WELD COUNTY — For one northern Colorado resident, waiting and hoping Republicans take back the state legislature in the 2020 election just isn’t enough. Todd Richards is ready to move north — or at least change the state of his county to one just a few miles north.
Richards and several others have launched a movement to relocate the boundaries of Weld County out of Colorado and into Wyoming, where he believes his liberties and freedom are a bit more protected.
“It started with oil and gas regulations,” Richards said. “We have a sand tower in Eaton for (hydraulic fracturing) sand. If all the wells go away this huge industry in Eaton will go away and leave an abandoned tower and other things unused. It all would leave and head to Wyoming or North Dakota or South Dakota or Texas. It would cause a housing crisis and just be that trickle-down disaster that would start in Weld County.”
Red Flag laws, zero and low emission vehicle mandates and other legislation in 2019 forced his hand, he said.
There are no jokes about Richards’ threats. A Facebook page “Weld County, WY” has nearly 2,000 likes, and recently an issue committee “Weld County Wyoming” was filed with the Secretary of State’s office to start the process of putting the idea before Weld County voters.
Richards moved to Eaton 11 years ago after serving 21 years in the Air Force. He lived most of his nonmilitary life in Longmont and was looking for somewhere that didn’t smell like the city, he said.
“I can see the stars at night,” Richards said. “You come up here and, yeah, it smells like cows, but it doesn’t smell like people, cars, and trash. It’s a small community. It reminds me of living on a military base with a very small community of people.”
He said he initially thought the idea of moving boundaries to make Weld County a part of Wyoming was “the dumbest thing I ever heard.” But the more he thought about it, and the more he researched what would have to occur to make it happen, he thought, “why not?”
Weld County abuts the Wyoming border about 55 miles north of Greeley on US Hwy 85. Those living in Colorado would still be able to take advantage of everything Colorado living has to offer, but at a much cheaper cost, he said.
Although Wyoming state sales tax (4 percent) is 1.1 percent higher than Colorado (2.9 percent), Wyoming does not have an income tax or a personal property tax, a corporate state income tax, or retirement income tax, and its gas tax is one of the lowest in the nation. According to the most recent data available Wyoming’s effective property tax rate (.55 percent) is only slightly higher than Colorado (.52 percent).
But the road to leaving Colorado is a long and bumpy one with many things to get worked out, such as water rights and severance taxes, among other things. Richards knows the idea has an uphill battle, but it’s one he’s willing to tackle, he said, to save the county he loves.
This isn’t the first time Weld County has considered leaving Colorado. In 2013, a handful of northern and eastern Colorado counties, including Weld, launched the 51st State Initiative to form their own state. It came about by what they called overreaching legislation that threatened their rural way of life.
After taking it to a failed vote of their residents, the movement died. Richards said this is nothing like that. He doesn’t seek to form a new state, only leave one for another. He also said that the initiative went too fast.
This time around, he said, he wants everyone to fully understand what needs to happen and the pros and cons of moving before he asks for approval.
“We’re going to do this backward,” he said. “We’re going to educate people first and then we’re going get it on the ballot.”
He’s not sure when that will be, most likely 2021.
“That will give us more than enough time to educate Weld County and the whole state of Wyoming,” he said.
Much must happen for Weld County to become part of Wyoming. Although Richards is still trying to get a definitive answer about what that is, he knows Weld County residents have to approve it, the Colorado legislature has to approve it, the Wyoming legislature has to approve it, and it’s possible both Colorado voters and Congress will need to approve it as well.
The effort has reached Wyoming already, with Richards getting more and more requests for an interview from Wyoming media and he’s hearing from people who want to get him in front of legislators and the governor.
“If people hear Wyoming likes the idea and is supportive that could help,” he said. “But we’re brand new. We need to get our feet under us. This is a long haul, not a marathon. We’re going to take our time and pound away at this until you are either sick and tired of us or you have all the information you need to make a logical vote.”
Anyone wishing to help the effort can contact Richards at email@example.com.
“We’re taking the time and putting in the effort to educate as many people as possible. So that when it comes down to the vote, it will be a well-educated voting populous.”