County tables consultant contract

The Moffat County commissioners will still protest the value of Salt River Projects' portion of the Craig Station Power Plant, but they won't turn that protest into a legal battle -- for now.

The commissioner voted 2-1 on Tuesday to table indefinitely a contract with E3 Consults -- a national firm that specializes in assessments of power plants -- to lead a protest of the state's valuation of the property.

Commissioner Saed Tayyara voted against the motion.

"I just don't want to be trapped into the idea that we're not going to try again," he said.

Commissioners have debated for weeks whether to spend at least $53,600 to retain E3 to protest what the state has undervalued Salt River Project by $10 million.

A desktop study conducted by E3 Consulting, concluded the Colorado Division of Property Taxation is "grossly undervaluing" Salt River Project, and costing Moffat County tax districts as much as $695,146 in lost revenue.

County commissioner Tom Gray has been warned about protesting the value to the state's Board of Assessment Appeals.

"He said, 'If you go forward, be prepared,'" Gray said. "It's a long shot at best and it's going to cost a lot of money. I think we'd be playing with taxpayer dollars and gambling."

Gray said he's talked to officials in a county that has spent $1 million and 13 years protesting a valuation.

"They (large utility companies) have the power and they have the funds," Assessor Suzanne Brinks said.

Commissioner Darryl Steele said he opposed going forward with the protest because if the county won, and it loses a request that voters exempt the county a 1913 law that limits its revenues, it would have to return the money it earns from a reassessment to the taxpayers.

"We'd be taking a double shot," Steele said about losing the revenue and the cost of the appeal.

Tayyara said he doesn't see that as a risk.

"We don't want to lose our shot at capturing that money," he said. "I'd rather see it in the hands of the people -- taxpayers -- than the company. I'd rather fight as long as we can stand."

Commissioners agreed to keep their appeal date -- Aug. 18 -- and in the meantime try to negotiate with the state and Salt River Project to see whether the value can be reassessed.

"At this point we've got some time," Brinks said.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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