Parties squabble over proposed pit in south valley |

Parties squabble over proposed pit in south valley

Gary E. Salazar

— When Lafarge Corp. reached an agreement with the More family in March to operate a gravel pit on the family’s ranch, it was willing to pay Jarle Halsnes $100,000.

The company was willing to pay the amount to the Steamboat Springs man because it was Halsnes’ idea to put a gravel pit on the ranch, which is six miles south of Steamboat Springs on the east side of Colorado 131.

For Halsnes to collect the “finder’s fee,” he couldn’t file a lawsuit, and the company would have to successfully secure a permit from Routt County to mine the property.

It did not take long for Halsnes to decide which option he would take. On March 12, Lafarge reached an agreement with the More family, and four days later Halsnes filed a lawsuit against More Family Ranch L.L.C. in Routt County District Court.

Halsnes alleges the More family illegally backed out of an agreement he executed with the family to operate a gravel pit.

The trial started Tuesday and continued Wednesday with officials from Lafarge and Elam Construction taking the stand.

Halsnes maintains these two companies pushed him out of the agreement he claims he had with the More family.

Stephen Corn, a Lafarge official, testified Wednesday his company did not deal with Halsnes because the family never signed a lease agreement with Halsnes.

Corn testified that when he asked Halsnes to produce the lease agreement he claimed he had with the family, Halsnes could not.

However, Corn testified Lafarge was willing to pay a $100,000 finder’s fee to Halsnes.

Corn will continue to testify when the trial resumes at 8 a.m. today.

Judge Gaspar Perricone has to determine if the More family illegally terminated its agreement with Halsnes, who is seeking actual and punitive damages.

The family’s attorney, Ralph Cantafio, claims Halsnes was not looking out for the Mores but trying to broker a deal between himself and a gravel company.

Cantafio also claims the family never signed a lease agreement with Halsnes.

During the fall of 2000, Halsnes claims in a series of documents, oral statements and assurances he had a deal with the family to operate a gravel pit on 100 acres of the ranch.

Later in the year, Halsnes formed a partnership with Elam Construction in moving forward with securing a permit from the county to operate the pit in the south valley.

Michele Jensen, a special project manager for Elam Construction, testified Wednesday she did not trust Halsnes and their partnership failed in January because of mutual disagreements.

However, Halsnes’ attorney, Edward Bendelow, submitted evidence Jensen wanted Halsnes out of the deal months before then.

In a September 2000 memo, Jensen wrote the company may be able to buy out Halsnes completely by scaring him with the financial responsibility needed to operate a gravel pit.

Jensen also testified the partnership ended because Halsnes did not agree with Elam’s consultants regarding operation and layout of the pit.

Jensen testified Halsnes wanted to supervise the gravel pit and place his brother in charge of the concrete plant.

“Jarle had no experience in operating a gravel pit, and he was unfamiliar with the equipment,” Jensen said as to why the company scoffed at Halsnes’ demands.

When the partnership ended, Halsnes approached Lafarge.

The family met with Lafarge officials and Halsnes Feb. 13. A few days after the meeting, the family terminated its relationship with Halsnes.

Jensen testified she was angry Lafarge “went behind (Elam’s) back” and dealt directly with the family.

However, Elam Construction in April sold the work it done on the proposed pit to Lafarge for $62,000, Jensen said.

Elam Construction has also become a partner in the proposed pit.

If Lafarge secures a permit for the pit, Elam Construction will operate the asphalt portion of the pit.

The trial is happening at a time Lafarge officials are working on the application to submit to the county.

Corn testified the application should be submitted sometime in early January.

The proposed pit is anticipated to be controversial because numerous residents in the south valley oppose the proposal.

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