in the house, any day of the week.”

Charboneau wasn’t the only one enjoying the nice, mostly sunny weather Saturday at the reservoir. Like the front lot at a car dealership, a fleet of trucks and sedans lined the main boat launch at Rifle Gap State Park.

Ice shacks out on Grass Valley Reservoir on Saturday. Ray Erku / Post Independent

It was a similar scene over at Grass Valley Reservoir a few miles to the east — heavily-layered people trudging through snow, sleds full with crumpled tarps, augers, buckets and poles dragging slowly behind, mountains blue with trees surrounding the shore.

Just after Charboneau joked about how his father Don “stole the shack” for this bitterly cold day, Don experienced another bit of good fortune: a bite!

He rushed from the comforts of his tarped palace to a hole and eventually reeled up a small trout, snow enveloping the fish’s silver scales.

A rainbow trout caught from a frozen Rifle Gap Reservoir gripped in the glove of an ice fisher Saturday. Ray Erku / Post Independent

The catch marked a good day of fishing for the Charboneaus. After a little while, son Clint said he will go home to his TV to end the day.

“I’ll maybe watch some football,” he said.

rerku@postindependent.com

After Garfield County cuts funding, Rifle Animal Shelter looks to stretch funding

Rifle Animal Shelter Director of Development Kalli Wilson takes adoptable dog Titan out for a walk in the open yard at the shelter Dec. 16.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Rifle Animal Shelter Executive Director Heather Grant was asked her thoughts on the cut.

“It was hard to take, because animal welfare is our mission,” she said. “I understand the predicament Garfield County and the sheriff’s department are under. I mean, there’s not enough funding. But I think to completely eliminate the program, it wouldn’t have been the choice I would’ve made… It’s a big risk for our community.”

Garfield County Commissioners on Dec. 7 officially finalized the complete cut of the county’s animal control program. The program had served county residents for 17 years. This means there will be no county agents to track and capture loose pets, livestock and wildlife.

As of Sunday, the county no longer has anyone available to respond to the nearly 2,000 calls per year they regularly answer, according to the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office.

Instead, that responsibility will fall on municipalities, their law enforcers and their animal shelters — that is, if they have one.

Rifle Animal Shelter are concerned about the future of stray dogs and cats after the Garfield County Sheriff's Office was forced to remove the animal control program due to budget cuts.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

“We think that we will see an increase in animal calls and an increase for requests for our services,” said Rifle Police Chief Tommy Klein. “People will be bringing animals to us, since that service is no longer available in the county.”

Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario was faced with the tough decision when commissioners told him he needed to cut upwards of $1.04 million from the sheriff’s office 2021 budget.

“He has to make cuts, there’s no doubt about it,” Klein said. “It’s a hard decision. I’m glad I don’t have to make that decision, but I know that it’s a much used, needed service.”

Unlike corrections, investigative and patrol services,, state statute does not require a county sheriff to offer animal control services. That’s why the service — which makes up about $500,000 of the sheriff’s $20 million budget – was eliminated, Vallario said. Now, the sheriff’s department and county will not be responding to certain calls for animal assistance.

“We handle a lot of wildlife calls, and those are going to have to be kicked to parks and wildlife,” Vallario said.

Vallario also acknowledged that eliminating the program, which provided vaccine clinics and vouchers for reduced neutering and spaying costs, could add to the county’s stray animal numbers.

“Hopefully, people won’t not get their animals spayed and neutered because they can’t get the money for the sheriff’s office or Garfield County,” he said. “So, we’re concerned about that.”

The sheriff’s office will:

• Handle calls involving dog bites

• Handle cases of “animal cruelty” etc.

• Work with other agencies in “emergency situations” to protect the health and safety of the public where an immediate threat or danger exists, such as large animals on the Interstate etc.

The sheriff’s office will not:

• Handle lost/found pets

• Trap stray animals, feral cats, etc.

• Provide assistance to spay, neuter, or fund required vaccinations etc.

• Transport animals to either the Rifle Animal Shelter, CARE or any other Animal Shelter.

• Collect or corral wandering livestock.

In addition, the release states, all wildlife calls should go directly to CPW through the Colorado State Patrol Dispatch.

“Livestock related calls wandering cows, goats, horses, etc., should be referred to the brand inspector,” the release states. “If an individual picks up an animal or rescues a stray, they should be prepared to take that animal to an animal shelter.”

The Rifle Animal Shelter and Colorado Animal Rescue shelter in Glenwood Springs still have contracts with the county, said Grant. For this year, the Rifle shelter received a $50,000 grant from the county to help support the organization.

However, Grant said that they’re stretching that money out as best as possible. The shelter, which fostered 1,972 animals last year, will likely see more residents bring in stray animals.

“There’s no agents picking up animals, getting them to owners,” she said. “We’ll be taking those animals and municipalities, they will have to pay for those animals.”

rerku@citizentelegram.com

Garfield County awards $25,000 toward Rifle economic development

Rifle’s coworking space on Third Street opened its doors in spring of 2019.
Provided

The Rifle Regional Economic Development Corporation’s efforts at providing COVID-19 assistance and to plan for the future of the new coworking space got a $25,000 boost from Garfield County on Monday.

County commissioners unanimously approved a request from new RREDC Executive Director Tyler Kelly for the county economic development grant.

The grant amount is to be matched by private donors, he said.

Kelly, who joined the organization in October, said in his annual report to the commissioners that the RREDC this year has provided forgivable loans and grants to area businesses, including several restaurants, to help during the COVID-19 restrictions.

“That has certainly made a difference for them in surviving this pandemic,” he said.

The organization is also planning for expanded use of the Rifle Cowork space on Third Street in 2021. Kelly noted that one possible result of people working from home during the pandemic is a transition away from traditional office spaces.

Coworking spaces, such as the one that opened its doors in Rifle in May 2019, could become more of an option for remote workers and start-up business ventures, he said.

Kelly also pointed to an influx of businesses and work-from-home professionals relocating to the Rifle area in the past year. That, in turn, has helped drive an increase in residential property sales and valuations, which itself is a form of economic development, he said.

“We encourage this kind of growth and economic vitality in our area,” Kelly said.

The RREDC operates as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, “focused on advancing economic development strategies and projects with the goal of job creation in western Garfield County,” according to a description on the RREDC website.

jstroud@postindependent.com