Houpt, Reynolds square off at forum
RIFLE – The differences on the issues between Garfield County Commissioner candidates Tresi Houpt and Steve Reynolds appeared small at the first public election forum, held Thursday night at Rifle City Hall.Houpt, the incumbent Democratic candidate and Reynolds, a Republican, agreed on most everything they were asked about at the forum, except one.The pair had opposing views on a proposed surface use initiative dealing with the impacts of oil and gas development which failed in the legislature earlier this year.”I opposed that,” Reynolds said. “It didn’t provide anything more than we already had in existence. I’m reluctant to support constitutional amendments. Colorado already has two- or three-times more than (anywhere else). It seems (the initiative) would be opening the flood gates for lawyers.”
Houpt disagreed.”I supported that initiative, but it wasn’t able to get through the legislature,” she said. “I do think we need to find a solution.”Both Reynolds and Houpt agreed that Garfield County needs to continue to improve their relationships with local municipalities.”If I’m elected, I plan to attend all the city council meetings,” Reynolds said. “When we’re working toward the same issues, we should meet before we make a decision, therefore we’re on the same page. I believe communication is the most important part.”Houpt said communication was important to both the county and the municipalities.
“I don’t think any of us have the resources in Garfield County without working closely together,” she said.When asked if Garfield County should switch from a statutory county to home rule with more commissioners serving on the board, both felt it was something that should be looked into.On the subject of gravel pit construction and expansions, Houpt said she was in favor of a regional plan as suggested by the Rifle City Council.”It seems to make a lot of sense,” Houpt said. “We’ve talked with gravel pit owners and they’re not opposed. I support the process we’re having right now.”Reynolds said he believed reclamation was the key to successful gravel pit operations.
Both said that the issue of severance tax distribution to offset impacts from the oil and gas industry should be examined more closely.Reynolds said he would like to look at where the impacts are and where the money should be distributed. He would also like to see the money staying on “this side of the hill.”Houpt said the needs across the county need to be addressed and supported working with the municipalities affected by the impacts.Both favored continuing the full-time county oil and gas liaison position that was established in 2003, but which has seen three people resign. Reynolds suggested that the position pay a higher wage to retain the person and Houpt said because of all that it encompassed, the county might want to hire additional support or create two positions.The commissioner position was just one of five county candidate debates held at the forum. Read about the treasurer, surveyor, county clerk and recorder and assessor in Saturday’s Post Independent.
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