Routt County explores leaving regional association

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County Board of Commissioners are considering leaving the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, because they believe the lobbying efforts of the group often do not represent the county’s interests.

The group of five counties and several cities in Northwest Colorado is one of 14 councils of government in the state. The primary goal of these groups is to allow various levels of government to coordinate and work together on regional issues.

But commissioners said Tuesday the group does not seem to represent Routt County’s interests and potentially is even lobbying against issues the county lobbies in support of through other channels. Routt County could instead join the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, which does not have a lobbying arm. The city of Steamboat Springs is already a member of that group.

The move would have Routt County leaving a group dominated by counties on the western border of Colorado in favor of one that includes several resort communities.

“I’ve spent three years trying to work within that organization and sort of felt like an outsider looking in most of the time,” said Commissioner Tim Redmond, who represented Hayden among the associated governments while mayor of the town. “They are not necessarily, as you would say, in step with Routt County and the direction we may be thinking we may like to go.”

Redmond went so far as to say he has not felt welcome as part of the organization in the past. And while he said he was able to push the group back toward the center at times, he didn’t feel like trying to correct course and expose the group to another view was worth the effort.

In a good organization, Redmond said, multiple points of view should be considered and an issue should be studied from all sides. In his time with the group, he often felt the “books were cooked” before a meeting would begin.

“I found myself taking votes against positions so that the town of Hayden’s name would not be thrown into that pool,” Redmond said. “I was worried about our reputation, and the perception that it might cast.”

Routt County commissioners are considering leaving the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, number 11 on the map, and could potentially join the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, represented by number 12 on the map.

The lobbying efforts of the group are what most concern Commissioner Beth Melton.

“We have plenty of other organizations representing us without pretending that AGNC represents us, which I think they do not,” Melton said.

Melton admitted she was less familiar with some of the other things the group does but said she was inclined to believe there was not much happening that benefits the Routt County community. She said she would like more information from the group about what they do for the county at a meeting next week.

Membership in the group costs the county $17,000 plus an additional $1,201 to support the group’s Area Agency on Aging. That agency supports the Routt County Council on Aging, but Commissioner Tim Corrigan said the funding the group gets is pass-through dollars from the federal government and shifting to an Area Agency on Aging run by a different group is possible.

Corrigan said he has discussed the process of entering Northwest Colorado Council of Governments with John Stavney, the group’s executive director. While there are some complications to moving, Corrigan said he was not aware of anything stopping the county from switching groups.

He also emphasized NCCOG is not a lobbying organization, but instead, is focused on service and education. Routt County lobbies at the State Capitol in Denver through groups like Counties and Commissioners Acting Together and Colorado Counties Incorporated.

“It is difficult to justify paying yet a third organization for lobbying efforts, especially when those lobbying efforts may be counter to lobbying efforts that are being pursued on our behalf by these other two organizations,” Corrigan said.

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