Small town, big project: Hot Sulphur, Grand County sometimes at odds over building
December 28, 2007
Seeing Clint Roberts of Hot Sulphur Springs, wearing a housecoat and holding a cup of coffee, march up to a contractor to let him know what he thought of his decision to operate a compacting machine just after sunrise on a Saturday was quite a sight, according to a friend who witnessed the scene.
Construction of Grand County’s new judicial building in the middle of a residential section of town has not always gone smoothly, though the town and its residents have been understanding for the most part, according to Roberts, who works in the industry himself.
But as a neighbor to the courthouse property and a town board member, he just couldn’t accept construction workers wielding machinery ” the kind that “literally shakes pictures off the walls” ” prior to start times established by the town at the outset of the project.
Hot Sulphur Springs has construction hours-of-operation in place, and the county was reminded to abide by them.
For its part, the county has been cooperative, says Hot Sulphur Springs Mayor Hershal Deputy.
“They’ve been responsive all along,” he said. “I’ve only been called once about the noise.”
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A recent meeting with construction heads and county officials to further clarify hours of construction should resolve any lingering misunderstandings, he said.
“I wouldn’t want to make a mountain out of molehill on this,” he added.
The town of Hot Sulphur Springs and its board of trustees “takes pride in itself for standing up for itself,” according to Roberts, when it comes to hosting a major presence in town ” the county.
Although its budget is half of 1 percent of the county’s, Hot Sulphur Springs has been known to remind the county that its hub of governance is not an island surrounded by the town, but rather a tenant in the town of Hot Sulphur Springs.
The county, in turn, has made concessions along the way, such as improved landscaping planned around its future building to provide a visual buffer between it and neighbors.
“I was a squeaky wheel,” Roberts said, “and, I was a recipient of the ‘grease.'”
Three large trees the county extracted from the front of the existing courthouse to make room for parking were planted in Robert’s yard to screen him from the new building.
The county also improved signage in areas where parking problems stemming from construction needed attention, and to limit county traffic through an alleyway.
Conflicting snow storage scenarios between town and county public works was also an issue that, according to Deputy, is also being addressed.
“The systems the county provides create a huge influx of people coming and going, and in a small town, we realize that has an impact on people who live here. We make every effort to provide all the mitigation that’s asked for to soften the blow,” said County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran.
The judicial building is expected to be completed by August 2008, at which time the court and attending offices will move out of their existing building.
County Commissioner Gary Bumgarner has attended every Hot Sulphur town board meeting and been accessible to board members, according to Deputy, and overall communication between county and town might actually have improved because of the project.
However, during more adversarial issues, such as a height variance on the judicial building during its planning stages, some people said the county’s legal department bullied the town.
“We enjoy a good working relationship with the county and its employees,” Roberts said. “However, some of us take exception to being intimidated.”
The county manager “respectfully disagree(s)” with this perception. She said it’s not the impression she got from the board of adjustments, and the county ultimately found a way to meet its needs and be more compliant with the town.
“We’re pleased to be one of the residents of the town,” she said, “And we realize we are a big impact on its citizens and try to comply with the regulations, but also in the spirit as one of the residents of this town.”
Hot Sulphur’s mayor considers the county “a very valuable asset” and denies friction.
“They’re pretty good neighbors,” Deputy said. “We needed a new justice center. We were never opposed to it. You never heard anyone say, ‘Not here.’
“We’re just trying to do our part, as little as it is. At least they’re willing to talk to us; whether or not they’re willing to listen, that’s their decision,” he added.
Roberts, too, sees the town and county working on the partnership.
“Like a good marital relationship, it’s not always a bed of roses,” he said.
” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail email@example.com.