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Intention for pit questioned

Gary E. Salazar

— A district judge will have to decide whether Jarle Halsnes was pushed out of a gravel pit deal or if the Steamboat Springs man was simply out to make money for himself off a gravel pit on the More Ranch.

Those were the arguments presented Tuesday to Judge Gaspar Perricone by Halsnes’ attorney, Edward Bendelow, and the More family’s lawyer, Ralph Cantafio. The arguments came during the first day of a trial in 14th Judicial District Court in Steamboat Springs.

Halsnes is suing More Family Ranch L.L.C., alleging the family backed out of an agreement that would have allowed Halsnes to operate an asphalt and concrete plant in the south Yampa Valley.

Bendelow maintains his client had an agreement to lease the property from the Mores, but the family signed an agreement with Lafarge Corp.

“The family told me numerous times it was my deal,” Halsnes said during his testimony, which lasted close to six hours. “I took these people’s words.”

Cantafio said Halsnes was not looking out for the Mores but trying to broker a deal between him and a gravel company that would pay the highest bid to mine the property.

Cantafio also claims Halsnes delayed the process to get a permit from Routt County because he was trying to get the best deal for himself.

“He placed his own financial interests above my clients,” Cantafio said.

Halsnes testified he approached the family about operating a gravel pit on about 117 acres of the ranch, which is six miles south of Steamboat Springs on the east side of Colorado 131.

The two parties agreed Halsnes would lease the land with an option to later purchase the property.

Halsnes was contacted by Native Excavating and Elam Construction in August 2000 to operate the gravel pit.

The two companies were interested in operating the gravel pit on the property and worked with Halsnes on a permit application, which was later submitted to the county.

Halsnes testified the deal was nixed when he and officials from Elam Construction could not work out a deal in January.

“We had different views on how to operate the gravel pit,” Halsnes said.

Once Elam Construction was out of the picture, Halsnes started working with Lafarge.

Halsnes testified he introduced Lafarge officials to the More family in February. Halsnes claims the family illegally terminated his part in the project at the urging of Lafarge and Elam Construction.

“They wanted to kick me out,” he said. “It was a dirty way of doing business.”

During questioning by Cantafio, Halsnes testified he did not have any experience running a gravel pit. Halsnes is involved in construction and real estate.

Cantafio maintains his clients thought Halsnes would operate the gravel pit and became concerned once they found out Halsnes was trying to broker a deal with a third party.

The family later agreed to a deal with Lafarge and Elam directly because they felt Halsnes did not have the resources or expertise to secure the county permit in a timely fashion, Cantafio said.

The family argues a contract between the two parties never existed.

Halsnes claims he had an agreement with the family through a series of documents, oral statements and assurances.

Eloise More, who along with five members of her family negotiated with Halsnes, testified Tuesday afternoon there was an agreement. “We had a deal with him,” More said.

More testified the family’s perception of Halsnes changed.

“He didn’t care about the gravel pit,” she said.

“He wanted the land for houses. I think he knows how to look out for himself.”

More will continue testifying when the trial resumes at 8 a.m. today.

The trial is happening at a time Lafarge officials are working on an application to submit to Routt County to mine 100 acres of land on the More Ranch.

The proposed pit is opposed by numerous residents in the south valley.


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