County agrees pay lobbying group $17K in dues after commissioners voted to end Routt’s membership in 2021
Despite voting to leave the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado last February, the Routt County Board of Commissioners agreed Tuesday, Jan. 18, to pay its dues for 2021.
Leaving the regional organization was one of the first topics commissioners explored last year. Commissioners ultimately opted to exit because they felt AGNC’s lobbying efforts on the county’s behalf did not align with local interests, among other reasons.
But leaving AGNC, which includes Moffat, Rio Blanco, Garfield and Mesa counties, hasn’t been as easy as taking a vote. Several programs Routt County participates in, such as the Area Agency on Aging, regional enterprise zone and federal economic development district, are supported administratively by AGNC.
Routt County and the group have an agreement on how these programs will be funded for 2022 but not for the work done last year. Now, AGNC is asking the county pay over $37,000 for administrative support in 2021 — more than double the cost of the dues paid by members.
AGNC leadership sent Routt County Manager Jay Harrington a letter last week outlining the request.
An invoice dating back to May asks for about $8,000 in matching business support dollars, about $15,000 for contribution project support and another $14,000 in matching funds for the economic development district. The letter says these numbers are based on services Routt County received last year and reflect how the agency charges nonmember counties.
“As the county will no longer be a member of AGNC, it is not appropriate to ask for the remaining members to subsidize these costs for Routt County,” the letter reads. “Routt County AGNC dues would have been $17,000 for 2021 had the county continued its membership.”
Harrington said AGNC has not backed off its assertion that Routt County owes more than the group’s typical membership dues.
“I wish it could have been more of a conversation than what feels like an ultimatum from them,” said Commissioner Beth Melton.
Commissioners said they did not intend on paying the full amount requested. Commissioner Tim Redmond even suggested that the county pay AGNC less than $17,000, though he admitted there was little justification for that. Commissioner Tim Corrigan said the county did have some kind of moral obligation to pay for the services AGNC provided.
“It’s still remarkably frustrating that, well, if you would have just stuck with (AGNC), it’s $17,000 a year, but because we decided to leave, it’s now $37,000,” Corrigan said.
In March, commissioners requested Gov. Jared Polis move Routt County to a different regional planning district, a move that took effect at the start of 2022. Routt County will now be a part of the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, which includes Jackson, Grand, Summit, Eagle and Pitkin counties.
In 2022, Routt County will only pay AGNC for work on the Area Agency on Aging before that transitions to NWCCOG in 2023, Harrington said.
Funding for the economic development district will pass through a new economic development organization, and increased fees for entities that use those services will pay for the Enterprise Zone’s administrative costs.
However, this plan has not been finalized because there was still the outstanding invoice. Before unanimous approval, Melton suggested Harrington send AGNC a letter when he sends the money.
“Just send that letter with the check and call it good,” Melton said.
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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