Ritter applauds Rifle for its energy achievements | PostIndependent.com

Ritter applauds Rifle for its energy achievements

John Gardner
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
John Gardner Post IndependentGov. Bill Ritter speaks to a packed crowd in the Community Room at the new Rifle Branch of the Garfield County Library District in Rifle, Thursday Afternoon.

RIFLE, Colorado – Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter visited Rifle Thursday afternoon and praised the town’s elected officials and community leaders for their dedication to promote new renewable energy and economic viability.

The governor’s visit focused on Rifle’s accomplishments through the statewide pilot program, the Sustainable Main Street Initiative, and new energy achievements as part of the Garfield-New Energy Communities Initiative (G-NECI).

Ritter launched the Sustainable Main Streets Initiative in April with the goal of helping smaller communities across Colorado revitalize their downtown cores, boost economic development and incorporate improved energy efficiency and technology into their projects. The pilot program ends this month. It was led by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the Governor’s Office.

“We wanted to ensure that the people of this state were able to look at state government as a partner in building a viable community,” Ritter said.

He said that the program’s success was evident in the projects that Rifle has been able to move forward with, despite the economic downturn.

Rifle benefited greatly through the initiative. The city has seen progress in several projects including plans for a Health and Wellness Center at the former Valley Lumber site, a Small Business Resource Center through a partnership between the library, the Rifle Economic Development Corp., the Roaring Fork Business Resource Center, the Downtown Development Authority and the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce.

Other projects include exterior renovations to the historic Ute Theater in downtown Rifle, and with funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation and HUD, the city will evaluate land use and building scenarios that will allow stakeholders to identify alternatives for sustainable downtown revitalization.

“In part, it was about old buildings that we could restore, and the viability we could bring the community,” Ritter said, “But it was really also about energy use, energy production, and about the things that are happening in Garfield County that will really make a difference in your life and in your children’s lives.”

It’s a program that Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert said the city can be proud to have been part of.

“We are very grateful to the governor for picking us for the Sustainable Main Street program, and we hope to carry it forward past the scope of his term in office,” Lambert said.

The mayor included that it was somewhat of a surprise, to him, that Rifle was chosen. But, he said, it was an honor nonetheless.

“We’ve had conversations with [Ritter] and with his staff, and other departments in his office on various things, but this was kind of a crowning moment for us in that respect,” Lambert said.

The governor said that he chose Rifle as one of the four pilot communities because of the visions the political and community leaders had for the community.

“Why is Rifle so interesting to me? It’s because it’s a place that has huge amounts of natural gas, fossil fuels, and it’s an area that has a lot of extractive industry going on. And yet, the political leadership and the community leadership is thinking about all sources of energy,” Ritter said. “There aren’t very many places in America that have relied so heavily on the extractive industry that have said, ‘Let’s diversify and look at solar. Let’s look at wind. Let’s look at geothermal,’ and ask questions about how we can participate in a clean energy economy.”

Ritter called Rifle an “energy center,” if not the energy hub of Colorado, which the state, and nation, could look to in terms of energy use and looking toward the future.

“With all the extractive industry, particularly the natural gas industry, there are people in this room that know that I’ve been in the middle of trying to build out an energy vision for the community and the rest of the state. A clean energy division for the state that shows it’s possible to utilize energy in a way to reduce emissions that result from the way energy is produced through traditional means, while creating jobs and dealing with environmental challenges, as well,” he said.

Ritter told the crowd that he considered the program was one of his greatest successes as governor.

“We believe that the Sustainable Main Street Initiative is one of the best things that we’ve done to demonstrate that government can work for people and it can be about something more than just a single department taking care of its little part of the mission,” Ritter said.

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