County weighs cost vs. access in new Rifle office decision |

County weighs cost vs. access in new Rifle office decision

Ryan Graff
Special to the Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS” The Garfield County Commissioners could have up to a million-dollar decision to make.

On Monday the commissioners heard a report from county engineer Randy Withee on the estimated costs to replace the county services office building now located on Taughenbaugh Boulevard in Rifle.

The two new locations under consideration are county-owned land near the Garfield County Airport, and in Rifle at 1800 Railroad Ave., where the county court offices are now located.

A replacement facility could be built for $3.5 million at either location, according to the report. But at the Railroad Avenue location, the $3.5 million would buy a building projected to serve the county’s growing population for five years, he reported.

Spending the $3.5 million at the county airport location would buy an additional 7,000 square feet and a facility that would serve Rifle’s needs for the next 20 years, said Commissioner Larry McCown.

At the Railroad Avenue site, a building big enough to serve the county’s needs for 20 years would cost $400,000 to $1 million more than the airport plan, said McCown.

The Taughenbaugh building currently houses the Department of Social Services and the Department of Public Health.

Since the courts must be located within city limits, design costs for the airport site cover a building for social services and public health at the airport, while constructing or remodeling the courts building at 1800 Railroad Ave.

Decision hinges on access

Apart from deciding how much money to spend, the commissioners must also look at other issues.

“There’s a lot more to this decision than just the numbers,” said Commissioner Tresi Houpt.

In a letter to the commissioners, the Rifle City Council urged the board to locate the new building within city limits.

The letter cites better access for clients of the courts, public health department and social services. And having the building in town would benefit local businesses, the council wrote.

“We believe real estate costs should not be the sole determining factor in where the county chooses to build the proposed facilities,” said the letter.

Houpt said Monday that social services and public health should be located near downtown Rifle, where they would be easily accessible to people who use them.

The airport location is three miles from Rifle, and no public transportation service is available to that location.

Withee’s report also included an informal study of how people access the social services and public health departments.

The report found that 95 percent of social services clients got there by either their own car or someone else’s, while 76 percent of public health clients traveled by car.

“I don’t want to prohibit anyone from being able to access the services, but I don’t think we will,” said McCown.

Other factors in the decision are expansion possibilities, and the ability of all the programs to continue to function during construction.

If the plan to build near the airport were adopted, “all programs would continue to function and we would save between $400,000 and a million dollars,” said McCown. “And I’m having trouble finding what’s wrong with that.”

McCown expects the commission to make a decision on where to build the new facility by March 1.

Other action by commissioners

In other action Monday, the County Commissioners:

– Approved a municipal services agreement for the county jail. The agreement allows municipalities to continue holding prisoners in the county jail. In the past municipalities paid the county $15 a day to hold its prisoners. The new agreement still allows municipalities to hold prisoners in the county jail, but does not require them to pay the fee.

– Entered into an intergovernmental agreement to establish an Interstate 70 Central Mountain Transportation Corridor Coalition.

The agreement is between Garfield County and several other counties and towns along the I-70 corridor. The governments want more say in Colorado Department of Transportation plans to widen

I-70 to six lanes between Morrison and Vail.

The coalition would like to have local alternatives to widening the highway and input into CDOT’s plans, said Commissioner John Martin.

Contact Ryan Graff: 945-8515, ext. 534

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