Communities vie for energy funds

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Routt County communities face stiff competition for Energy and Mineral Impact dollars for roads, schools and other projects.

The Colorado Department of Local Affairs received a record number of grant requests for the funding cycle ending Dec. 1. The department is weighing 110 applications totaling about $40 million.

Four of those requests are from Routt County and are aimed at improving safety at Hayden schools, re-aligning a curvy stretch of Routt County Road 37 and purchasing a water tender truck for the North Routt Fire Protection District

Routt County also is partnering with the Visiting Nurse Association to request dollars for health kiosks and other equipment.

The Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance program helps communities affected by the energy and mining industries. Funds come from severance taxes on energy and mining development and a portion of royalties from industry leases on federal land.

Cities, counties and school districts are among groups eligible for grants and loans from the program.

Funding has averaged about $20 million for the past several cycles. At the same time, the number of grant requests has been increasing, said Barbara Kirkmeyer, deputy director of the department.

"We're getting back to more competitive grant cycles," she said.

The department received 78 applications for the Aug. 1 funding cycle. It awarded about $24 million of $30 million in requests.

Revenues to the program increased dramatically last year because of bigger severance tax payments from natural gas production and price increases.

Eight field representatives help get the word out to communities about funding and also help with grant applications.

In Routt County, entities requesting grants present their needs to a local committee made up of government officials and representatives of mining and energy companies.

The committee ranks the projects and makes recommendations to the department. Agency staffers make more recommendations, and the Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Advisory Committee also reviews projects.

Hearings before that committee will be in March.

Local affairs department Exec-utive Director Michael Beasley makes the final decision based on those set of recommendations.

Sue Gariepy, grant writer for the three school districts in Routt County, said she was optimistic the Hayden School District would get funds it needs for safety improvements, including revamping clocks, announcement systems and door locks.

The local committee said that was a top priority.

The largest request was from Hayden, which needs $450,000 to help straighten the "L" curve on C.R. 37 near U.S. Highway 40.

That project, ranked fourth by the committee, should be a strong candidate for funds because it involves land owned by Peabody Energy and will improve a route to the mine facilities, Town Manager Russ Martin said.

"I think that is going to be extremely helpful," he said.

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