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GarCo Report: Needle exchanges, free clothes and a civics lesson

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Garfield County Commissioners’ Monday agenda was full — five hours worth of topics, including a liquor license transfer for Rifle Fireside Lanes, fee waiver requests for events at the county fairgrounds, approval of the consent agenda, program updates and a raft of discretionary fund and nonprofit fund requests.

Andrea Palm-Porter of Roaring Fork Leadership (RFL) requested $5,000 to expand RFL’s civics programming. Palm-Porter asked the board to describe the civic culture of Garfield County, which sparked a trip in the Way Back Machine with commissioners at the helm, replete with stories about a bowling ball and a burning tire rolling down Grand Avenue, and the old A&W where Taco Bell now stands.

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Commissioner Mike Samson described the county culture as “evolving.” Commission Chair John Martin noted that Grand Avenue is more of a freeway than a Main Street, and neighborhoods in Glenwood Springs are becoming parking lots. Palm-Porter was able to steer the conversation back to the importance of RFL’s  work in the community, including unconscious bias programs and upcoming community conversations in Carbondale.

Kirsten Petre McDaniel, Youthentity executive director, and Greg Beachey, career academy director, talked at length about the organization’s successful career expo and financial literacy programs for youth. Their $15,000 request ($10,000 of which would come from the nonprofit discretionary fund) would go to a career expo next month at Glenwood Springs High School for students from Aspen to Glenwood Springs, and for expanding financial literacy programs. The career expo targets sophomores and juniors, and includes interactive, web- and app-based tools, plus conversation with business owners. Youthentity’s financial literacy programs, meanwhile, served 6,000 middle school students across the state in 2022, in 81 schools, 30 school districts and 24 counties.

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Morgan Hill, associate director for Carbondale-based Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER), requested $330,000 for the Garfield Clean Energy Collaborative. She reviewed CLEER accomplishments over the past decade and thanked the board for funding help that  made programs possible. Hill encouraged the board to help make Garfield County carbon-free by 2030. The idea is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to energy use by 100% with a 10% reduction in emissions from natural gas, which drew less than enthusiastic responses from the board.

Martin said the goal is unattainable and that the term “carbon-free” is a contradiction. Hill asked the board what terminology they would prefer to which Martin responded “limited use of carbon-based fuel.” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said that “carbon-free” does not take into account what it takes to make infrastructure, citing wind turbine blades made from balsa wood out of the Amazon rainforest. Nonetheless, the Board moved to approve CLEER’s request.

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Other smaller requests included LOVA trails, West Elk trails, the Middle Colorado Wildfire Ready Collaborative, Ambleside School, Colorado Mountain College non-traditional scholarships and the Rifle Rendezvous. The board will make decisions on all funding requests later in February.

The Salvation Army requested a fee waiver for use of the Garfield County Fairgrounds later this month to give away four pallets of new clothing donated by Walmart.

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The annual fireworks ban got a first reading on Monday. The ordinance would be in place for one year, except for a week around July 4, which could be revised if necessary. Municipalities and federal lands are not included in the ban. The decision will be made on March 6.

Ongoing logging operations on the Buford-New Castle Road will delay new gravel for the road until next spring. Deb Fiscus, county landfill manager, talked trash. The board approved the 2022 sales tax recovery and a land use change permit for Alpine Animal Hospital’s large animal facility east of Carbondale.

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In other news, Mason Hohstadt and Chelsea Carnoali presented a detailed update on the state attorney general’s distribution plan for federal opioid settlement money. Garfield County is part of Region 5, which also includes Eagle, Pitkin, Summit and Lake counties. According to the presentation, the AG’s office has secured over $700 million to be paid out over 18 years. Region 5 would get an estimated $4,918,279.

Funding priorities for the region include public education about the misuse of opioids, Naloxone data tracking and harm reduction programs such as syringe services or “needle exchanges.” Jankovsky was concerned that harm reduction methods encouraged opioid use. “I see this as enabling,” he said. He cited the county’s preferred long-standing goal of setting up a detox facility. It is uncertain if Garfield County’s share of the opioid funds would go toward the detox facility.

Commissioners Samson and Martin are now in Washington, D.C. this week for the National Association of Counties conference.

Tags: #Amy Hadden Marsh #GarCo report #Garfield County Commissioners #Larry Day
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