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Controversy continues to brew over Park County waste transfer station

Some residents critical of reporting by Denver7 Investigates
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Posted at 12:07 PM, Feb 17, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-22 16:28:16-05

PARK COUNTY, Colo. — If you drive into Park County on Highway 285 you will quickly see a large white tent-like structure on the south side of the highway. It might look like just a large structure, but in reality, it has been the epicenter of one of the county’s largest controversies in recent years.

Earlier this year, Denver7 Investigates was the first to report the battle between community residents and one of the county’s most prominent businessmen. Reaction to that reporting was polarized and passionate during a recent meeting inside the Park County offices.

“For the record, I do believe [Denver7's] Tony Kovaleski is a joke when it comes to his reporting skills,” said one resident during a meeting of the County Commissioners where the board was scheduled to decide on a request by businessman Adam Shirley to continue developing and using the white structure on his property for a waste-transfer station.

During the meeting, Shirley and his supporters argued the transfer station would meet all state and community standards and help residents control rising waste disposal costs. “You will be hard-pressed to find an individual who represents the small-town living and sense of community that we so greatly value,” said one resident referring to Shirley. Another added, “he’s worked with the county to this the right way. He’s taking safety seriously and I want to commend him for that.”

After the meeting, the Denver7 Investigates team spoke with the businessman at the center of the county-wide conflict. “Any comments on our story?” was our first question to Shirley. “Did you see our story?"

Shirley responded, “It’s a one-sided deal.”

But not everyone agrees with Shirley and his parade of supporters or the verbal attacks on Denver7 Investigates for the recent report.

“He doesn't think the rules apply to him, and obviously they don't,” said Joe Weidner, who is a member of a water district board in Park County and a county resident. “And that's the story, why doesn't the rules apply to him,” said Weidner in the original Denver7 Investigates report.

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And in that report, he wasn’t alone in pointing out what neighbors and one former county planner called “preferential treatment” afforded to Shirley from the county. “The truth is that the applicant (referring to Adam Shirley) in this case received preferential treatment contrary to the public interest,” said John Deagan, a former Park County senior planner.”

County resident Stan Bates shared these comments in a public hearing last year, “our feeling is the tail is wagging the dog. The white building on the hill has been a representative symbol of lawlessness … both from the applicant and from the county.” Another resident said, “Adam tells me what a great neighbor he is. And we all know that’s not true.”

Shirley also received strong criticism from the county’s most powerful employee. Denver7 Investigates asked Tom Eisenman, the Park County manager, about his message to Adam Shirley. “Follow the rules, fix your optics,” said Eisenman. When Denver7 Investigates directly asked Eisenman if Shirley had a problem following the county’s rules, he said, “Mr. Shirley is not helping himself.”

During the four-hour county commissioners meeting in January, several residents aired their frustrations with Shirley and the process. “Having seen some of the information from various people and from the Channel 7 news report,” added one resident, “there’s a question about whether the process has been handled in good faith.”

Controversy continues to brew over Park County waste transfer station

At the end of the meeting and following the commissioner’s unanimous decision to delay a final vote until February 20, Denver7 Investigates spoke with Shirley outside the meeting room.

“You didn’t think it was fair?” asked Denver 7. “I would say it was as fair as you wanted to make it,” he replied.

A somewhat puzzling response after Shirley had declined multiple interview requests both in person and through calls and text messages. During one prior brief exchange last year, Shirley was asked to explain if he understood why he angered so many of his neighbors. He responded, “I will give you a call.” The record shows Denver7 Investigates requested an interview with the Park County businessman nearly a half dozen times and each time he declined.

Following the hearing in January, Shirley said, “This is media, this is media, no matter what I say you will spin it.” As he walked away. Following that statement, Denver7 Investigates again offered him the opportunity to answer the questions raised by his neighbors, the county manager, and the former county planner. After hearing the question, Shirley said, “We’ll see, I am making no promises.”

The Park County Commissioners will meet on Tuesday, February 20 to make a final decision on the proposal for the waste transfer station in the county.

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