County should employ gas industry liaison |

County should employ gas industry liaison

Gas drilling is now the leading economic force in western Garfield County, and a major impact on the environment and lifestyle of residents.

Yet the county government, which is collecting 15 percent of its property tax revenues from gas wells, has no staff member assigned solely to deal with the gas industry and landowners.

For years, Mark Bean, the top official in the county’s building and planning department, has juggled his primary duties while serving as the county’s local government designee (LGD). Bean would be the first person to say he is not doing the LGD job justice.

During the campaign, county commissioner candidates Walt Stowe and Tresi Houpt talked about the need for a separate LGD position. Houpt called for a full-time staffer; Stowe suggested a half-time contractor.

Unfortunately, neither option showed up in the county’s proposed 2003 budget.

Garfield County is past due in employing someone to keep track of new drilling permits, stay current on pending legislation affecting gas drilling and landowners’ rights, and act as a liaison between county government, the drilling industry, and residents.

Done well, this position could also provide much-needed education to landowners and buyers on mineral rights, and help the commissioners develop policies to deal with the industry.

Garfield County is collecting enough revenues from this industry to justify funding a separate position for an LGD, and this newspaper strongly urges the county to make this a priority and fund the post to start in January.

– Heather McGregor, Managing Editor

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