Energy impact aid to county $3.6 million

Millions of dollars will go to projects in Mesa and Garfield counties as part of the latest round of state energy-impact grants.

Forty-seven construction, infrastructure and other community projects   around the state will share in $23.2 million in grants announced Friday by Gov. Bill Ritter and the state Department of Local Affairs.

The state received 55 applications seeking nearly $49 million in funds from the grant program.

The program is funded by severance tax and federal mineral lease revenue.

Projects in Mesa County received a total of $3.6 million, more than any other county. Coming in second was La Plata County, with nearly $3 million in grants.

The state said the 47 projects will be funded by more than $195 million in public-private and local matching funds, resulting in a combined $218.5 million boost in construction activity.

Projects that meet basic infrastructure needs received highest priority, while emphasis also was placed on those with renewable-energy or energy-conservation components.

“These grants will allow communities to make key investments in projects that will put people back to work and strengthen local economies in the short-term, while making communities more sustainable and economically healthy in the long-term,” Ritter said in a prepared statement Friday.

Mesa County manager Jon Peacock said the county got less than it sought for the Whitewater and Colorado West projects, but he understands there were a lot of grant requests and appreciates what it received.

Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert voiced a similar sentiment.

“We’re happy for anything we receive in this area because our needs are so great,” he said.

The city expects its new water plant will cost between $30 million and $40 million to build.

In Rio Blanco County, which is seeing increasing natural gas development, the county received $600,000 for an overlay project for County Road 4. Rangely got $495,000 for water and wastewater infrastructure improvements and $100,000 for street and drainage upgrades.

Linda Rice, spokeswoman for the Department of Local Affairs, said the department expects available energy-impact funding to drop in coming months because of the decrease in the price of natural gas.

The department says it revamped the grant-application process last year to make it more transparent, accountable and strategic. Lambert said there have been examples in the past of grants that didn’t seem to be going toward energy-impacted communities.

Rice said she believed the concern was more about the need to try to maximize the benefit of limited funds for impacted communities. The state has done that by encouraging leveraging of the grants with other funding sources and putting an emphasis on regional cooperation and projects with regional impact, she said.


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