Garfield County reviews capital expenses |

Garfield County reviews capital expenses

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

The Garfield County commissioners meet in Rifle today to review, in part, more than $80 million worth of capital improvement projects that either will or will not be pursued in the coming five or six years.

A list of projects, some of them recommended for funding and some not recommended, was submitted to the Board of County Commissioners during a special meeting on March 29, by county finance director Lisa Dawson.

The commissioners, mindful of an expected drop in revenues next year thanks to the national recession, will discuss which projects could be undertaken and which can be put off.

On the list of “recommended projects” for 2010, according to Dawson’s review, are more than $18 million worth of road work, equipment purchases, completion of construction projects, vehicle replacement programs and more.

Topping the 2010 list of “recommended projects” is $7.2 million in projects and equipment purchases for the county’s road and bridge department, according to Dawson.

The road and bridge projects include $5 million worth of “infrastructure and major road overlays,” the purchase of $1.2 million in heavy equipment and creation of a satellite county shop facility in Battlement Mesa, at an estimated cost of $1 million.

Other recommendations cover airport improvements, landfill improvements, completion of a sheriff’s department annex in Rifle and a Department of Human Services building, also in Rifle, and replacement of vehicles in the county’s motor pool.

Notably not on the 2010 list, noted County Manager Ed Green, were anticipated expenses toward construction of a new West Parachute Interchange on I-70. The $1 million that had once been anticipated for this year’s budget was moved to 2011, he said, and an additional $1.5 million was shifted from 2011 to 2012.

Dawson’s memo also details more than $30 million in possible projects that are “not recommended” over the course of the next five or six years.

In a discussion with the commissioners, Green explained, “The issue with the budget over the next five years is capital projects.” He said the county expects to have sufficient revenues in the coming years to cover operational costs, but the list of expensive capital projects “is going to drag down your fund balance.”

The county has projected a fund balance – the amount of money left in the county’s coffers at the end of the year – at perhaps as much as $125 million this year, if no capital projects are undertaken. The surplus is thanks to such things as state mineral lease fees and severance tax payments and the county’s ongoing budget trimming efforts, and commissioners have repeatedly characterized the surplus as a cushion against lean times ahead.

Over the coming five years or so, according to Dawson’s memo, the reserves would drop to about $75 million if all of the county staff’s project recommendations were endorsed by the commissioners and the money spent.

But, noted Green and Dawson, there are a number of items on each year’s list of recommended projects where the commissioners have “flexibility” in deciding whether to do something or delay it.

For example, Dawson and Green indicated that the resurfacing of Four Mile Road south of Glenwood Springs, which would cost roughly $1 million, is one of those that has “flexibility” in terms of timing, and is listed as “recommended” every year from 2011 until 2013.

Also “not recommended,” for 2011, is construction of a new county office building at a cost of between $14 million and $16 million, along with several other building projects.

The meeting in Rifle, at the county Health and Human Services building, is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m., and will include a variety of topics in addition to the capital projects review.

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