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Intergovernmental cooperation means work on landfills, roads

Barbara McLachlan

Working for the State of Colorado helps me appreciate the importance of good government-to-government relations. We work with members of city councils, school boards, metro districts and tribes, to name a few, understanding that the more voices we have participating, the better our legislation is for the whole state.

This year, I am running two bills with Colorado Counties, Inc., who represent commissioners from all 64 counties as they work together on common issues. The group meets regularly to share concerns, eventually voting on those that rise to the top in importance. These two bills represent half of CCI’s top priorities for 2023.

La Plata County Commissioner Matt Salka brought the first bill to me concerning closed landfills. When the Bayfield landfill closed in the ’90s, it complied with all health regulations outlined by the Colorado Department of Public Health and was monitored by the county.

When the federal government changed landfill restrictions a few years later, Bayfield’s was suddenly out of compliance, and the back-and-forth conversation between the county and Department of Health began.

The county faced a hurdle: It needed to remediate the landfill, but couldn’t afford it. CDPHE had the heavy burden of responsibility to make sure all public landfills are remediated and safe, and fined the county for noncompliance. The more money the county spent in fines, the less it had to do the actual remediation.

Just imagine the swarm of lawyers, emails, conversations and confusion that ensued. Then multiply that by the multitude of counties across the state facing the same problem. For the first time in history, 100% of CCI members voted in favor of the ensuing legislation.

This bill took a few years of work on both sides. Grants will now be offered to owners of the approximately 10 public landfills to do the remediation and maintenance. CDPHE will evaluate each site, alongside local officials and other experts, then identify what needs help.

Funding will be prioritized for sites posing the greatest actual risk to public health and environment, as well as how much money has been spent already on the project. La Plata County’s landfill made it in the top three.

I am happy to be part of the solution on remediating the state’s public landfills. Both sides approved of the solution, and all are committed to making the sites sustainably clean.

Archuleta County Commissioner Warren Brown brought me the second CCI bill, which will help counties manage the hundreds of new visitors to our state parks.

Last year, we passed a bill creating the Keep Colorado Wild Pass, encouraging Coloradans to visit our 45 state parks. The parks pass is purchased when renewing a car registration. Since then, visitations have gone up about 50%, which is good. What isn’t working, however, is that county road funds are being quickly depleted. Dollars that used to go toward county roads serving homes and business are now directed toward roads leading to state parks. Archuleta County realizes the need for expensive road repair regularly.

Commissioners testified that they want the tourists, but struggle to keep up with the road wear.

This bill gives counties the option to charge an additional $2 per daily vehicle pass to help defray costs. Those drivers with the KCWP pass will not be charged.

Also in the bill, is the creation of a commission for a study to identify deficits in local government infrastructure and services used by visitors, sources of funding to address the deficits and which routes need the most help.

Intergovernmental cooperation works for everyone, and I’m proud to sponsor these bills.

Rep. Barbara McLachlan represents District 59 in the Colorado Legislature.