State funding making a difference for city of Rifle
Citizen Telegram Editor
If it wasn’t for funding from the Federal Mineral Lease and severance tax direct distributions, Rifle might be a very different place than it is today.
So says City Manager Matt Sturgeon, who reports that the city has received more in energy impacts funds and direct distributions than any other municipality in Garfield County. In 2014, the city received more than $1.5 million in federal mineral lease funds and a little more than $734,000 in severance tax direct distribution.
“If these funding sources (grants and direct distribution) had not been available for the last three decades, Rifle would look and feel like a very different place,” Sturgeon said. “Fees for water and waste water service would likely be much higher, and it would have been more costly for new construction.”
Mayors from Rifle, Silt and around Garfield County recently attended a conference in Denver held by Gov. John Hickenlooper.
“The Department of Local Affairs has assisted the city of Rifle on many capital improvement projects through the Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Program,” said Rifle Mayor Randy Winkler. “Many of these projects have been, and continue to be, significant infrastructure improvements for the city of Rifle.”
Since 1979, Rifle has received $22.7 million in competitive grant dollars — more than any jurisdiction in the state of Colorado. The majority of those funds have gone towards water, wastewater and street projects, including the two roundabouts off Interstate 70.
“Our most recent grants include $800,000 for a natural gas generator and $2 million to help purchase membranes — both for the water treatment plant,” Sturgeon said.
The Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Fund program has been in place since 1977 and provides support for infrastructure and community development projects throughout the state.
The Department of Local Affairs distributes direct distribution revenue from energy and mineral extraction statewide, which comes from state severance tax and Federal Mineral Lease payments that are distributed to local governments based on a formula that takes into account the number of production employees in the energy-impacted communities as well as permits, production, population and highway user miles.
“This  was a good year,” Sturgeon said. “We received more than we have in several years. But we always budget conservatively. This money has made some notable contributions to the community at large. Without it, Rifle would be a whole different landscape — it would be a different world.”
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A continued decline in natural gas industry activity in Garfield County resulted in fewer members and fewer complaints from residents over the past year for Community Counts Colorado.