Price range impacts because of the ongoing downturn within the pure gasoline business are driving Garfield County’s coverage directives for 2021, with a watch towards diversifying the county’s financial base.
County commissioners just lately adopted their “Directives and Motion Plan” for the yr, giving weight each to the realities of operating a county with fewer revenues and trying to some new areas for financial improvement potential.
The county this yr made across-the-board finances cuts of 5%, together with eliminating 18 jobs via attrition and reducing applications such because the Sheriff’s Workplace animal management division and the Youth Conservation Corps outside tasks summer time employment program.
“We’re reducing out issues we’ve finished for years that we’re not going to have the ability to do anymore,” mentioned County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, who sits on the county’s Price range Crew committee.
“Essentially the most essential problem we now have to cope with proper now could be our lack of revenues, and that’s going to be entrance and middle for not less than two extra years,” Jankovsky mentioned of seemingly extra finances cuts over the following years.
However, “Regardless that we’re in a troublesome finances cycle, we now have some nice objectives on the market,” he mentioned. “These coverage directives come out of our marketing strategy and there are lots of issues we are going to get finished in 2021.”
Amongst them is a protracted checklist of infrastructure funding, from county roads and bridges and broadband capabilities, to continued enhancements on the County Fairgrounds in Rifle and implementation of a 10-year grasp plan for the Rifle Garfield County Airport.
“It’s good when we now have departments that pay for themselves, and the airport is one in all them,” Jankovsky mentioned.
This yr, the county’s fixed-base operator, Atlantic Aviation, is planning to construct one other $9 million hangar to maintain up with the rising calls for of the ability. The airport doesn’t provide industrial passenger service, however is a significant regional hub for air freight, personal jet and small aircraft providers, and serves as a base for wildland firefighting and unmanned aerial car (drone) coaching.
At this level, the county plans to proceed with the Garfield County Honest and Rodeo in early August, relying on the place issues stand with COVID-19 limits on gatherings.
Even when that occasion needs to be scaled again, the county continues to spend money on the fairgrounds with latest adjoining land purchases to assist accommodate a brand new 4H outside training middle.
The county’s coverage directives for the yr additionally contact on psychological well being help wants within the county, working with the town of Glenwood Springs and well being care suppliers to construct a detox middle regionally and ongoing COVID-19 vaccination and financial restoration efforts.
Photo voltaic potential
One bullet level beneath the county’s financial improvement objectives for the yr “actually needs to be in daring print,” Jankovsky mentioned.
That’s the objective to proceed the county’s work with the inter-governmental Garfield Clear Vitality coalition and its administrative group, Clear Vitality Economic system for the Area (CLEER) to additional renewable vitality improvement within the tri-county area.
“If there are going to be new federal or state grants for photo voltaic improvement, we should be on the forefront to attempt to deliver these to Garfield County,” Jankovsky mentioned.
CLEER is nearing the conclusion of a challenge to map out potential photo voltaic vitality websites in Garfield and neighboring Eagle and Pitkin counties, and the potential is big for western Garfield County specifically, he mentioned.
Whereas not more likely to absolutely change the loss in county tax revenues from pure gasoline and different extractive business, it’s one thing the county should embrace, Jankovsky mentioned.
And, whereas President Joe Biden’s new local weather disaster plan directives shut off federal lands for brand new oil and gasoline leasing, there’s the potential for leasing to happen for photo voltaic and wind websites, he surmised.
As with pure gasoline, photo voltaic services nonetheless can’t be located too distant from infrastructure akin to electrical transmission traces, he famous. And, there’s potential for some jobs alternative, he famous.
Additionally maybe cushioning the blow to the pure gasoline business is the robust residential actual property market.
“Sooner or later, I consider our income state of affairs will stage out,” he mentioned.
However, the excessive demand for residential properties within the mountain-resort area with the growth within the “work-from-home” market additionally presents some issues, he mentioned.
“It undoubtedly impacts numerous our different points … with the price of housing, the price of transportation and high quality of life,” Jankovsky mentioned.
Nonetheless obtained gasoline
Although the pure gasoline business has been hit onerous by a mix of present low gasoline costs and new state and federal laws, a significant precedence for Garfield County continues to be to battle on a number of fronts to take care of vitality improvement as a viable financial sector.
The county plans to proceed its involvement with the 23-member Western and Rural Native Governments Coalition to research the socio-economic impacts of the state’s new Senate Invoice 181 guidelines and laws.
Authorities coalition efforts to advocate for continued federal Funds in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) reimbursements, mineral leasing, and rural colleges funds additionally proceed to be a precedence for the county.
And, with the Biden administration’s local weather aims, the county expects renewed battles over pure useful resource improvement and a number of makes use of of federal lands, wildlife protections and infrastructure for export of pure gasoline, such because the Jordan Cove challenge in Oregon.
These will seemingly be matters on the Garfield Vitality Advisory Board’s upcoming West Slope Vitality and Surroundings Symposium, the place operators and native governments will collect to speak about these impacts.
“One factor Senate Invoice 181 goes to do is flip oil and gasoline regulation in Colorado right into a patchwork of various guidelines and laws, the place each county and municipality is now arising with their very own guidelines and laws,” Jankovsky mentioned.
He mentioned the brand new 2,000-foot setback from houses, colleges and different occupied buildings for properly pads will make it onerous for future pure gasoline wells to be developed in some areas, together with tapping into the deeper Niobrara geologic formation that holds huge pure gasoline reserves.
“There are some ‘off-ramps’ to that setback that may be thought of, and that’s one thing we now have to look intently at,” he mentioned. As soon as the worth of pure gasoline comes again up, improvement of that useful resource will turn into viable, he mentioned.
Within the meantime, Jankovsky mentioned the county additionally continues to help efforts to develop the outside recreation and tourism business within the area.
“After I look again at my 30 years in tourism right here, the quantity of progress within the tourism sector is basically superb,” Jankovsky, the previous basic supervisor and nonetheless half proprietor of Daylight Mountain ski resort, mentioned.
Nonetheless, whereas tourism would possibly offset job losses within the vitality sector, the pay shouldn’t be comparable and the tax base shouldn’t be almost the identical, he mentioned.