Eagle County commissioners say ‘Accelerate’ is the theme for 2023’s policy initiatives | VailDaily.com

Eagle County commissioners say ‘Accelerate’ is the theme for 2023’s policy initiatives

Commissioners want to keep up momentum on housing, transportation and electrification

Eagle County Manager Jeff Shroll addresses the audience at Tuesday's State of the County presentation.
Stephanie Weinberger/courtesy photo

The big meeting room at the Eagle County Administration Building rarely fills. When it does, there’s often something controversial brewing. But Tuesday’s crowd came to celebrate.

The Eagle County Board of Commissioners, joined by scores of employees, elected officials and community partners, took time Tuesday to celebrate the state of the county, and to lay out some agenda items for the current year.

Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry told the crowd that “Accelerate” is the county’s theme for this year. That work captures the spirit of being quick and nimble in action, Chandler-Henry said.

But the county’s top administrator acknowledged that “accelerate” was a little frightening.

County Manager Jeff Shroll noted that the COVID-19 pandemic wore on county officials and employees. But, he noted, the team “all put their foot on the gas” coming out of the pandemic.

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“In some ways, they’ve been making the administration work to keep up,” Shroll noted.

Chandler-Henry said many of the big issues going into 2023 are a continuation of the work done in 2022. Businesses are struggling with staffing and the county’s housing shortage may be as bad as it’s ever been.

But, Chandler-Henry noted, the county is rolling out “meaningful solutions” — particularly when it comes to housing.

How to use $50 million

Those efforts have been driven in large part by the $50 million sale of the Lake Creek Village apartments. That sale closed in early 2022.

The money from that sale is being put to use. The county late last year agreed to help subsidize a joint housing project between Habitat for Humanity and the Eagle County School District. That project will build 16 deed-restricted homes on Eagle’s Third Street.

The county also agreed to put $26 million in up-front money to buy and deed-restrict 43 homes in the first phase of Eagle’s Haymeadow development. The county will recoup roughly $19 million once those homes are sold.

Progress is also being made on the Eagle Valley Trail. When finished — perhaps as soon as the end of 2024 — users will be able to cycle or hike from Breckenridge to Aspen. This year’s work will include building portions in EagleVail, Dowd Junction and a connection to Minturn, and fundraising has started to pay for the last portions of the trail.

Commissioner Matt Scherr talked about working in “networks, not silos,” and noted continued progress in electrifying the county.

While the county moves more of its fleet to electric or hybrid vehicles — 21 of 29 vehicles now on order have some sort of battery power — and more residents go to electric vehicles, Scherr said there’s more to be done.

The cleanest trip

The biggest share of the county’s greenhouse gas emissions comes from ground transportation.

“The cleanest car trip is the one not taken,” Scherr said, adding that the improved transit system, approved last fall by voters, will make those cleaner trips possible.

Scherr touted other initiatives including expanding local e-bike sharing programs and recycling and other efforts. The Eagle County Fair and Rodeo in 2022 kept 87% of all the trash generated out of the local landfill.

Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney talked a bit about action to mitigate risk from wildfire. In all crews in 2022 completed 1,700 acres of wildfire mitigation, and 300 homeowners received help with creating defensible space on their property.

Shroll noted that partners will be needed to accomplish many of the county’s 2023 goals. “We couldn’t do what we do without partnerships,” he said.

Plans now in process for the Eagle County Fairgrounds and Eagle County Regional Airport will put even more decisive action within reach, Chandler-Henry said.

“You can move fast when you plan well,” she said.

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