Club 20 coalition talks transportation and other western Colorado interests
Club 20, a coalition of 22 counties in western Colorado, brought its biennial caucus to Summit County on Wednesday, electing three Summit County board members and discussing policy points for the upcoming legislative session.
The coalition uses resolutions from 10 different committees, providing impetus to state and national legislators to represent the interests of the Western Slope.
“It’s really a very eclectic group. And the network is really the greatest value,” Frisco resident Tom Glass said.
Deborah Irvine of Breckenridge was nominated the primary voting board member, with Glass as first alternate and Emily Tracy of Breckenridge as second alternate.
“We have wonderful regular contact with elected officials,” Tracy said. “It carries such a good voice … I think policy makers pay attention to groups like Club 20.”
Representing several rural counties, the coalition tends to swing right but has members of both parties.
“The only way Club 20 has strength and direction, is being truly bipartisan,” said Christian Reece, Club 20 executive director.
She added that for the upcoming Legislative session, the coalition was researching new revenue sources for transportation funding, with rough, mountain roads posing safety issues and the Colorado Department of Transportation lagging in funds with a gas tax that has remained unchanged since 1995.
“Transportation is one of our hottest issues,” Reece said. “We don’t have the golden ticket answer for it, but we’re involved in many of those conversations statewide right now to really identify what we can do to support any legislation that’s going to address the state of our roads throughout western Colorado.”
She added that a few focus groups, including Progress 15, Action 22 and the Colorado Motor Carriers Association, were polling Colorado residents for favorable options. According to a transcript of a survey asking voters what method of raising revenue they would prefer, Reece said increasing the sales tax polled the highest.
“It’s one of the only ways to capture out-of-state visitation,” she said. “Revenues are always going to be decreasing as cars become more efficient. “
Rob Irvine, another Summit County member, added that rental car tire traction would be another issue on the books.
“This is a huge issue for us because of the bottleneck that we call I-70,” Irvine said.
Reece said the rental car tire legislation was introduced last year but did not pass.
On top of transportation, the Summit County members discussed concerns around telecommunications and water. Reece noted that Summit County was not alone in proposing a ballot measure this fall to opt out of Colorado Senate Bill 152, which restricts counties and municipalities from developing broadband infrastructure.
At least 12 counties are attempting to opt out this year, Reece said. Funding put together by the Department of Labor Affairs for broadband planning and infrastructure provides further incentive to opt out.
“We have a problem, even in this county, with cell-phone coverage,” Irvine said. “It’s an issue here between Silverthorne and Kremmling… (Highway 9) happens to be one of the most dangerous roads for deer strikes, and there’s no way to contact medical authorities for help.”
Following a break in plans by AT&T to construct a tower in the area, Glass said he asked the county to just build a tower and lease out the space.
“(AT&T will) pay rent but they won’t take out a capital project,” Glass said. “What’s ironic is this site already has the fiber.”
Reece added that water rights were a large issue in the Western Slope, with seven points of consensus by Club 20 suggested in comments to the state water plan but with no “teeth” to enforce them.
“Certainly it’s a huge issue,” Tracy said. “Drought has affected different parts of Colorado in the last months or so.”
In past years, the coalition has had a hand in legislation involving the greater sage grouse and the formation of a strategic planning group on aging last session.
“We’ve got our hand in a couple of pots,” Reece said.
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