Commissioners expend some hot air on gas liaison position |

Commissioners expend some hot air on gas liaison position

The Garfield County Commissioners debated adding a gas industry liaison position to the 2003 budget, but won’t make a decision for another month.

Garfield County Commissioners John Martin, Larry McCown and Walt Stowe discussed creating the liaison position at Tuesday’s public hearing for the 2003 budget.

The liaison, also known as a local government designee (LGD), would be a go-between for the oil and gas industry and residents in western Garfield County, where hundreds of gas wells have been drilled over the past decade.

The draft budget puts the LGD’s total annual cost at $80,677 for salary, benefits and related expenses. Stowe put the total at $120,000.

“I’m not sold on it yet,” Stowe said. “It’s a $120,000 decision.”

The county’s 2003 draft budget calls for $41.7 million in total revenues and $38.7 million in expenses.

Martin said he favors the position, while McCown and Stowe were more difficult to read.

“We already have one,” McCown gruffly told supporters of the new county post.

Stowe said he isn’t necessarily against a liaison, but the county should consider hiring a contract employee rather than creating a new position.

Martin said if the county doesn’t hire a liaison, it is “falling down on its citizens.”

The commissioners are expected to vote thumbs up or down on the liaison position when it approves next year’s budget on Monday, Dec. 16.

DeAnna Woolston, an organizer for Western Colorado Congress, provided the job description for the LGD in La Plata County, where drilling has been more intense to date. The position is spelled out in state regulations.

McCown asked Woolston and Parachute Creek resident Sid Lindauer the extent of the LGD’s tasks. He predicted that Western Colorado Congress will want the liaison to be “all seeing,” and get involved in everything from dusty roads to well locations.

“And that individual is not empowered to do that,” McCown said.

McCown said the county has an LGD in Mark Bean, who handles those duties while managing the county’s Building and Planning Department.

In the past, McCown said, residents have not contacted Bean about their concerns. Woolston countered that Bean doesn’t have time to deal with gas drilling issues.

McCown noted that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission already has an office with two staffers in Parachute to handle residents’ complaints and concerns.

“I fought for that office. It was going to Weld County,” McCown said. “We are fortunate to have one that close.”

Martin argued nearly as forcefully in favor of the LGD position. He said a liaison could work with the county assessor, treasurer, clerk, planning office and county commissioners.

The LGD discussion concluded Tuesday’s public hearing.

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