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County debates Rifle office location

The Garfield County Commissioners are debating the best place to build a new county office building in Rifle to replace the aging Taughenbaugh facility.

It’s a tough choice between a convenient in-town location on a narrow lot at 1800 Railroad Ave., or locating three miles away from town at the county airport, where there is plenty of room to grow.

The commissioners plan to meet with the Rifle City Council at 6 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall to discuss the project and see if city officials want to get involved.



In discussions Monday, Commissioner Tresi Houpt favored the in-town location because it would be more easily accessible by the people who use Social Services, the public health nurse and the county courts.

Commissioner Larry McCown of Rifle favored building on county land near the Garfield County Airport, near the county’s new road and bridge facility.



He said it’s in the best interests of taxpayers to build where expansion could happen in the future for a reasonable price.

Referring to the Railroad Avenue lot, McCown predicted the county would outgrow a structure built there within 20 years. “I don’t believe in doing things twice,” he said.

With no agreement in sight, Commissioner John Martin called on county staff to evaluate the space needs for the offices that would be using the new building.

The focus on a new building comes after a carbon monoxide scare at the Taughenbaugh facility. Monitors in the former apartment building, which houses the Rifle offices of Garfield County Social Services, the Public Health Nurse’s office and the Extension Service, went off on Dec. 18.

Rifle Fire Department crews determined that some of the building’s furnaces were leaking carbon monoxide gas, which can be deadly if it builds up in a closed space. Because the alarms went off when the gas was first apparent, no one got sick, said public health nurse Mary Meisner.

But workers were evacuated for the following two weeks while the county government replaced 10 furnaces in the complex, Meisner said.

The furnace problem is the latest to plague the facility, which was built during the oil shale boom and picked up by the county for a bargain price in the mid-1980s.

With the growth of Garfield County’s west-end communities, the county’s Rifle offices are getting heavier use. The combination of growth and a facility that is showing its age has prompted the commissioners to look to two options for a new county services building. It would also include the county court, now located in a free-standing building near LIFT-UP and the Rifle Metro Park pool.

During the county commissioners’ regular meeting Monday, architect Chuck Brenner of Glenwood Springs presented a sketch and rough cost estimates for building two versions of a three-story building on the two-acre Railroad Avenue lot, which is 642 feet long and 125 feet wide.

An 80-by-80-foot building would cost an estimated $3.3 million, while an 80-by-120-foot building would cost $6 million, he said.

It’s not certain whether a new building would incorporate or replace the existing courts building.

A further complication is the longtime use of a modular house on the lot by LIFT-UP, a nonprofit agency that helps poor people with food, clothing and shelter.

LIFT-UP director Mike Powell said he worries about coming up with the estimated $200,000 to $400,000 it will take to set up shop elsewhere in Rifle. But his board is confident it can be done, and that a bigger space will allow LIFT-UP to run a profit-making thrift store.

“It’s going to be a challenge to come up with the money, but it’s going to be a great move,” Powell said Monday.

Contact Heather McGregor: 945-8515, ext. 517

hmcgregor@postindependent.com


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