Coal reigns over tax rolls

Energy, ski industries pay millions on property

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— The new list of Routt County's top property taxpayers is out and it looks like coal is still king in this part of northwest Colorado.

Of the $31.56 million collected by the county, Cypress Western Coal Co., (made up of Twentymile Coal Co. and other holdings) tops the list, paying out $1.98 million in taxes.

But county officials said coal itself is intertwined in the fate of a number of other top taxpaying entities.

For example, the second, third and sixth highest paying companies (Public Service Co., Pacificorp, Salt River Project) all own part of the Hayden Power Plant, which is run on coal. And the power plant's main supplier, Seneca Coal Co., comes in at

No. 12.

"This list shows that coal mining and the production of power related to coal mining is still important to our economy," said Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak.

"And Union Pacific (No. 9) is the transportation of coal out of this valley."

Stahoviak pointed out coal's impact isn't just property tax.

"It pays top wages to people who work for those coal companies," Stahoviak said.

Ron Spangler, a spokesman for Cypress, said there also are a lot of companies that support the mining industry like machine shops, and consulting groups that do the water testing, drilling and exploration.

"All of those people are basically supported by the industry," Spangler said.

Spangler said coal isn't Cypress' only moneymaker.

"We have over 20,000 acres of property in addition to the active mining area," Spangler said. "We ranch. We ran about 3,000 yearlings last year."

There are five energy-related companies (Nos. 2, 3, 6, 7 and 17) in the top 20 led by Public Service Co. of Colorado, now known as Xcel, at $1.44 million.

Once the observer gets past Cypress and the Public Service Co., the tax amounts drop off significantly.

Ski Time Square Enterprises is the top, mostly ski-dependent company at No. 4, paying $656,436.

Ski Time Square is the Sheraton Hotel, Ski Time Square where the Tugboat restaurant is at, and other holdings.

A closer look at the list shows American Skiing Co. has several of its entities broken up into separate taxpaying companies with Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. at No. 5, Grand Summit Resort Properties at No. 10 and American Skiing Co. listed at No. 13.

Added up, these companies pay about $1.13 million, which would have the Maine-based American Skiing Co. and its subsidiaries paying the third highest taxes in Routt County.

And like the coal industry, the ski industry's tendrils reach out into the rest of the economy, creating jobs and supporting businesses.

"I would think anyone in business in the community would have a substantial part of their winter revenue coming from the ski industry," said County Commissioner Dan Ellison.

This year, the Catamount Ranch and Club broke into the top 20, coming in at No. 11.

Catamount has been selling luxury lots around its lake and golf course and has been able to reinvest in more amenities like a pro shop.

The new buildings and amenities have pushed them into a higher tax bracket, but there are no complaints from management.

"It's the good side of our success," said Mike Beckley, president and general manager of Catamount Ranch and Club."

"We're happy to pay the taxes because that's how you give back to the community."

To reach Frances Hohl call 871-4208

or e-mail fhohl@steamboatpilot.com

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