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Recent fires may improve chances for grant

Modified: Wednesday, Aug 7th, 2013

RIO GRANDE COUNTY—Twice in the past ten years, wildfires have made clear how important County Road 15 is to the safety of the community.

Commissioner Karla Shriver said Rio Grande County had submitted two grant applications for the Federal Land Access Program (FLAP). One of those grants was for improvements to County Road 15. “Neither of our applications made the short list,” said Shriver.

The weaknesses of the grant application for CR 15 were that only the minimum requirements for road widening and the minimum matching funds were stated in the application. FLAP also did not score them as high as some of the other grant applications.

However, Shriver said that she learned on Monday that the Forest Service had recommended the project for CR 15 be rated number nine out of the 22 other applications. Of the few grant applications that did make the short list, three or four of them rated lower than the one submitted by RGCC.

Because of this, the county may be able to resubmit the grant application before the closing date at the end of August with some changes to it that would address the prior deficiencies. By making changes that would bring it into a more favorable light to the grant board, there may still be hope of receiving the much needed grant money.

Pat Sullivan from road and bridge did some additional research into widening the road to 36 feet, which is six feet wider than originally proposed and would include a pedestrian/bike lane. “If people in the area know there are improvements coming, I think they would be more willing to give a foot here or a foot there,” said Sullivan.

Shriver said the new projected widening of the road would increase the total cost of the three-phase project from $14.6 million up to $16.3 million, which would be an increase of about $1.7 million. “This would really stretch our budget,” said Shriver. “But we could do it.”

Shriver said they would also increase their match from the minimum of 19.9 percent up to 29.4 percent. Some of that increased percentage can be considered in-kind contributions with labor and construction vehicle costs included.

“Our partner in this grant application is San Luis Valley Rural Electric,” said Shriver. “I hope to hear from them soon to see if they would be willing to increase their match to the project.”

“If we can get this done at 30 percent of the cost, we’ll never get another deal like that,” said Rio Grande County Administrator Suzanne Benton.

The commissioners passed a motion to increase the matching funds, to make the additional changes that were discussed to the application and to ask for reconsideration in resubmitting the FLAP grant application for County Road 15 only.

Another possible advantage that may influence the FLAP board to reconsider the application is the recent fire. The West Fork Fire Complex came into being since the last application was submitted and may now turn out to be a silver lining. County Road 15 was greatly impacted when traffic had to be diverted from Highway 160 to CR 15.

Fire district election

Rio Grande County District Court Judge Martin Gonzales has ruled that the South Fork Fire Protection District can move ahead with placing the formation of the district on the ballot for the Nov. 5 election.

A letter from Emily Power, the attorney for the South Fork Fire Protection District Task Force stated, “This election will be conducted at an independent polling place approved by Rio Grande County District Court as part of the order calling for the organizational election.” The order from the judge was attached to the letter from attorney Power.

Road signs

Considering the danger of flash flooding after the recent fires and to encourage local support of businesses in the area impacted by the fire, the county emergency road sign messages will be updated.

Benton said she will change the road sign message board in South Fork to read,”In case of flash flood, move up not out.” The sign in Del Norte will display “Buy local, support local.”

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