Garfield county surveyor race: Incumbent faces off against unaffiliated write-in candidate |

Garfield county surveyor race: Incumbent faces off against unaffiliated write-in candidate

John Colson
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

The election contest for the job of Garfield County surveyor shares two attributes with other races on the local ballot – a former holder of the office is trying to get his old job back, and voters must remember to write in the name of one of the candidates seeking the position.

The surveyor’s duties, according to county documents, “are to settle boundary disputes … and review plats for content and form prior to recording.”

The surveyor’s budget for 2010 is $50,800, including $4,488 in salaries and wages for the surveyor and the deputy surveyor; $19,800 in benefits, $22,500 for “professional and technical services,” and $4,000 in related costs.

Sam Phelps owns the business, Survco, Inc. and was the county’s surveyor from 1993 to 2003, when he stepped down. According to published reports at the time, no one signed up to run for the elective position, and the board of county commissioners appointed incumbent Scott Aibner, who has held the office ever since.

Phelps said one reason he is running is that people have asked him to.

“I’ve had people tell me they can never get a hold of the current surveyor,” Phelps said, noting that Aibner’s private surveying company is based in Rifle.

He said that, because his business is based in Glenwood Springs, he would be more accessible to residents with questions, problems or suggestions.

“I’m over at the courthouse quite a bit,” he said.

Aibner, a Republican and owner of River Valley Survey in Rifle, admitted that “I have been hard to get a hold of from time to time” in the past, but he maintained that it is no longer true.

He maintained that voters should keep him on the job to take advantage of his experience and his good relations with other departments in the county, which often end up turning to him for records checks, surveying work and other needs.

Although the position was at one time an important post, Aibner once told the Post Independent, “Most people don’t even realize that the surveyor is an elected position.”

In Garfield County’s early days, surveyors were involved in dividing up land that was still being settled, and even helping establish a property’s value, the way the county assessor does now, he said.

“They were the first people out on it and it gave them a lot of responsibility. They had a lot of say, a lot of clout,” Aibner said.

The county surveyor’s job is “less crucial today,” he continued, noting that he has been earning roughly $320 per month in salary for his work, explaining that for actual surveying work he gives the county a 15 percent discount on his normal fee.

Phelps noted that he is an unaffiliated candidate, which precluded him from getting his name printed on the ballots.

He stressed that, as a write-in, he needs voters to check the box next to the “write-in” line on the ballot, and then write in his name on the line.

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