Wednesday, October 13, 2010

County Receives $300,804 Check Thanks to County Attorney

On September 27, 2010 the Board of County Commissioners learned from County Attorney Mary Deganhart that the County was in possession of a check from Travelers Casualty & Surety Co. in the amount of $300,804.00.  The funds were distributed to the County to cover the estimated costs of repairs to segments of County Road 17.  County Road 17, which is a narrow road along the historic railroad grade between County Road 23 (Idyllwild area) and the City of Ouray, is located on the east slopes of Miller Mesa above the Uncompahgre valley.  According to the County, the road has suffered severe damage resulting from the installation of a natural gas distribution line in 2004.  After the installation of the gas line drainage patterns were altered such that the road has been subject to eroding, sloughing, and thus narrowing.  At least fourteen major trouble spots have been identified within the "repair corridor" by the County Road and Bridge Department and contracted County engineers.

(Courtesy Ouray County GIS Department)

Travelers has found the claim to be reasonable and valid.  The $300,804 is to cover engineering, materials, and labor costs that will be incurred by the County upon repairing the road.

Kinder Morgan and Rocky Mountain Natural Gas Company dispute the claims and have filed a lawsuit against the County challenging whether the bond is still effectively in-place and whether the companies still have obligations to the County for work performed to install the gas line.  At the time that the County issued a Special Use Permit to the gas companies to install the line in the County Road 17 road bed and other rights-of-way in the County, a bond of $360,000 was posted by Kinder Morgan and Rocky Mountain Natural Gas.

In a letter dated April 22, 2010, Travelers wrote "As a result of our analysis of the terms of the bond and the Special Use Permit ("SUP") on which the bond was issued, we agree with you…that the work…was never formally accepted by the County, and as such, the bond is still active…Accordingly, we are accepting your claim."

The BOCC and County staff agreed that the check should be deposited in a new special fund dedicated to County Road 17.  Meanwhile, the BOCC has authorized the Road and Bridge Department and County Engineers to utilize up to $5,600 to complete topographic surveying  so that engineered drawings and specifications may be completed over the winter and the repairs can be put out for bid early next year.  This will allow the County to be ready to proceed with repairs as early as possible next spring.

Several citizens have inquired in the last couple years, usually during high visibility proceedings, about what exactly is the role of the County Attorney in County affairs.  The County Attorney provides legal service and advice to the Board of County Commissioners and their divisions and departments, and, when appropriate, initiates and represents the county in litigation.  If directed by the BOCC, the County Attorney also represents the various County departments, appointed advisory boards, and other elected or appointed officials, when those interests are compatible with those of the County. The BOCC has indeed directed the County Attorney to work with the Planning Commission, the Public Access Group, and other county boards/commissions.

The County Attorney coordinates with our insurance carrier in all public liability and tort actions.  The County Attorney handles all general civil litigation matters for Ouray County, including land use, zoning and building code violations; employment issues; property tax issues; election issues; and provides legal services and review on all contracts. The County Attorney is licensed and authorized to appear in all Colorado State Courts and also before the U.S. District Court of Colorado and the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

State law mandates the County Attorney's Office to represent the People of the State of Colorado in certain social services/human services and mental health proceedings, thus the County Attorney prosecutes Dependency and Neglect actions.

Speaking as one Commissioner, I appreciate the often thankless job that our County Attorney Mary Deganhart is doing.  I believe Mary goes out of her way to protect the County and its assets, in this case, County Road 17.  She has proven to be highly effective, and is very keen on contract and performance bond details, which is why we are currently in receipt of the funds we need to repair our County asset; definitely this is in the best interest of all our County's citizens.

Citizens can reach me via email: or cell: 970-417-9901.  Thank you for the opportunity to serve as one of your Commissioners.

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