Incorporate … or not?
Meg Segerberg says Singletree is doing fine without being incorporated.”I think we have good services. I feel safe, I notice the county sheriff’s deputies driving through the area often,” she says.Donna McCarthy of Cordillera, however, says she would vote “yes” to incorporation if it appeared on a ballot.”We do well with road maintenance and schools, but we could pick it up a notch if we were be a town with our own services,” she says.McCarthy says she would agree to pay more taxes for more localized services. Unincorporated areas received some services<such as police and road maintenance<from the county, which governs them, too.Pros and consHome to about more than 9,00 people, unincorporated Edwards is by far the largest population center in Eagle County, which in turn is one of the fastest-growing counties in Colorado, a fast-growing state.The Edwards Council of Governing Entities, or ECOGE, has asked an accountant, Ken Marchetti of Robertson & Marchetti, to draft a proposal for a study to see what would be the cost of incorporation and how to get revenue to fund a town.”I’m investigating the pros and cons of incorporation,” says Pete Bergh, a Singletree resident and member of ECOGE. “It makes sense to study to see the benefits and costs. In the interim, it’s imperative that we work closely with the county.”Dave Lach, chairman of the Edwards Metropolitan District, says the incorporation issue is not a popular one among residents.”Our feeling is that it would be hard to get people to vote for incorporation. We have a consolidated fire department; we get excellent police protection through the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office as well as excellent road maintenance and repair through the county,” he says. “The one and only advantage that we see by incorporating is that we’ll be able to zone undeveloped land the way the people of Edwards want to do it.”Zoning and land-use issues are now evaluated using the county’s Future Land Use Map, or FLUM.”The commissioners continue to say that if we don’t like the decisions they are making, we should incorporate,” Lach says.One of the commissioners’ decisions being questioned is the recent approval given Colorado Mountain College to build an 18-acre-campus at the Berry Creek Fifth filling, Lach says.”We wouldn’t have agreed to that amount of acres,” he says. “But other than the zoning issue, there’s really no benefit to incorporate.”What’s involved?As an actual town, Edwards would have to provide its residents with most of the services now provided by the county, such public safety and road services.”The greater Edwards area receives a lot of services from the county that it would have to provide if it’s incorporated. This would result in a substantial increase in taxes in the area,” says Marchetti, whose company does the accounting for several metro districts in the valley, including Edwards.Marchetti says the study would have to determine the town’s boundaries, as well as which services and facilities would be provided by the town. That list if items is long and potentially costly, including:? A paid town clerk.? Legal services.? Planning and zoning.? Buildings for offices.? Human resources.? Computer information systems.? A judiciary.? Police.? Emergency services.? Public works.? Capital improvements.? Cultural and recreational programs.”It would be a given that if we’re to incorporate there will be another layer of government,” Bergh says. “But we could contract with neighboring towns for some services, keeping government to a minimum.”An example is the town of Gypsum, which contracts with Eagle County for a sheriff’s deputy.A matter of servicesCounty Commissioner Tom Stone says some Edwards’ residents feel the only way they can get ultimate control further development is by incorporating.”(But) I believe you can achieve that goal without adding extra costs by improving communication with the county,” Stone says.Bergh, meanwhile, says most major decisions affecting Edwards will be made in the next year or two<and it would take at least that amount of time to bring the incorporation issue to a vote.”Whether we incorporate or not we should be working close with the county planning commission,” he adds.Eagle County Finance Director Michael Roeper, however, says the county, which serves a total population of 41,659, according to the 2000 census, has to hire more employees to service the unincorporated area of Edwards, where nearly one in five county residents live.”Where there’s more people you need more services,” he says.But Stone says providing these services to the unincorporated Edwards area is not a burden for the county, which has a budget of $71 million for 2002.”I consider them a required service,” he says, “I don’t think you should call services a burden.”Julie Snyder, Eagle County’s controller, says being a town means more services.Avon, for example, has a recreation center, recreation programs and a park, which Town Manager Bill Efting says, everybody can use.”We have five people planting flowers all the summer,” he adds.Lach says he believes the issue ultimately will make it onto a ballot. Still, he says, he’d be surprised if 10 percent of Edwards’ residents would vote for incorporation.”At this time, I don’t think the people would choose to incorporate,” says County Commissioner Arn Menconi. “I think the majority of the people in Edwards are happy with the job and service the county is providing.””Incorporation comes with the idea that local autonomy and independence is important,” adds Roeper. “That’s one of the reason many towns incorporate.”County Commissioner Michael Gallagher says he believes Edwards should look into incorporation.”Local government represents the people better than a government 15 miles away,” he says.Veronica Whitney can be reached at (970) 949-0555 ext. 454 or at email@example.com.