BOCC lukewarm on request for liaison to oversee gas drilling |

BOCC lukewarm on request for liaison to oversee gas drilling

Lynn BurtonStaff Writer

This time of year, Garfield County Commissioners put on their chef’s hats and start cooking up next year’s budget. They also begin explaining there’s only so much financial pie to go around. That’s the word the commissioners gave the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance on Monday, when the group asked the county to fund a new position to handle oil and gas industry issues.”We’re looking at possibly cutting other positions,” Commissioner Larry McCown told alliance members after they made their pitch. “The best you can hope for is a half-time person.”The alliance is the latest group or county department to ask for increased funding.Last week, Sheriff Tom Dalessandri requested an extra $2.5 million next year to hire eight additional deputies for the jail.Residents affected by natural gas drilling in Garfield County’s west end first requested a liaison between the county and the gas industry several years ago. At meetings and forums, property owners from Parachute to Silt have complained about smelly drilling rigs, noise and having to share narrow roads with semi-trailer trucks.”I think the commissioners have looked at residents as whiners,” alliance member Peggy Utesch said at Monday’s county commissioner meeting.Utesch was one of three alliance members to speak. Alliance President Janey Hines Broderick told the commissioners a gas industry liaison would help the commissioners fit natural gas development into the county’s comprehensive plan. She also said oil and gas issues have become politicized, and noted that the alliance is not trying to kick the industry out of the county.”I want to put that to rest,” Broderick said.What is needed, Broderick continued, is a way for the county to deal with residents’ “very, very real concerns. … It’s not about politics. It’s about a need.” Mary Ellen Denomy, an accountant, used statistics to try to persuade the commissioners. She told them:-Garfield County issued 318 building permits last year, from a building department with three full-time employees.-The county issued 353 oil and gas permits last year from a department with no-full time employee to handle industry issues.-The assessed valuation for oil and gas properties in Garfield County is second only to residential valuations.The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission regulates exploration and production, and has a staffer in Parachute to handle complaints that arise mostly from drilling operations. Alliance members have long charged the commission responds too slowly to their concerns.Utesch told the commissioners the liaison could do field work, report to the commissioners, work with citizens and act in an oversight capacity with other agencies.”Please take our concerns into consideration,” Utesch said.The commissioners’ remarks were brief. Commissioner John Martin said he has supported a liaison, also known as a local government designee, for the past five or six years.Commissioner Walt Stowe pointed to the extra $2.5 million the sheriff’s department is asking to fully staff the new jail. He said the county will also have to pay full wages to the county coroner and surveyor next year. He concluded by saying if the county can fund a part-time person, “That would be a great start.”Dalessandri told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent he and the commissioners agreed to not fully staff the 200-bedjail in 2002, its first year of operation, because the facility wasn’t fully open.Now that the jail is accepting municipal prisoners from area towns, and a minimum security module is open, the facility needs full staffing, Dalessandri said.

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