Heeney residents take on county
summit daily news
HEENEY ” The sleepy community of Heeney, which sits snugly on the county’s northern border, is wide awake in controversy over a metal building that many residents want removed as an eyesore.
The county paid $250,000 to erect the building in 2001, temporarily, so the local fire district could house its fire equipment while officials worked out funding for a permanent fire station.
The building looks like a two-car garage with light-brown aluminum siding, and Heeney, an unincorporated town, must turn to the county commissioners for any civil issue affecting its residents.
“It’s a temporary building, it needs to be removed,” said Heeney resident Bob Galloway. “That building does not belong in a residential area.”
The building was to be left standing until 2006, when county officials said in 2001 it would move to a different location in the county. The town happily used the space until last October when the Lower Blue Fire Protection District opened its new fire station and community center.
But now that it’s empty, the county wants to leave the building on its perch permanently to house a snowplow and grader for its Road and Bridge Department.
At a Lower Blue Planning Commission meeting earlier this month, several Heeney residents opposed the plan.
“Every time I look outside, I have to see a big, brown, ugly building that blocks half my view of Ute Pass,” said a visibly upset Steve Dreiling, who lives 500 yards from the structure.
But, County Commissioner Tom Long said residents’ issues are unfounded.
“I’ve been to all kinds of meetings in that building and all of a sudden, it’s butt ugly and the roof is going to fall on our heads,” Long said.
Summit County’s growth, it seems, has reached its borders, which is why county officials want to keep the building in Heeney.
“There’s more development (in Heeney) and the population isn’t going down,” said county planner Lindsay Hirsh. “If the county can provide service in an economical matter, that’s a good thing.”
About 70 people live in Heeney and they are lacking a quick plow system, something the county is trying to fix with its proposal. If approved, the county would store a road grader and sand truck in the building, which Road and Bridge director John Polhemus said would significantly reduce the time it takes to plow Heeney’s roads.
From the existing shop, which is at the south end of town, the plow starts at 6:30 a.m. about four miles south of Heeney. It takes about 45 minutes to reach the Green Mountain Dam, but, by that time, the school bus has already crossed the often slippery roadway.
If the operator could start from the new site at the “ugly” building, It would only take 10 or 15 minutes to reach the dam, Polhemus said. To make the demand greater, there isn’t a sand truck at all in Heeney. A truck makes the trip from Frisco two or three times a week.
The Heeney sand truck would be refilled as needed in Frisco to prevent a sandpile outside the building, Polhemus said.
But those small concessions don’t matter much to citizens such as Dreiling.
“I’m strictly opposed to the road and bridge use,” Dreiling said. “I’m going to have to listen to tractors and smell fumes from equipment.”
But, at least one Heeney resident welcomes the increase in services.
“I can’t tell you how many vehicles I’ve seen driving from the north end of town watching the grader go by while they’re slipping and sliding,” resident Jack Taylor said. “It means the world to me to have those services.”
Long argued the county “bent over backward” in 2001 to give Heeney a place to store its fire trucks and residents should be more willing to welcome the building and the benefits it will offer.
“Next time somebody’s in a bind, we’ll look harder at trying to help them,” Long said.
Some opponents of the proposal are saying the building is ugly because some landscaping was supposed to be done when the building was originally constructed in 2001.
“It was solely my fault,” Hirsh said. “I had every intention of putting trees up to buffer the building. I personally dropped the ball on that one.”
Again, the county promised ” if the building is to stay on the current site permanently ” its aesthetics will be approved. Hirsh suggested changing the building’s brown color, planting trees or building berms.
Another concern is the fact the building was constructed in a landslide area.
After construction had already began on the building, officials found a 1963 Bureau of Reclamation study showing the western edge of the Green Mountain Reservoir is a landslide zone.
Since the building will only be used for equipment, the slide factor should not be a concern, Long said.
“It doesn’t provide life safety issues,” Long said. “That slide does not slide catastrophically like in California.”
The Lower Blue Planning Commission’s job is to recommend a course of action to the Board of County Commissioners, which will make the final decision on the building’s fate.
Only one planning commission member, Don Wagner, was willing to suggest the county be allowed to keep the building in place.
“I think it’s important that the school kids get across the dam safely,” Wagner said. Heeney students attend school in Kremmling.
Meanwhile, others were concerned that the county’s promise to improve the aesthetics of the building would go unfulfilled.
“I don’t know how you could expect us to sit here and say, occupy the building, we’ll mitigate it down the road,” said planning commissioner Joe Hostetter, also the Lower Blue Fire District fire chief.
In the end, the commission decided to take up the issue again at its February meeting.
At that time, it wants the county to present a plan for how it will improve the site.
Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or at email@example.com
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