Eagle County to rebels: Tune in, don’t drop out
Midvalley residents who are studying secession from Eagle County were advised by one of their elected officials yesterday to tune in rather than drop out.
Eagle County Commissioner James Johnson said it frustrates him to see more people involved in the secession committee than involved in land-use planning meetings that will determine how the midvalley will look for years to come.
Johnson said he doesn’t think the interests are all that different between residents of the Basalt and El Jebel areas and those who live in the eastern bulk of the county.
His comments came at the first formal meeting of the commissioners and a representative of the secession committee, officially known as the Grassroots Committee on Eagle County Boundaries.
Committee chairman John Freeman stressed that while no conclusions have been reached, it might be best for all current Eagle County residents if the Roaring Fork Valley portion “withdrew.”
Freeman said the committee is studying four options. Those are: staying put, withdrawing from Eagle County and joining Pitkin or Garfield, forming a new “Sopris County,” or petitioning Eagle County to adopt a home-rule government and provide more representation.
Freeman asked the commissioners to apply common sense rather than “jurisdictional thinking” to the issue.
“Logic leads me to believe your small, western part of Eagle County has more in common with other counties,” Freeman said.
Roaring Fork Valley residents could get more effective representation if the county seat was located closer, and the main part of the county wouldn’t have to be concerned about its “distinctly different” western appendage, Freeman suggested.
“We’re a tail that shouldn’t wag your dog,” he said.
But the commissioners weren’t so sure their constituents in the Basalt and El Jebel areas are solidly behind independence. Commissioner chairwoman Johnnette Phillips said she’s heard from several constituents who don’t want to get out of Eagle County.
Commissioner Tom Stone said he went to the initial secession meeting and witnessed a constituency with a wide range of personal issues. He said he saw no sign of a unified vision.
Freeman agreed that the committee needed “to do its homework,” come up with recommendations, then survey midvalley residents. To help with that process, the committee has collected $500 from both the town of Basalt and Pitkin County. Freeman sought $1,000 from Eagle County.
Phillips noted that an earlier request for $500 from Eagle County was turned down because “the question has always been why would we want to help you secede.” But she also said the question of whether that part of the county would be better off elsewhere “has always been out there.”
The commissioners made no decision on the funding request, but indicated they will consider it at a future meeting.
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