County won’t fund secession effort |

County won’t fund secession effort

The Eagle County commissioners refused this week to help fund a potential rebellion among their ranks.

All three commissioners voted against a $500 funding request from a midvalley citizens’ group studying possible secession from Eagle County.

“I don’t know that it’s the county’s responsibility to do that,” Commissioner James Johnson said of funding the study. He also noted that the request was made without disclosure of how the funds would be spent.

Commissioner Tom Stone said the commissioners agreed that their funding wasn’t necessary if the study was to be a true grass-roots effort.

Johnson questioned whether the secession study has a grass-roots impetus. He said he considers it a process initiated by the Basalt Town Council.

The council began distancing itself from the effort almost immediately after it voted Feb. 9 to support a study. No elected officials or staff members from the town are working with the committee.

However, the idea of the study was first raised by Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt. The town government organized the first meeting, then handed the effort over to a citizens’ group to run with it or let it die.

The board voted two weeks ago to spend $400 on a facilitator for the committee. It approved another $500 Tuesday night by a 6-0 vote. Town Manager Tom Baker urged support for the committee.

“This is the classic empowered citizens’ group that we’re always talking about in government,” Baker said. “Now it’s time to see if we support it.”

Committee spokesman John Freeman said the group wouldn’t follow the classic Roaring Fork Valley scenario of hiring consultants for more and more studies. It needs the money for basic expenses such as purchasing copies of government documents, he said.

The group is receiving free legal aid from the Aspen firm of Holland and Hart, according to Baker. Requests were made to Eagle and Pitkin counties as well as the towns of Basalt and Carbondale for $500 each.

Freeman said he hadn’t heard about decisions from Pitkin County or Carbondale.

In Basalt’s deliberations Tuesday, Whitsitt made a motion to support the $500 allocation and said she was “disappointed” Eagle County wouldn’t help.

Mayor Rick Stevens said he could understand “where Eagle County’s coming from” on the issue. He said he didn’t want Basalt’s financial support to be interpreted as a political endorsement. It’s nothing more than support for citizens studying an issue, Stevens added.

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