Huerfano County pledges additional $100,000 in matching funds
HUERFANO — An ambitious county-led plan for development in unincorporated Gardner took a huge leap forward this month as the Colorado Department of Local Affairs announced a $100,000 grant award to the county for the project.
During the regular meeting of the board of commissioners Tuesday, Aug. 10, Huerfano County Administrator and author of the grant application, Carl Young announced the 50/50 matching grant had been given to the county.
The DOLA grant is from the department’s Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) program, which is designed to assist rural communities diversify their local economy and in an overall sense, to create a more resilient Colorado.
The board of county commissioners have earmarked the county’s $100,000 matching contribution in the 2022 budget with local funding sources likely coming from PILT (payment in lieu of taxes) and / or American Rescue Plan funds.
The DOLA grant memorandum, prepared by Young, explained to the board of commissioners, “the most successful applications to this program are from counties with less than 50,000 people, and from communities with fewer than 25,000 people. Projects that will be funded include plans, construction, programs, and capacity building.”
The memorandum, from mid-May this year outlined the plan for development in Gardner.
“In this project we propose to develop a 29-acre parcel of land adjacent to the Raymond Aguirre Community Center and Rodeo Grounds in Gardner,” Young wrote. He said the proposed dense and walkable development may be anchored by, what administration and government leaders envision, as a cooperatively owned and/or operated, gas station-convenience/grocery store and a workforce housing development on the property. State and local officials hope tourists, as well as residents of the greater Spanish Peaks/Huerfano County region will patronize the facilities once they are built.
“We intend the development to be mixed use, with additional commercial spaces available for rent and the incorporation of a variety of community amenities,” Young said in the May 18, 2021 document.
Young explained the primary community amenity created as part of the development, are greenhouses for use by the Gardner Valley School as an educational and workforce development project. The county also hopes to advance its Master Plan for the Gardner Community Center as part of the actual development, although that plan is not in the first phased of the mixed development project.
Young said job creation is important to the community and region and was an important feature of the county’s grant application. He said between 10 and 20 jobs could be created with the establishment of the fuel station, convenience/grocery store alone. He added the workforce housing project has the potential to support 50 to 100 construction workers during the building phase, including existing residents and newcomers alike. It was noted local employers, especially those in marijuana cultivation and other light industries, could benefit with increased affordable housing for their employees. Young mentioned other businesses which may fit well with the development plan, including those who have shown interest in the area, such as a tiny home manufacturer who might be able to expand operations and an existing woodworking business. Employees in the oil and gas industry working on developments in the region are also potential residents of any potential housing project.
“This project will focus on development of a community driven master plan with remaining funds dedicated to preliminary engineering of the development,” Young said. He said county government’s goal is to have the development ready to be put out to bid by the conclusion of this phase (engineering and master plan development) and results from meetings with potential private developers the county would like to see brought into the project.
In the memorandum Young wrote, “This project supports the county’s goals of reducing poverty, increasing the availability of affordable and accessible housing, as well as executing a comprehensive economic development program that is inclusive to the entire county. This project, once fully realized also has the potential to provide a boost to the Gardner Public Improvement District.”
Huerfano Commissioner Arica Andreatta said she would “gladly” make the motion to accept the grant award and commissioner John Galusha said he would “gladly” second that motion. Board chairman Gerald Cisneros added his support and the grant acceptance was approved in a 3-0 vote. The board of commissioners thanked Young for his work on this grant project.
In other Gardner news:
The board of commissioners voted to deny three GPID (Gardner water/waste water improvement district) bulk water applications Tuesday. Two of the applications were denied outright as no primary residence existed on the applicant’s property. The third request was different, the applicant has a currently operating well on his property, however wanted a bulk water allowance for emergency use in the event the well dries up. The board has allowed a single expedited request of this type earlier this year when a well failed days before the next scheduled meeting of the board. Commissioners Andreatta and Cisneros voted to deny the request, while commissioner Galusha voted in favor of granting it. But the 2-1 vote to deny did not exactly end the issue there with Cisneros asking the applicant to resubmit their application in time for next week’s meeting. Galusha suggested, and the other commissioners agreed, the county needs to examine its policy on expediting such a request due to severe drought conditions. Cisneros noted sand in the ground outside of Gardner often fills in wells causing them to fail and need service.
It is expected the board will look into a potential policy change regarding GPID backup bulk water applications for well users in emergency situations, possibly as early as next week.
Maintenance work on the water/wastewater system in Gardner has been ongoing with inspections and flushing of pipes in the system’s infrastructure.