Steamboat Springs The Routt County Board of Commissioners again voted 2-1 to move forward with plans to pave a half-mile stretch of Routt County Road 18, but not before they apologized to landowners along the rural roadway who were upset they weren’t consulted before the project was initially approved in May.
The $47,000 chip-and-seal project of the road that leads to the Sarvis Creek Wilderness Area near Pleasant Valley was originally given the OK on May 24. The commissioners reconsidered their vote Tuesday after they were told by county residents on July 12 that their previous vote did not comply with Routt County Road & Bridge Department policies requiring public input before road decisions are made.
“We’ve profusely apologized for our lack of public process in this … and we need to be more cognizant of people’s opinions,” Commissioner Doug Monger said before voting to approve the project. “The benefit we provide in paving this road is less wear and tear on our equipment and less wear and tear on citizens’ vehicles on the road.”
Diane Mitsch Bush was the only commissioner to vote against the paving project.
She said the commissioners lacked enough information to approve the project, including a recent traffic survey of the road.
“I cannot vote in favor of extending the chip seal because we didn’t follow our policy of approving it correctly,” she said. “Everyone wasn’t informed in a timely manner, and I don’t see a positive cost benefit for it.”
In a presentation before the vote, County Manager Tom Sullivan said there was no cost benefit for the project but that it nonetheless should be approved to extend an existing 2003 chip-and-seal project on the road and eliminate a surprise in the road for drivers as they transition from dirt to gravel. He said the existing paved portion of C.R. 18 was scheduled to be chip-and-sealed and that it would be easy to extend the paved portion to the end of the road.
Because of a compromise with landowners along the roadway in 2003, a section of the road was left as gravel when the county used grant funds to pave 1.32 miles of C.R. 18. Residents who helped draft the compromise said that leaving the unpaved portion gravel would provide a transition to the single-lane dirt road leading into the Sarvis Creek Wilderness Area.
C.R. 18 resident Bill Gay told the commissioners during Tuesday’s meeting that he wanted that compromise to be upheld.
“I am hugely disappointed we tore off a scab, opening an old wound, and it’s unfortunate the county is picking winners and losers in this issue,” he said. “I don’t want this to become a divisive issue where neighbors try to get even with each other.”
Keith Skytta was supportive of the paving project.
“I couldn’t figure out why the chip seal wasn’t just continued on the road,” he said.
And Ed Neish told commissioners it would have been helpful if they had informed him and other landowners in the area that they were planning to pave it.
“All it takes is to come to us and communicate the problem and see how it can be resolved,” he said. “I’m not for or against this, but I’m offended by the process the county has used to approve this.”
Sullivan said he received six emails and one phone call about the paving project. He said four of those were in support of the project, and three were against. Work on the road could begin in mid-August.