A few of the Glenwood Springs coke ovens in their current form. Photo by James Steindler

The Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) had their first regular meeting of the month and addressed a plethora of agenda items. As a reminder, all BOCC meetings are available to stream during or after the fact on the county’s website: www.garfield-county.com

At the Dec. 6 meeting, the commissioners approved the 2022 Garfield County mill levy at 13.655 mills. For perspective, one mill is equivalent to one dollar for every $1,000 in assessed property value.

Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers’ Community and Communications Engagement Manager Jacob Baker requested funds for rebuilding the Hanging Lake Trail which was severely damaged due to the mudslides in Glenwood Canyon. The board approved a $5,000 discretionary grant for the project.

This was the last of the discretionary funds from the 2021 budget. In his verbal motion to approve the request, Commissioner Tom Jankovsky specified, “So Jacob, I want these funds to go to the work on the Hanging Lake Trail.”

Baker assured, “They’ll be earmarked specifically for that work next year.” 

Glenwood coke ovens

Bill Kight, executive director of the Glenwood Springs Historical Society, presented on the coke ovens east of the town near its municipal airport. Kight informed the board that there were originally 249 coke ovens and the historical society was deeded 50 of them. The ovens have endured demolition, vandalism (as of late) and are overgrown with shrubbery.

Kight shared that the historical society is working to obtain a Save America’s Treasure grant and, contingent on its approval, requests that the county contribute $50,000 to restore the ovens. According to Kight, the city of Glenwood Springs signed a letter also committing $50,000.

The commissioners discussed the possibility of taking money from the conservation fund to go toward the project. Chairman John Martin explained that the county can’t simply provide a nonprofit with funds from the conservation fund, but could channel the funds through the city of Glenwood Springs to the historical society.

“We’re not asking for the funds right now — just a letter of commitment,” explained Kight. “We won’t know until June of next year if we get the grant.”

Commissioner Mike Samson gave his support, saying, “I think that’s a perfect example of conservation funds use.”

Ultimately, the commissioners signed a letter of support for the commitment of $50,000 for Kight to include with the historical society’s grant application.

“It’s not just to honor history,” said Kight, “but we’re honoring the men and women — hard working people — who toiled to accomplish things that we are really enjoying today.” He concluded, “I think we owe a moral obligation to those people.” 

Valley Meals

After a lot of back and forth, the commissioners allocated $40,000 toward the Valley Meals and More senior meals program based out of Carbondale. The organization had requested $85,000. 

“We don’t want anybody to go hungry in Garfield County — nobody does,” said Samson, “but we have to seriously look at resources and how we can best serve all people.” Samson then referred to Carbondale’s affluence relative to West Garfield County. There was some concern among the board that residents without need may take advantage of the free meal delivery program.

“There is systemic discrimination occuring in Garfield County where we are profiling older adults based on their zip code,” replied Valley Meals and More Executive Director Mary Kenyon.

“We do need to provide some funding for this program, but not the entire $85,000,” said Jankovsky.

Samson replied, “I don’t want to be the Grinch, so merry Christmas…”