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County could lose grant to help build Heeney fire station

by Jane Stebbins

HEENEY – Summit County likely will miss a deadline to secure land for the Heeney fire station – and thus lose out on a $250,000 state grant for its construction.

It’s just one more obstacle the tiny fire department has faced in its efforts to get a station in which to house its fire trucks, one of which is stored in a padlocked barn at the base of the Green Mountain Reservoir dam. Another truck is stored in Frisco, parked in a bay behind a piece of heavy equipment.

County officials obtained a state grant to build a combination fire station, community center and Sheriff’s Office substation six years ago, said County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom. They acquired the land, about a mile south of the Green Mountain Inn, from the U.S. Forest Service two years ago. Crews began erecting the building not long after that.

Fire district officials originally hoped to have the structure finished by September 2001, but, unbeknownst to many, the construction crew hired to erect the building only worked on weekends. By September, the crew was far from done, Lindstrom said.

And in September, the fire district was dealt another blow: county officials learned the parcel is in a landslide area. A firm hired to determine the stability of the land discovered a Bureau of Reclamation report – dated 1963 – stating the entire western edge of the Green Mountain Reservoir is in a landslide zone.

When the county informed state officials of the problem, the state set a one-year deadline in which to find a new location for the building. But because most of the land around Heeney is owned by the U.S. Forest Service, it likely will take longer than that to secure a new parcel.

“Everything was moving along until they found out the land is in a landslide area,” Lindstrom said. “The Department of Local Affairs and Summit County government said, “We’re not going to spend any money on something in a landslide area.'”

“You immediately try to figure out what Plan B is,” he said. “And you always want to ask the question, “Who can you blame?’ And who can you blame for it? We bought it from the Forest Service; before that, it was Bureau of Land Management Land, its monitoring was done by the Bureau of Reclamation, our Open Space and Trails department bought it through Western Lands, which is owned by Tom Glass, and the whole thing was part of the Slate Creek land exchange with the Forest Service. If you had to diagram that thing, you wouldn’t have enough white board to write it all down.”

While trying to iron out the legalities, county officials decided to finish work on the building anyway so the fire department would have a temporary place to store its vehicles. There’s no cause for alarm, Lindstrom said, because state monitoring records show the land hasn’t moved much in the past 40 years – until this year, as the reservoir waters receded.

The county plans to work with the Heeney Fire District and the Forest Service to find a new piece of land on which to build the fire station. Once a new site is identified and a permanent building erected, the structure currently under construction will be relocated elsewhere to be used for some yet-to-be-determined purpose.

A new construction crew hopes to have the building finished next week.

County officials will ask the Forest Service to reimburse them for the $200,000 cost of the land and look for a new site this spring.

“We fully expect to recover what was spent,” Lindstrom said. “But we’re not sure exactly how we’re going to do it.”

So far, there are three possible sites for the permanent building, Lindstrom said. They include a parcel across the street from the Green Mountain Inn, another just south of inn and a third near Elliott Creek Campground at the Heeney end of the dam.

The land originally intended for the permanent fire department could then be turned over to the county Open Space and Trails Department, Lindstrom said.

But this summer – after years of fund raising – the Heeney fire department will finally have a place to store its vehicles.

“They need it a lot,” Lindstrom said. “They’ve worked very hard to go to other departments to get donated equipment with the assumption they’d have a building to put equipment in. They’ve got the equipment, everything was on track with the building, and the timing didn’t work out. The plans are still viable. It’s just the timing. It’s all messed up.”

Department of Local Affairs officials have told county officials they won’t hold the grant money past September. But the county will have the chance to apply for it again once it secures a new site.

“This is money they’ve allocated and it’s just sitting there,” Lindstrom said. “They want to get it out in the community; they don’t want to leave it in the bank. They said they’d be more than happy to accept a new application, but there’s no guarantees.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.


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