Election Guide 2016: Tim Corrigan Q&A
Bio: Tim Corrigan moved here in 1981 with his wife, Donna, and raised four children. They live on a ranch south of Yampa and raise hay and quarter horses. He operated a construction business from 1984 to 2014, served on the South Routt County School District Board of Education from 2001 to 2013 and has served as Routt County commissioner since 2012.
Q. Is a shared law enforcement facility in the best interests of all the citizens of Routt County. If it isn’t, why not? If it is, how can we get there?
A. Yes. According to information compiled by city of Steamboat Springs staff, the city on its own would save at least $1 million by building a joint facility with the county at the Sheriff’s Office/Routt County Jail site. There is little question that the county would real-ize significant additional savings to its plans to expand Sheriff’s Office facilities by co-locating with the Steamboat Springs Police Department. On Sept. 20, City Council and the Routt County commissioners agreed in principle to co-locate these facilities and set in motion a process to negotiate cost-sharing and long-term maintenance agreements to sustain this facility into the future. This plan meshes nicely with the approximately 2,500-square-foot training facility the county is planning on finishing out in the lower lev-el of the Justice Center. The city should realize significant efficiencies in transporting prisoners, court appearances and training opportunities.
Q. Does Routt County have a role to play in meeting demand for workforce or attainable housing? If so, what are some of the measures the county should be taking?
A. Yes. The county has for some time contributed general fund revenues to support the Yampa Valley Housing Authority. Commissioner Doug Monger was instrumental in pro-curing grant funding from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Au-thority to fund infrastructure improvements at the Fish Creek Trailer Park. Routt County manages the water system in Phippsburg and the wastewater systems in Phippsburg and Milner. Recent improvements to Routt County Road 14 have made commuting from Stagecoach more practical. The county should work with Steamboat and potential de-velopers to facilitate annexation and development to the west of town. We need to avail ourselves of the existing buildable lots and infrastructure that exist in Hayden, Stage-coach and Oak Creek. Those communities will benefit from new growth and relieve some of the pressure on Steamboat.
Q. As a commissioner, what would you do to support economic development in Routt County?
A. The most important thing we can do (and have done) is to maintain and improve our critical infrastructure, especially our roads, bridges, broadband infrastructure and the Yampa Valley Regional Airport. Tourism, energy production, agriculture, recreational equipment manufacturers and our growing location-neutral businesses all depend upon our ability to move people, products and information to and from markets. We have pru-dently set aside adequate funds on our “pay-as-you-go” system of budgeting, providing for maintenance and replacement of these assets. In partnership with Yampa Valley Electric Association, Yampa Valley Medical Center, Steamboat School District and Colo-rado Mountain College, we have broken ground on a $2.4 million fiber-optic backbone project providing high-speed broadband access to these anchor institutions. Under management of Northwest Colorado Broadband, we will distribute access to private “last mile” providers enhancing local broadband service. We have a long-term strategic plan to extend high-speed broadband to our outlying communities and un-served rural areas.
Q. Can Routt County government strike a balance between the goal of protecting exist-ing energy jobs in Northwest Colorado and at the same time preparing for a future that relies more and more on alternative sources of energy? What specific strategies would you pursue?
A. We need to set aside disagreements over climate change, environmental regulations and market forces and focus our efforts. Implementation of the Colorado Climate Plan requires reductions in CO2 emissions accomplished by plant closures or natural gas conversion. There are 14 coal-fired power plants in Colorado with only Craig and Hay-den still operating on the Western Slope by 2022. I have lobbied Dr. Larry Wolk — ex-ecutive director of CDPHE — that plant closures should be on the Front Range. It only makes sense to close those plants where air quality is degraded, where the local popu-lation is more supportive of these rules and where the job losses more readily absorbed. We should continue to operate those plants that are closest to our mines and have un-dergone recent expensive upgrades to control pollutants. We need to fight to make sure our mines and plants are the last ones standing.
Q. Would you support lifting the moratorium on marijuana grow operations and/or retail marijuana businesses in unincorporated Routt County? Why or why not?
A. I do not support retail marijuana sales in unincorporated Routt County. Those kinds of commercial operations clearly conflict with the intent of the master plan and zoning regulations. I struggle with the concept of grow operations and whether they are com-mercial or agricultural, and what impacts they may have on water supplies. I do support grow operations of hemp and other products that can be produced as “sunshine” crops and are clearly agricultural products. I question whether large enclosed structures with multiple employees working inside to grow and harvest recreational marijuana is appro-priate in our ag/forest-zoned districts. I share Sheriff Garrett Wiggins’ concerns about our ability to adequately monitor these kinds of operations in rural Routt County and be-lieve that our existing municipalities are better equipped to enforce appropriate regula-tions. I would like to see how these industries succeed in Hayden and Oak Creek before we change county regulations.
Q. Residents of luxury ranch subdivisions in Colorado have been successful in retaining agricultural property valuations, even for building lots under multi-million dollar home. Do you approve or disapprove, and do the agricultural operations on these luxury ranch de-velopments fit the original intent of keeping property taxes low on working farms and ranches?
A. There is little question in my mind that state statute defining whether an individual homeowner is “integral” to agricultural operations on their property has been stretched to include some pretty questionable instances. When determining if land is being used as a farm or ranch, the key words are “for the primary purpose of obtaining a monetary profit.” Examples of a few days of grazing or having a neighbor bale a small amount of hay generally fit that description and leaves our assessor with little latitude in granting that classification. In 2010, a statewide task force studied agricultural property-tax des-ignations and made suggestions to the Colorado legislature to ensure these tax breaks be limited to legitimate farmers and ranchers. That effort failed amid concerns of tax in-creases and what criteria were appropriate. I would support re-visiting this question with the Colorado legislature.
Q. Despite the willingness of Peabody Energy to pay the taxes it owes to Routt County, Treasurer Brita Horn has maintained she is not legally able to accept the taxes without also collecting the payment of interest and fess owed by Peabody. How do you view this impasse and how would you propose to resolve it?
A. The fact of the matter is that the collection of taxes is the responsibility of the county treasurer and not within the authority of the Board of County Commissioners. The BCC has carefully monitored this situation and offered to assist in any way we can. While the bankruptcy court has broad jurisdiction in Peabody Energy’s ability to pay these taxes, I believe the treasurer has latitude to at least accept the personal property taxes while retaining the ability to receive the interest and penalties at such time that Peabody emerges from bankruptcy. In the meantime, I was able to help the South Routt School District obtain a $1 million emergency loan from the State Board of Education to contin-ue operations, and the BCC extended an emergency loan to the South Routt Medical District. I am confident that all taxes and interest will eventually be paid.
Q. As the population of Routt County becomes more and more Steamboat-centric, how do you propose to strike the proper balance between the needs of the county’s outlying areas with the population density surrounding Steamboat?
A. I have long said that Steamboat does not exist in isolation, nor can the outlying parts of the county reach their potential without Steamboat. A good deal of Steamboat’s eco-nomic success is attributable to the open spaces that surround it. Our land use policies have worked well to preserve these open spaces and maintain the historical agricultural operations and rural nature of Routt County, but we see the growing impacts of growth on the quality of life in Steamboat and the challenges to our working families and busi-nesses. There is no question in my mind that our outlying communities present tremen-dous possibilities to mitigate these impacts and opportunities for their own economic and social success. A holistic approach to growth, education, transportation and com-munity development is essential to Routt County and has been my passion for many years now.
Q. In your opinion, what’s the most important unfunded road project in Routt County? And why?
A. There is not one most important project. All of our roads are critical to our transpor-tation needs. The simple fact is that we have limited resources to address the 849 miles of road and 106 bridges that we maintain. Over the last two years, we have worked with our Road and Bridge Director Janet Hruby and her excellent staff to de-velop a long-term road maintenance plan that takes a hard look at our assets and the level of maintenance we provide for them. We are committed to maintaining cur-rent levels of service while looking for budgetary opportunities to improve our road system. Recent improvements to Routt County Road 14 are good examples of what we can do when we have unforeseen revenues. Most important is maintaining our fleet of equipment and recognizing what a great job our Road & Bridge employees do to keep our roads clear and safe.
Q. Why are you seeking public office and what qualifies you to serve as Routt County commissioner?
A. I care passionately about Routt County. Not just as a place, but for the people that are my friends and neighbors. My wife, Donna, and I were able to raise four wonderful children who were nurtured by the schools and the community, and we both had the opportunity to start and sustain successful businesses that supported our family and provided employment for others. I have served my community for the last 14 years as an elected official, first on the Soroco School Board — six years as its president — and the last four years as Routt County commissioner. I have a track record of build-ing relationships and partnerships for the betterment of Routt County and have stayed true to my vision of how all our citizens can live and work in successful communities. I have acquired a deep understanding of how government works and how my role can benefit Routt County.
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As Steamboat Springs and Routt County ease out of the pandemic, I’m thrilled to see a full slate of community events on the calendar in the coming months.