County, energy companies, developer to chip in to fix intersection near Parachute |

County, energy companies, developer to chip in to fix intersection near Parachute

John Colson
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Among the more vexing problems facing the Garfield County government in recent years has been the task of keeping county roads in good repair despite the increasing wear and tear caused by everything from industrial vehicles to family SUVs.

One trouble spot for the past several years has been near Parachute at the intersection of U.S. Highway 6 and County Road 300, which is a main access to the Travelers Highlands commercial subdivision, along with a couple of gravel pits and other industrial or commercial complexes.

The intersection is expected to experience considerable use by gas industry vehicles and other heavy trucks in the coming years.

County staff members have been working for more than a year to fashion a cost-sharing deal involving several energy companies, developers and the county.

The issue has consumed untold hours of conferences and meetings between county staff and representatives from the private interests, as well as considerable time for staff members to prepare memos for the Board of County Commissioners and present those memos at regular commissioners meetings.

And while there are still questions to be answered and conflicts to be resolved, it appears that a final agreement is moving closer.

The intersection has been in trouble at least since 2007, when two county commissioners voted to delay further work on the project until the developers and lot owners, who had begun construction of the buildings, figured out how to improve access.

According to a Post Independent story, in December of that year commissioners Tresi Houpt and Larry McCown voted to hold up any further building permits until the subdivision fulfilled access recommendations from the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Commissioner John Martin reportedly dissented on the grounds that construction already under way should not be interrupted, and the commissioners approved two certificates of occupancy that already had been authorized by the county’s building officials.

The following year, in 2008, when the access issues still had not been resolved, the commissioners agreed to form a “special improvements district” to deal with the access issue, with the county commissioners themselves serving as the board of directors for the district. The issue has come up periodically ever since.

In a meeting on Dec. 13, the county’s project engineer, Betsy Suerth, informed the commissioners that the estimated cost of $1.5 million to rebuild the intersection, with better turning lanes and other improvements, could be shared by the Strong PUD industrial park, the Travelers Highlands developers, the Una Gravel Pit, and four energy companies – Williams, EnCana, Laramie and Antero.

One uncertainty is the amount the Travelers Highlands developers will pay. Originally they were to pay more than $700,000, according to earlier memos to the commissioners.

But as of Dec. 13, Suerth reported, the development was behind on its taxes and in financial distress.

“There’s no way that they’re going to be able to pay $700,000,” said Commissioner John Martin at the meeting.

The other commissioners agreed, and opted to push for a cost-sharing option that called for Travelers Highlands to pay a total of $450,000 over three years.

The energy companies have agreed to pay between them a total of up to $500,000, depending on how much Antero ultimately agrees to contribute, Suerth said. As things now stand, she explained Williams and EnCana will pay $165,000 each; Laramie will pay $35,000, and Antero has agreed to pay a “range from $20,000 to $135,000,” according to Suerth’s memo.

The range, she explained, is a reflection of uncertainty regarding the company’s plans to drill up to 200 wells in the nearby Battlement Mesa Planned Unit Development, an unincorporated community of more than 5,000.

Once the company knows the full extent of its drilling approvals, and its related traffic impacts on the CR 300/U.S. 6 intersection, it will make an exact commitment to the cost-sharing deal, Suerth explained.

Garfield County’s share, as of the Dec. 13 meeting, was to be between $446,500 and $561,500, depending on Antero’s contribution.

In addition, said Commissioner John Martin, the deal as it now stands “means that the county is going to front most of the money to get the project done and then try to get its money back,” referring to the Travelers Highlands share as well as the lack of certainty about Antero’s contribution.

Officials at the meeting said the county’s 2011 budget already contains $1.5 million for the intersection project up-front.

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