Thirtieth Anniversary Report

Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado

Prepared on Behalf of

Keith Lambert, AGNC Chairman

By Mesa County Commissioner Doralyn Genova

April 2004

This Chairman’s report has been prepared for the 30th Anniversary of the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado (AGNC) and its predecessor organizations. AGNC is the voluntary regional association representing cities and counties in the 5-county northwest Colorado area of Garfield, Mesa, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt. Currently there are 5 counties and 17 cities participating as members. One county, Jackson, participates currently as an associate member and 2 counties, Clear Creek and Grand participate in the Northwest Colorado Enterprise Zone.

 

Background

In 1972 local government officials formed the forerunner of AGNC to help local governments deal with energy impact issues facing the entire region. County and City officials from Garfield, Mesa, Moffat and Rio Blanco County joined together to form the Oil Shale Regional Planning Commission.

The Oil Shale Regional Planning Commission was federally recognized to coordinate local views and develop plans on dealing with the anticipated oil shale boom.

Then, on August 2, 1974, under proclamation by Governor John Vanderhoof, the Oil Shale RPC was changed to the Colorado West Area Council of Governments  (COG).  The COG served as the regional planning entity as required by many federal and state programs, such as Water Quality Planning, Community Health Planning, Criminal Justice Planning and Technical Assistance on local land use planning.  Also, at the request of the 4 participating counties, the COG established an Area Agency on Aging in order to receive funds from the Older Americans Act.

In 1982 with cities and counties developing their own planning capabilities the COG was abolished and the association was reformed as AGNC. 

In 1990, Routt County joined AGNC as an associate member.  In 1998, Governor Roy Romer approved an executive order formally transferring Routt County to State Planning Region 11 thereby making Routt County and its cities eligible for full AGNC membership. Jackson County now participates as an associate member.

Accomplishments

One of the primary goals of our regional association has been to help get our fair share of federal and state tax dollars back to this region.  This is especially important with 2/3 of the land in our region federally owned and tax exempt plus the large portion of energy revenues produced. 100% of Colorado’s Oil Shale is located within this region. Approximately 55% of Colorado coal is produced in the region, approximately 33% of Colorado Oil is produced in the Rangely oil fields, and approximately 37% of Colorado’s natural gas wells were permitted in the region in 2003.

 This report estimates the monetary value of AGNC efforts or programs where the regional association played the lead role.  Not included are efforts where we supported issues spearheaded by another organization like CCI, CML or Club 20 who play a valuable role for our cities and counties on statewide and west slope issues.  Also not included are grants to individual cities or counties from the Energy Impact Program. 

Things that are included are programs sponsored by the association like the Area Agency on Aging and regional planning grants when the association was a COG.  Also included are legislative issues where the association played the primary lobbying role to help our legislators at the State Capitol or in Congress.  Most of the program grants received by the association were passed through to other entities or service providers in the region.

The Oil Shale Trust Fund (OSTF) is a good example where the regional association coordinated the annual request from the counties in our region on a joint basis.  The association also coordinated the regional agreements that were required for the final distribution of both the principal and the interest from the OSTF fund.  No other organization was involved in these efforts and it could not have been accomplished if regional unity was not achieved.

During this 30-year period through 2003, we have been blessed with outstanding legislators and Congressional representatives who were truly responsible for delivering these programs.  But remember, they are outnumbered.  It has only been when the entire region has stood together and supported our legislators with a unified voice that we have been successful.

For example, legislators like Sen. Tillie Bishop, Rep. Russ George and Rep. Vickie Armstrong who introduced the mineral leasing amendments; like Rep. Tim Foster who blocked the proposed raid on the energy impact program proposed by the gambling towns; like Sen. Dave Wattenberg and Rep. Danny Williams who blocked the transfer of HUTF moneys, Senator Jack Taylor who introduced coal tax credit legislation; and like Sen. Dick Soash who sponsored the severance tax amendment for a direct distribution to local governments.  These are only a few examples. Currently AGNC works closely with Northwest Colorado Senators Ron Teck and Jack Taylor, and with Representatives Gayle Berry, Gregg Rippy, Matt Smith and Al White.

AGNC has a unique 100% legislative policy provision that helps achieve a unified voice.  A 100% unanimous vote of the AGNC Board on any legislative issue is required for any lobby effort.  This keeps the association from lobbying on any divisive issues or from lobbying on any issue that might hurt one of the member entities.

This report identifies the following programs contributed by association efforts:

1.  Oil Shale Trust Fund (OSTF) Distribution.  The regional association coordinated efforts to allow Mesa, Moffat, Garfield and Rio Blanco Counties to share approximately $70 million of OSTF payments.  The association coordinated joint requests to the legislature and then coordinated efforts for a 4-county agreement on a percentage allocation of remaining funds.  The association also coordinated efforts to get all interest allocated to the counties. The OSTF Legislation is still on the books and would be utilized for any future oil shale lease revenue.

2.  Mineral Leasing Distribution Formula Amendments.  AGNC convened the city/county meetings, drafted the bills, and coordinated the lobby effort on legislation that has increased available Energy Impact Funds in our region by more than $23 million since 1983. 

In 1983 legislation co-sponsored by Sen. Tillie Bishop and Rep. Vickie Armstrong, increased direct mineral lease payments to counties from a $200,000 per year limit to an $800,000 per year limit per county.  Payments in Garfield, Mesa, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt Counties have regularly exceeded the old $200,000 limit.  The legislation also distributed 50% of "spillover" mineral royalties to the Energy Impact program.

In 1997 Rep. Russell George and Sen. Dave Wattenberg co-sponsored legislation that increases the cap to $1.2 million per county thereby increasing payments in Moffat and Rio Blanco and Routt Counties by $400,000 per year in each county. Garfield County is now approaching the $1.2 million level.

3.  HUTF Distribution Formula.  AGNC successfully coordinated a 2-year lobby effort against a proposed formula that would have transferred more than $2 million annually in the HUTF funds from this region to the front range counties.  AGNC support helped achieve a better formula.  Under the final formula (proposed by AGNC) rural counties were held harmless from any HUTF cuts and Mesa County received a $700,000 increase rather than only a $30,000 increase. The statewide associations stayed out of these regional battles.

4.  Direct Severance Tax Payment.  It was cities and counties from this region who requested the successful amendment by Sen. Dick Soash in 1978 to establish the direct payments to cities and counties allocated from 15% of the state severance taxes. Most recently AGNC was successful through the Northwest Colorado Oil and Gas Forum, co-chaired by Garfield County Commissioner Larry McCown and COGCC Deputy Director Brain Macke to get contract oil and gas workers reported. This added approximately $1.0 million annually in payment to cities and counties in Northwest Colorado.

5.  Area Agency on Aging Programs.  AGNC is the umbrella agency for AAoA programs for senior citizens throughout the region.  This program provides for senior nutrition programs, senior transit, senior home care, senior legal services, ombudsman services, caregivers respite and other AAoA programs.  More than $10.9 million has been passed through AGNC for these programs since 1974. This program has been administered for its entire 30 year existence by AAoA Director Dave Norman. 

6.  Opposition to raids on the Energy Impact Program.  AGNC led the opposition to HB1149, which would have authorized use of Energy Impact Funds to pay for the impacts in the Colorado gambling towns.  AGNC is currently working with CML to oppose new proposals to raid these funds.

7. Enterprise Zone Tax Credits.  AGNC administers the Northwest Colorado Rural Enterprise Zone to encourage economic investments and job creation incentives in 7 rural counties in our region.  Up to $5million per year in tax credits have been made available to small business, agriculture, mining companies and individual taxpayers through this enterprise zone in our region. In addition AGNC provides approximately $20,000 per year to local governments in the region for tourism and economic development marketing efforts through this program. Jane Whitt as Deputy EZ coordinator administers the EZ program.

8.  Increased Coal Production Revenues.  AGNC supported Enterprise Zone tax credits, Severance Tax credits, and the extension of the $1 per ton state income tax credit for increased coal production to help our region's coal industry.  These tax credits originally proposed at a Northwest Colorado Coal Conference sponsored by AGNC has resulted in an average 10 million ton increase in annual coal production.  It has increased the cities and counties share of coal royalties, severance and property taxes by almost $3 million annually and resulted in savings of 300 coal mining jobs in our region. 

9.  PILT Offset Program.  AGNC and our counties played a supportive role in the enactment of the Payment-in-lieu of taxes (PILT) program. Our AGNC Executive Director, Jim Evans, drafted the original bill in 1975 for Congressman Frank Evans. He also coordinated the lobby effort to enact the bill for the National Association of Counties. At the state level for several years AGNC was able to provide an extra $400,000 to entities in Garfield and Mesa County through a PILT "offset" program whereby PILT deductions were avoided.  Rep. Russell George sponsored legislation in 1997 at AGNC's request that provided another $1.2 million additional PILT-offset revenue in 1999.

11.  UMTRA Program.  AGNC was the primary organization supporting the proposal to establish a $32 million fund for continuation of the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Program (UMTRAP).  This fund was used to keep the federal UMTRA project going in Grand Junction and to start the projects in Rifle, Gunnison, Maybell, Slick Rock and Naturita.  Since 1998 AGNC has administered a memorandum of understanding to coordinate a state/local continuation of a $300,000 annual UMTRA Program.

12. Dinosaur Welcome Center. Through a state contract AGNC administers the operation of the State Welcome Center in dinosaur primarily serving the Northwest corner of our region. Leona Hemmerich administers the Welcome Center for AGNC.

Summary

Through its Board of Directors and staff, AGNC has helped achieve regional cooperation in Northwest Colorado among a diverse group of local governments. The unanimous vote requirement has helped achieve this continuing cooperation over the years, together with capable staff efforts.

Following is a list summarizing the estimated monetary value of programs sponsored by AGNC and for legislative issues where AGNC played a leading role in helping our legislators.  The monetary value represents revenue or tax savings through AGNC efforts for the benefit of local governments and citizens in Northwest Colorado.

Estimated Monetary Benefits

Program $ Millions
Oil Shale Trust Fund (OSTF) $70.0
Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Program (UMTRA) $33.5
Increased Coal Production Revenues  $42.0
Mineral Leasing Amendments of 1983 ($800,000 cap)
And 1997 (1.2 million cap) 
$32.9
HUTF Distribution Formula (Rural vs. Urban) $22.0
Direct Severance Tax Payments & Employee Reporting $15.9
Enterprise Zone Tax Credits $17.5
Area Agency on Aging Programs (AAoA) $10.9
Opposition to raids on the Energy Impact Program $9.2
Regional Planning and COG Grants $4.7
PILT Offset Program $1.6
Dinosaur Welcome Center $0.8
Northwest RETAC $0.4
TOTAL $261.4

AGNC and its predecessor organizations coordinated the local efforts for this region in all of the listed programs. The overall cost in local dues for the 30-year period was approximately $1.5 million total, an average of about $50,000 per year for the participating entities. A total of 5 counties and 18 cities have participated in the association over the years.  This represents a return on invested dollars of about 174 to 1. 

We believe the above programs have made the 30-year association well worth the effort.  The cumulative and ongoing efforts have been impressive.

Report prepared for Keith Lambert, AGNC Chairman

 

                                                                        ____________________________

By Mesa County Commissioner Doralyn Genova