Projected budget upwards of $50 million
By Adam Broderick
With the new detention center and courthouse in full operating mode, Gunnison County is preparing for more improvement projects to increase capital gain between 2016 and 2020. Plans for more than $50 million in project costs would improve county facilities, programs and infrastructure as part of the county’s latest Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).
The highest-cost projects recommended in the new CIP include $1.22 million to complete the second phase of county landfill expansion, $9.16 million to rehabilitate the runway at Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport, $600,000 to relocate the county’s recycling processing facility, $500,000 to hard surface county roads, $450,000 for road maintenance and snow removal equipment, $138,000 to replace patrol vehicles, $100,000 to replace the Slate River Bridge, $100,000 for a sand storage building in Crested Butte, and $70,000 to improve road conditions on this side of Cottonwood Pass.
That is only a small handful of the projects being proposed for the next five years, and those numbers are just what the county would cough up. Other funds to complete the projects would be provided through matches, grants, and miscellaneous reserve funds. Of the $52.1 million total project costs, Gunnison County would cover $5.1 million.
“Gunnison County is very good at leveraging outside dollars for many projects,” said commissioner Paula Swenson.
For example, Swenson explained that the Federal Aviation Administration pays for 90 percent of capital improvements at the airport and the state’s Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division pays for 5 percent, leaving the county to only come up with 5 percent of the project.
County manager Matthew Birnie told the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) on Tuesday, July 28 that he had reviewed the new CIP with the county’s finance director, Linda Nienhueser, and the two agreed that although the plan was mostly an outline, it is a quality plan. “This is just a general plan. It’s us trying to do more than an annual budget and look at long-term capital projects so we can start to marshal the resources and apply various filters,” he told the board. “We have some very creative department directors, and everything is weighted. There’s been a high quality of control.”
On Tuesday, August 4, after a week reviewing the draft CIP, commissioner Swenson agreed it looked good and the board unanimously passed the motion to adopt the new plan.
The CIP is updated annually to reprioritize projects based on several factors and then reviewed by the county commissioners. Projects that best address needs of the most citizens, that best benefit the community’s investments, that best conserve energy, and projects that best improve or expand upon existing services or programs take priority over projects less beneficial to the community.
According to the CIP, the county outlines the plan each year because it helps best establish a logical implementation process for each proposed project. By providing documentation and scheduling hearings early in the process, coordination between departments supposedly increases and public participation broadens. And it helps identify the capital needs of the county for the next five years, allowing commissioners to make informed decisions regarding sales tax revenue allocations and debt incurrences.
Funding for projects outlined in the new CIP would come from several fund pools, including 1 percent of county sales tax, the county’s share of Colorado lottery proceeds, the road and bridge fund, and the airport fund.