Spending in sight: Sens. Bennet, Hickenlooper tout local project in Moffat County tour
Senators helped secure federal funding for courthouse redo
U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper stopped in Moffat County this week to meet with local leaders and tour projects that have been funded through the congressional spending bill passed in March.
Moffat County officials gathered to meet with the senators and share the progress in Moffat County. It was a chance for local leaders to highlight both challenges and victories the county is experiencing.
All three Moffat County commissioners joined Craig Mayor Ryan Hess, City Manager Peter Brixius, Moffat County Sheriff KC Hume and Moffat County Development Services Director Roy Tipton to speak with Bennet about how the city and the county are working together on the county courthouse project and to address concerns for the future of the community.
“It’s an impressive group. The thing I was most impressed by is people rolling up their sleeves and working together,” Hickenlooper said after meeting with the local officials Thursday morning at Loudy-Simpson Park.
The focus of Hickenlooper’s visit was to get a better understanding of the overall transition with the power plant closing, how people are working together to develop solutions and how the state office can help.
Sen. Bennet focused his visit on a tour of the Moffat County Courthouse project, for which he and Hickenlooper helped secure $4.65 million in funding from the federal omnibus spending bill.
“Everyone is aware that we have some fights we are facing with the coal mines closing,” Moffat County Commissioner Tony Bohrer said. “Not only are we fighting the coal mines and power plants, we are also fighting the war on water and drought and agriculture.”
All three Moffat County Commissioners told Bennet about how local entities are coming together to find solutions for the challenges the community will face with coal mine and power plant closures.
“There are some good things happening, and we’d like to bring those up as well,” Commissioner Bohrer said. “We have some really great things on the horizon.”
According to Bohrer, there will be two large powerline projects coming to Moffat County that will help offset losses in property taxes and other problems from the coal mines and power plants closing. There is also a project on the horizon with a hydro facility potentially coming to Moffat County, which would be a $1.5 billion project.
“We know everybody in the cities is trying to get to the counties and to rural America. We aren’t afraid of sales tax going down, even with the closure of the plants. People are moving here as fast as they can,” Bohrer said. “It’s the property tax. We’re losing about 40% of our income. That’s why the courthouse project means so much to us, to bring all of those entities into one building.”
Commissioner Villard said a lot of available funding is focused on building new infrastructure rather than maintaining existing infrastructure. This project will allow the county to utilize existing infrastructure and become more effective and efficient.
“I think what Tony said about our community is resilience, and I think we are doing that on our own regardless of the support that we have,” Villard said.
One aspect of the project that made Moffat County’s funding proposal more compelling was the collaboration between the city and county. Hess said the project came out of a joint meeting in which both entities worked to identify how the money could be used most effectively in the community.
“It makes a huge difference. We can’t do it unless you guys are working together,” Bennet said. “And the resilience you’re talking about, I see all over the state of Colorado. You guys are facing some serious challenges here that we’ve talked about over a long time that are different from other places, but you can feel the resilience.”
With local officials, Bennet toured the in-progress courthouse, a project that is slated to be finished in January 2023.
Once complete, the courthouse will house all county offices that are currently spread out, including the Department of Human Services, Public Health, Veterans Services, CSU Extension, Department of Motor Vehicles and the County Employee Clinic, along with county court.
“The building is designed to operate securely and efficiently with minimal manpower,” said Tipon, who is serving as the project manager.
According to Tipton, the project cut the cost of building a new courthouse by half. The congressional funding will be used to repave and finish the parking lot and to install a solar farm on the site, which will further reduce operating costs.
Perhaps most important, the project should improve the efficiency for county services and for the residents seeking them.
“We’ve talked about how this is going to benefit Moffat County, the city and county government,” Sheriff KC Hume said. “I look to this as a benefit for citizens of Moffat County. In consolidating and coming together, we’ll have a place where citizens can come and conduct all of their County business.”
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