One last chance to reverse courseon county office site
Garfield County commissioners have agreed to take one last look at where to build a new Rifle-area health and human services office.
Unfortunately, it’s likely to be little more than an act of courtesy to those continuing to call for finding an in-town location, rather than building near the county airport. Over the objections of Commissioner Tresi Houpt, Commissioners John Martin and Larry McCown already have voted to build at the airport location, and there’s no reason to think they’re going to reverse course now.
They argue that they can build more cheaply, and quickly, at the airport site. And they’re right as far as that goes.
But the city of Rifle and area nonprofit agencies counter that sometimes it’s better to take a little more time and spend a little more money to do things right. And if it can be done within a reasonable budget and time frame, building an office in Rifle is the right thing to do.
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As noted in this space before, placing the offices three miles out of town does a disservice to those who need county services. Some health and human service clients are less well off than many of us and have less access to vehicles. The county’s initial discussions about contracting with the Traveler senior bus service to run public transportation to the airport have shown that to be an expensive proposition.
With gasoline prices at an all-time high and the United States losing soldiers in a war with oil considerations, the county should try to avoid creating the need for more driving in the Rifle area.
Martin and McCown are certain to raise a legitimate potential obstacle to an in-town location for the office. The county’s insurance carrier wants the health and human service offices moved out of the current Taughenbaugh Building location quickly. Furnace problems there forced an evacuation in December due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Although the building’s heating units were replaced, it’s still an aging apartment building no longer suitable for offices.
Meanwhile, the former county road and bridge facility that commissioners had been eyeing for the offices turns out to be more contaminated from fuel spills than had earlier been believed. The cleanup will require excavating and removing dirt, and take longer than expected.
But proponents of an in-town location say other sites in Rifle would work for the offices.
Whether an appropriate site can be identified and acted on in a timely enough fashion is up to commissioners to decide. What’s important is that McCown and Martin at least ask themselves that question May 3 with an open mind, rather than going into the meeting with their minds already made up.
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