Trail funding approved with extra funding for Grand Foundation

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by Tara Walker

Commissioners have decided to fund Headwaters Trails Alliance (HTA) $25,000 as a pull forward line item in 2018 upon receiving a written request to be confirmed next week and an additional $25,000 as a line item in the 2019 budget, contingent on HTA making a request in 6 months based on need. The BOCC added $30,000 to Grand foundation to give them a total of $255,500 to give as grants to nonprofit organizations that qualify.
The Open Lands, Rivers and Trail Fund – a 15% cap has been an area of controversy regarding funding for Headwaters Trails Alliance (HTA) because the cap limits the funding that HTA is able to receive.

Commissioner Cimino questioned if the commissioners were supportive of taking away the 15% cap for trails. Commissioner Manguso, “There are conflicting legal opinions and until I feel comfortable legally, I think it would be a mistake to do it.” Commissioner Linke also responded that he wasn’t comfortable removing the 15% cap.

Commissioners discussed concerns over interpretation of ballot language unfairly limiting funding towards trails and commissioners agreed on a Trails workshop in January. Linke agreed with Cimino that he would like to expand the definition of trail maintenance to include construction and anything related to trail maintenance if that was possible.

Linke addressed concerns that adding HTA as a line item encourages other nonprofits to seek line items. Nonprofit organizations expressed that their funding was also important, and that Grand Foundation needs more funding to meet the needs of all the nonprofits. Linke stated that he would look at the idea of putting Trails under Road and bridges in the future. Linke, “I can argue that trails are transportation. To me that is an important component of transportation. I don’t think it sets a precedent for all the other nonprofits to come forward for funding. We should also increase the amount we put into Grand Foundation.”

Commissioner Cimino told the BOCC attendees that HTA was funded through a ballot measure and that other nonprofits should also be funded in that way but conceded that the county is obligated to provide these services, “I believe the nonprofits can provide the services at a much better way due to leveraging time, volunteers, grants. I get it, taxpayer dollars funding nonprofits, but in reality, it is the most efficient way of spending our dollars.”

Linke argued that it did not make logistical sense to pass ballot language for funding other nonprofits and that voters put the commissioners in the position to make those hard decisions, “Maybe it takes political courage. They put us in here to make those decisions and we don’t have to ask a ballot measure every time.”

Commisioner Manguso, “Somehow or another, HTA needs to be fixed. I am reluctant to bring them under the county because I know it will cost us more, but it needs to be fixed.”

Commissioners agreed that the line item for HTA would not be a permanent fix and other solutions need to be explored as this was a temporary funding option that would not be available for every nonprofit in the future.
Linke expressed that Grand Foundation is doing a great job providing grants to the nonprofits that provide valuable services to the community, “They can provide these services more effectively and more efficiently than we can as a government entity.”

A Trails workshop is planned in January to address funding needs and solutions for Trails in the future.