Town Approves CARES Act Funding Agreement With Dolores County
USFS pending land sale to Atlantic-Richfield raises concerns for hiking trail access.
Rico Board of Trustees
June 15, 2020 5:30 PM
Nicole Pieterse - Mayor Pro Tem, Joe Dillsworth, Pat Fallon, Sophia Kyriakakis, Brandy Randall, Esteban Roberts
Barbara Betts - Mayor
The Rico Board of Trustees approved an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) June 15 with Dolores County and the Town of Dove Creek for disbursement of Federal CARES Act funds. The State of Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) will distribute CARES Act funds to Colorado counties. Dolores County will distribute CARES Act funds to Dove Creek and Rico based on population.
CARES is the acronym for "Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security."
In the Trustees Meeting Packet notes, Rico Town Manager Kari Distefano described how much of the Federal CARES funds Colorado will pass-on to the counties:
"The State held a little over half of the funding for their own purposes and distributed the rest among the Counties based on population."
CARES allows the County and Towns to directly receive funds for costs incurred in fighting and ameliorating the effects of COVID-19, according to a declaration in the Intergovernmental Agreement prepared by Dolores County. An excerpt of the Agreement is reprinted below.
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IGA BETWEEN DOLORES COUNTY AND THE TOWNS OF DOVE CREEK AND RICO, COLORADO REGARDING DISBURSEMENT OF CORONAVIRUS AID, RELIEF AND ECONOMIC SECURITY ACT FUNDS
CARES funds are allocated based on the percentage of the population in a given state that resides in the jurisdiction requesting direct funding from the federal government. The County and Towns are similarly allocating CARES funds based on the percentage of the County population residing in its towns, as well as in the unincorporated portions of the County. The spreadsheet attached as Exhibit A, and incorporated herein, shows the amount of CARES funds available to each of the Towns and the County. The Towns and Dolores County will act as their own fiscal agent for purposes of tracking, requests for re-imbursement from the state and fulfillment of documentation of purchases.
The Towns and County must submit reports on the expenditure of its CARES funds, including the amount and purpose of each expenditure, to the Dolores County Covid Relief Fund Committee (“CRF Committee”) monthly. Any CARES funds not spent by November 15, 2020, shall be held for review for the CRF Committee to determine additional possible uses before the obligation to return unspent CARES funds to the Federal Treasury on December 31, 2020. Possible uses of unspent funds may be found, by majority vote of the CRF Committee, to best be utilized in other County or Town jurisdictions. . . .
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Dolores County proposed allocation of CARES funds to itself, Dove Creek and Rico is shown below. - Image from Trustees Meeting Packet:
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A section of the State of Colorado CARES funds distribution to the counties is shown below. Dolores County is highlighted.
- Image from Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Division of Local Government: "Coronavirus Relief Fund (CVRF) Local Government Distribution - Executive Summary - 5/30/2020. Included in Trustees Meeting Packet.
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Trustees discussed COVID-19 expenses incurred by Town which may qualify for reimbursement from Dolores County, such as Town Manager's cost of labor.
Some small business expenses may also qualify, as Town Manager Distefano explained in the Meeting Packet notes: ". . . the money can be used as grant funding for local businesses that have incurred expenses such as additional seating outside, hand sanitizer and any type of Plexiglas barriers that they may have had to erect to be in compliance with State guidelines.
The deadline for Rico to submit CARES funding requests to the DOLA website portal is November 15, 2020. Colorado Department of Local Affairs regional representative Patrick Rondinelli advised Town Manager Distefano to submit funding applications after DOLA approves other towns' requests, which will provide an indication of which types of COVID-19-related expenses DOLA will approve.
The Intergovernmental Agreement, and Colorado Department of Local Affairs - Division of Local Government Coronavirus Relief Fund (CVRF) Local Government Distribution - Executive Summary - 5/30/2020 are available at the Town of Rico website.
Forest Service / Atlantic-Richfield public land conveyance generates trail access concerns
Dolores River valley north of Rico. Public lands conveyance area is in right portion of this Ore Cart photo. See area map and related information at Ore Cart - April 21, 2020 report - "USFS land conveyance to Atlantic-Richfield" section.
At its April 15, 2020 meeting, the Town of Rico Board of Trustees considered a correspondence from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) at Dolores dated February 24, 2020 in which USFS invited Town to participate as a "consulting party" to a proposed Cultural Resources Memorandum of Agreement between Atlantic-Richfield and USFS. Atlantic-Richfield had submitted a Small Tracts Act Application to USFS for conveyance of 39.99 acres to Atlantic-Richfield as authorized by the Small Tracts Act. The location is on the lower slope of Telescope Mountain about 0.5 mile north of Rico.
The Rico Board of Trustees instructed Town Manager at the April meeting to reply to USFS and affirm Town's desire to participate as a "consulting party" to the proposed Memorandum of Agreement.
Trustee Fallon requested discussion of public access to a trail in the affected area be included in the June 15, 2020 Trustees meeting agenda, according to the Meeting Packet notes.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service is seeking public comment on a proposed rule change that would expand use of the Small Tracts Act and provide the Forest Service greater flexibility to resolve land management challenges through sales, exchange, or interchange of small land parcels. The proposed changes are among those that implement new authorities the Forest Service received through the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018—also known as the 2018 Farm Bill.
The proposed rule would allow parcels that are physically isolated, inaccessible, or lack national forest characteristics to be conveyed if they are 40 acres or less in size. It would also allow parcels 10 acres or less where permanent, habitable improvements have been made to be conveyed if encroachment was neither intentional nor negligent. Proceeds from these land exchanges could then be used to acquire lands or interest in lands in the same state that are suitable to be included in the National Forest System. Those proceeds may also be used to reimburse costs associated with the competitive sale of eligible lands. . . .
The proposed regulations will be open for public comment for 60 days following their publication in the Federal Register.
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In a June 10, 2020 correspondence to Town Manager Distefano, USFS San Juan National Forest District Ranger at Dolores, Derek Padilla, stated: "Last we heard from Atlantic-Richﬁeld was that the current public access would be maintained."
Trustees discussed trail use, tract size and possible action:
- history of trail use by Rico residents for hiking.
- the possibility of another 45-day comment period.
- the size of the tract compared to the proposed size limit in the proposed USFS Small Tract Act rule change (39.99 acres for the USFS/Atlantic-Richfield tract vs. 40.00 acres maximum conveyance allowed).
- was the Rico-area tract surveyed to determine size?
- possible correspondence from Town Attorney to USFS to express Town's concern about loss of trail use after ownership of the tract transfers to Atlantic-Richfield.
Town Manager Distefano spoke with USFS District Ranger Padilla June 16 - the day after the Trustees meeting - about Rico Trustees' trail access concerns. In a response to an Ore Cart request for clarification, Town Manager Distefano reported:
"He said that the sale of the parcel we talked about last night has been in the works for eighteen months and was pretty much a done deal. I asked him if the Town had been informed and he said that the Town hadn't but he thought Dolores County had been notified. . . ."
"I also asked about the Small Tracts Act. It has actually been around since 1983 but they are in the process of revising it to allow sales of land that has a value in excess of $150,000. I don't think that would affect this parcel. Given land values in the immediate area, it seems unlikely that the parcel in question would be valued at $150,000."
"I asked Derek what the rationale for selling the parcel was and he said it was because every time AR expanded those wetland areas to deal with the cleanup, AR had to go through an Environmental Assessment process and both AR and the USFS thought it would be more expedient to just sell it."
District Ranger Padilla offered to provide contact information of a land group representative who has been the intermediary between USFS and Atlantic-Richfield, suggesting Town may wish to pursue trail access with the land group.
The Town of Rico attorney will be asked if Town has any "leverage" on the trail access issue, stated Town Manager Distefano.