Rifle council jumps on idea to move county services building to fairgrounds

Heidi Rice
Rifle Correspondent

RIFLE ” A reportedly “tongue-in-cheek” suggestion by Garfield County Commissioner John Martin to relocate the county services building in Rifle to the Garfield County Fairgrounds instead of Airport Road, is being taken seriously by members of the Rifle City Council.

Council held a special meeting Thursday night to discuss the suggestion and agreed to support the fairgrounds site idea.

“It wasn’t one of our first choices, but it’s better than Airport Road,” said Councilman Alan Lambert. “And if (the fairgrounds) is our only choice, we can live with it.”

The city had hoped the county would construct a new building at 18th Street and Railroad Avenue where the county courts are currently located.

Commissioners in March voted 2-1 to move human services offices currently in a converted apartment building on Taughenbaugh Boulevard to a site on Airport Road ” about three miles outside of city limits. Commissioner Tresi Houpt voted against the Airport Road site, while Commissioners Martin and Larry McCown voted in favor of it.

Martin’s suggestion about the Garfield County Fairgrounds site was reportedly made at the April 19 county commission meeting, in response to a letter from the city government as well as a plea by the county’s Human Resource Department to keep the building within Rifle city limits to better accommodate those who use the services. The building houses the Department of Social Services and Garfield County Public Health.

“I was told he made a tongue-in-cheek comment at the last commissioner meeting to put the (county services building) on the baseball field at the fairgrounds,” said Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert.

Martin was unavailable for comment.

A vote on whether to go ahead with the Airport Road site or consider the location at the fairgrounds is slated for 10 a.m. Monday, at the regular county commission meeting. However, City Council members will ask to postpone the vote to allow for more talk on on the possibilities of a site at the fairgrounds.

“They’ve come out (with the ballpark location) and we’ve said, ‘Yeah, we’ll play,'” said Mayor Lambert. “But we want to request that they postpone their decision for a week until we have discussions with county staff.”

One of the major hurdles in relocating the building to the fairgrounds is that the existing Cooper Field ” used by the Re-2 School District for baseball games ” would have to be moved. The school district currently leases the property from the county.

The cost of constructing a new field is estimated at $500,000, according to county administrator Ed Greene. The city contends that the field needs to be upgraded anyway and that it could be relocated to Deerfield Park, a new subdivision where a ball park was already planned.

The costs involved in building a new baseball field could be split by four parties who have an interest in the project ” the city of Rifle, Garfield County, the Re-2 School District and a group called “Field of Dreams,” who have an interest in upgrading the existing ball park or building a new one.

“I think the commissioners will be looking for a reasonable contribution from you guys regarding the ball field,” Greene said to the council.

Should the county building be constructed at the Garfield County Fairgrounds site, Mayor Lambert says it would not affect the county fair or activities held at the location. It would shorten the race track, which is currently used only to exercise horses.

“For all intents and purposes, nothing should change,” Lambert said. “This shouldn’t affect the fairgrounds at all. The only thing that will happen is that the track is shortened. We don’t want the fairgrounds to go away at all. We want it to stay here.”

Lambert added that the input he has gotten from the community is that citizens would like to see the county building remain in city limits. What he wants is better communication between the city and the county in discussing the issue.

“All we have wanted all along is to have dialogue with the county,” Lambert said. “We want to have a working relationship.”

Contact Heidi Rice: 625-3245

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