Many of the 10,000 or so people who live in the Roaring Fork Valley section of Eagle County often feel like bastard stepchildren. Those residents are geophysically cut off from the majority of the county in which they live, work and play. Most decisions are made clear on the other side of Glenwood Canyon.
As recently as last year, a movement was afoot to secede from the rest of Eagle County.
Eagle County’s government maintains a significant infrastructure presence in the Roaring Fork Valley — mainly headquartered in a well-used community building adjacent to Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel. Still, the Roaring Fork Valley portion of Eagle County sometimes feels like a Colorado mountain equivalent of Russia’s Kalingrad.
Eagle County officials are aware that many of their Roaring Fork Valley constituents feel left out. None of the county’s three commissioners is from the Roaring Fork Valley — though they often make the drive through Garfield County to El Jebel. They wonder if a more institutionalized presence is not called for, given that significant tax dollars flow from the Roaring Fork Valley to the county seat in Eagle.
There is thought about adding a full-time administrative position to the Roaring Fork Valley. The process is still in its formative stages.
We asked Eagle County Manager Jeff Shroll to answer a few questions on the subject.
RFWJ: What’s the status of this dialogue? Is it ongoing?
Shroll: Yes, it is. The conversation is ongoing and something not only are we discussing internally at the County, but I also am going to continue meeting with Ryan Mahoney from Basalt and Jon Peacock in Pitkin County on their feedback.
RFWJ: Is there any feeling at this point what form this arrangement might take?
Shroll: Not exactly. Preliminary thoughts are to stage a new position from the County Manager’s office in the RFV that has direct access to that office and of course the BoCC. We are still exploring what this will look like.
RFWJ: What authority the person might have?
Shroll: It is not so much the authority of the position we are focusing on as much as the visibility and accessibility. We have discussed the importance of the potential position to have a more active presence within the El Jebel and Basalt community and work on County relations within the business community, school district and of course our neighbors in Pitkin County.
RFWJ: What’s the timetable for making this decision and a timetable for this person taking up duties hereabouts?
Shroll: We slowed down the initial conversations because of how busy we were with the Lake Christine Fire and then of course we jumped into the County budget process. However, we plan on looking at the concept in a more comprehensive manner after the first of the year. We want to be thoughtful and strategic in shaping the position and make sure we understand the gaps we are wanting to fill and make the effort meaningful.
RFWJ: Why is Eagle County considering adding this position to the Roaring Fork Valley?
Shroll: Eagle County has been committed to serving our population in the RFV through all the services we provide. However, we want to have a more visible presence on a more full-time basis. We are extremely pleased with our RFV County staff currently serving in El Jebel through the Clerk’s office and Road and Bridge, but we want to explore how we can better partner with the Town of Basalt, Pitkin County, Crown Mountain Recreation District, the School District and the business community to tackle issues like affordable housing, childcare, affordable health care, mental health, sustainability, open space, trails and transportation. Of course, there will be ongoing efforts to manage mitigation of the Lake Christine Fire that likely will continue to require boots on the ground for a good part of the next couple years.
RFWJ: Anything else you can think of on this subject?
Shroll: It is definitely still a work in progress and very much in the infant stage. County staff will be discussing further with the Commissioners for direction, goal setting and deliverables on a potential new position.
Sidebar: The services Eagle County provides directly in the RFV are:
- Clerk and Recorder’s office
- Sheriff's Office
- Human Services
- Public Health and Environment (including senior services)
- Road and Bridge
Also, the Board of County Commissioners has appointed a separate Planning Commission to serve in the Roaring Fork Valley.