Eagle County’s push to locate a small lake on property at Berry Creek designated for educational uses met with stiff resistance from some members of the Eagle County School Board last week.
Citing a lack of communication from the county, and questioning the educational value of the small body of water – it’s being called a “pond” – School Board President Barb Schierkolk suggested the district and the county consider dissolving their Partnership for Education.
The partnership, consisting of the county and the school district, jointly owns the 16-acre site at Berry Creek in Edwards that has been leased to Colorado Mountain College.
County officials, surprised by the opposition to their proposal, reduced the size of the proposed pond this week after the Partnership voted not to allow the feature to encroach onto the CMC parcel. The reconfigured pond will be located entirely on county-owned property designated for recreational use.
County Commissioner Tom Stone called the school board’s opposition “short-sighted.” The county was looking to use the proposed 10-foot deep pond, which would have had three surface acres, for water detention and irrigation for the entire Berry Creek Fifth parcel. The pond is also considered an aesthetic feature for the property. As proposed, the pond would have straddled the CMC and recreation sites.
At a work session in April, county officials discussed a “pushed” schedule for the pond, which would have been completed by mid-November. County officials want to earth dug to make the pond for construction at Berry Creek.
At last week’s meeting, School Board member Louise Funk expressed frustration with newspaper articles giving the impression the pond had already been approved. Last week, Stone wrote a column promoting the pond. The issue didn’t come to the partnership for a vote until June 16.
“This is an issue we need to discuss. This (development of the partnership land) is a joint effort, not one person’s agenda. We need to act accordingly if we are going to keep this partnership going,” said Funk.
Schierkolk said she doesn’t believe the school district needs the pond, saying the land is already served by an irrigation ditch. The inter-governmental agreement for the partnership specified the CMC parcel was to be used for educational purposes, she said.
“I can’t justify this pond to my constituents as an educational use,” she said. She suggested dissolving the partnership and dividing the property between the district and the county so each entity could proceed with its respective plans.
“I’m frustrated by the actions or non-actions of this partnership,” Schierkolk said. “We’re not communicating properly.”
The county has voiced an interest in using the property for the pond, she added, and has discussed the possibility of a church site.
“It seems to be continually going in areas not educational,” Schierkolk added.
At the School Board meeting, County Commissioner Michael Gallagher was surprised by the opposition to the pond. He described the pond as a “housekeeping” or infrastructure issue for the site. The commissioners indicated the county would consider absorbing the $1 million cost of pond construction, although the issue of who would pay maintenance costs was undecided.
“We can appreciate that it doesn’t have educational value,” Gallagher said. “I’m surprised to hear talk of dissolving the partnership, and hearing that nothing can work because of the pond.”
Last week, the directors voted against allowing the pond to encroach on the CMC parcel. Commissioner Arn Menconi sided with the school board.
The commissioners then said they would reduce the size of the pond and keep it on county property.
Menconi said there is not a compelling reason to construct the pond at this time, voicing concern that by placing the pond now, the county was limiting itself on where it could place other structures on the parcel. Stone, however, said by building the pond now, when the fill dirt is in demand – CMC needs it at its site, and the county can use it for the Cemetery Bridge replacement – the county had an opportunity to save some money. He urged that construction of the pond start immediately.
Menconi questioned the need to proceed with the pond immediately, saying the county isn’t clear on what it wants to do with the Berry Creek Fifth site. He also questioned the need of the pond for irrigation purposes.
“I don’t think the timing is right. We should hold off, and decide what we’re doing with the land,” Menconi said.
The commissioners voted 2-1 to proceed with the pond, with Menconi voting against it.
This story first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.