Silt kicks in to Hogback service | AspenTimes.com

Silt kicks in to Hogback service

John Colson
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – All the towns in western Garfield County that are served by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority are now paying for that service, to one degree or another.

The service, known as the Hogback route, will operate for the coming year basically as it has in years past.

At the same time, talks are schedule to start in February 2010 about the possible creation of an entire new transportation district to serve the western end of Garfield County.

Earlier this year it seemed the route might be discontinued next spring due to disagreements between RFTA, Garfield County and the governments of Silt and Rifle. The basis of the dispute was figuring out how to pay some $614,000 in operating costs for the route.

Glenwood Springs, New Castle and Carbondale all are members of the RFTA district, along with other towns in the Roaring Fork Valley as well as Pitkin and Eagle counties. All member jurisdictions collect sales taxes to pay a share of the agency’s budget.

Dan Blankenship, RFTA’s CEO, said operating the Hogback route actually costs approximately $914,000. After funds from New Castle and RFTA itself are factored in, along with fare revenues, this year’s price tag dropped to $614,000, he said.

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Silt had previously not paid anything toward RFTA’s services, and the town, like the city of Rifle and Garfield County, is not a member of RFTA’s district or its board of directors.

Silt, following a decision by its board of trustees on Dec. 14, will be kicking in $2,700 toward the cost of the Hogback service this year.

“We approved $2,700 as a good-faith gesture,” said Silt Mayor Dave Moore.

The city of Rifle is expecting to maintain its long-standing commitment to pay $20,000 a year, according to City Manager John Hier. Mayor Keith Lambert said the City Council continues to search for ways to increase its RFTA contribution, but is having trouble due to budgetary shortfalls.

That will leave Garfield County coughing up the lion’s share of the cost of running the service, which carries passengers from Glenwood Springs to New Castle, Silt and Rifle.

The county has agreed to pay up to $614,000 for the service for 2010, depending on how much the towns can kick in.

And on Monday the county agreed to sign a new intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with RFTA to seal the deal.

The IGA gives the county the option of sending a representative to act as a nonvoting member of the RFTA board of directors, which prompted a short disagreement between commissioners Tresi Houpt and John Martin.

“I don’t think an appointment to the board of directors is necessary,” said Martin, who has championed the idea of forming an entirely new transportation district.

Houpt, arguing that it would not be the same as being a voting member of RFTA, said there is “a great advantage to having that seat,” because it provides the county with a chance to be part of the board’s deliberations.

“I’m not in favor of it,” Martin persisted, noting that the Aspen Skiing Co. does not send anyone to the RFTA board meetings, even though the Skico contributes significantly to RFTA’s operating budget.

When Houpt called for a vote on the issue, Commissioner Mike Samson agreed with Houpt, and the option stayed in the IGA.

The commissioners inserted a provision in the IGA that, should Rifle or any of the other towns come up with a greater share of the price tag, the county is to be reimbursed for that amount.

County officials plan to meet with representatives of New Castle, Silt, Rifle, Parachute and the unincorporated community of Battlement Mesa to talk about possibly putting together a western Garfield County transportation district.

Currently, RFTA does not serve the Parachute area, which has become a point of contention between the county and RFTA.

The first meeting to talk about a Garfield County transit system reportedly is set for Feb. 2.

“We don’t even know if it’s going to be a viable project or not … whether we can afford it or not,” Moore said of the idea.

jcolson@postindependent.com

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