EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - It took several months, but El Paso County commissioners on Tuesday finally resolved a debate on how to pay for removing trees on public property that were burned by last summer's wildfire in Black Forest.
Commissioners voted 3-2 to approve the project. Sallie Clark, Amy Lathen and Dennis Hisey supported it while Darryl Glenn -- who represents Black Forest -- and Peggy Littleton opposed it.
The debate centered on whether the county should accept federal money with its accompanying requirements, or just use county money to hire local workers for the project.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has worked with the county on fire recovery, is providing $1.6 million for the project with the county contributing $300,000 from its budget.
"The question was what was the best value?" Lathen said. "Could the county pay for (the project) on its own and get the same amount of work done without the (federal match)? What all of the work showed is that we could not."
Glenn said he wants the county to be smart about how it uses federal money.
"There still was a concern in the community about whether we could do the project locally," he said. "Some of the local (tree service businesses) felt they didn't have a fair chance to bid on it. But we have to move forward now."
FEMA rules, however, require that 85 percent of the tree removal work be hired out to county tree businesses as subcontractors. As part of the project, the county chose two out-of-state contractors to assess the number of trees needing removal, and manage the removal work.
FEMA requires the work to be finished by July 31.
Meanwhile, county commissioners said they'll continue to seek financial assistance for homeowners affected by the fire who can't afford to remove trees on private property.