Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co. is seeking a court judgment in a dispute with the Montezuma County Board of Commissioners over which entity has the responsibility to pay for a replacement culvert.
On Aug. 30, attorneys for the irrigation company filed a complaint for declaratory judgment in 22nd Judicial District Court. The complaint asks the court to decide whether the county or MVIC is obligated to replace an aging culvert maintained by the county and used by MVIC to convey water underneath County Road W to its shareholders.
In fall 2017, the county determined that the culvert, then at the end of its useful life, required replacement. The Montezuma County Road and Bridge Department requested that MVIC assist in replacing the culvert by paying for a new culvert or providing labor and equipment for installation, according to the complaint.
The county in early 2018 purchased the new culvert from Skyline Steel, and county employees installed the culvert.
The complaint cites Colorado Revised Statute 37-84-106, which states bridges constructed over ditches and flumes crossing public roads shall be maintained by and at the expense of the county. Attorneys for MVIC argue that the maintenance requirement imposed by this statute includes the obligation to replace culverts.
Montezuma County Attorney John Baxter filed an answer to the complaint Sept. 25. He argued that state law does not require counties to pay to replace culverts.
“The Defendant reiterates that the statute imposes on the County a duty to maintain culverts, but does not impose a duty to replace and install culverts,” he wrote.
Baxter stated that historically, the county and MVIC have worked together when replacing culverts. In 2003, for example, MVIC installed a culvert crossing County Road 21, and the county paid $2,477 to assist with the cost.
MVIC has requested that the court determine that the irrigation company is not obligated to reimburse the county for the cost of replacing the culvert. If the court sides with the county, however, MVIC has requested that the court determine the conditions under which MVIC would be required to pay for such a replacement.
The county, on the other hand, has requested a hearing to determine whether MVIC is obligated to reimburse the county.
Counsel for both parties appeared in court for a brief hearing on Wednesday morning and scheduled a status conference for Dec. 21 at 10:30 a.m. at Montezuma County Combined Courts.
Baxter and Montezuma County Road and Bridge Superintendent Rob Englehart declined to comment for this story.