Linman, Briedis talk issues at Silt meeting |

Linman, Briedis talk issues at Silt meeting

John ColsonPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

SILT, Colorado – Two Garfield County commissioner candidates said on Tuesday that they would carefully examine recent changes to the county’s land use codes, and seek greater public involvement in county deliberations compared to the current commissioners.The pledge came from Garfield County commissioner candidates Sonja Linman and Aleks Briedis, at a forum in the Silt Community Center on Tuesday night.Linman and Briedis are running against incumbent Garfield County commissioners John Martin and Mike Samson, respectively, in the general election on Nov. 6.Martin and Samson, however, could not respond concerning those and other issues, because they did not attend the forum.Organizers said both incumbent commissioners were sent personal invitations to take part. Samson did not return a call from the Post Independent to his office telephone, and messages could not be left either on Martin’s office phone or his cell phone, in an effort to seek comment on their absence.In addition to the candidates’ pledges concerning the land use code, about 20 people here asked for, and received, a promise of greater attention to their concerns about getting sick from nearby oil and gas rigs, along with a variety of other issues.The forum was mainly geared toward the “impacts of oil and natural gas development in Garfield County,” according to advance publicity about the event, although no industry representatives were present.The forum featured a panel of commentators including Divide Creek resident Lisa Bracken, a vocal critic of oil and gas industry practices, Bob Arrington of Battlement Concerned Citizens, the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and other affiliations, and Tod and Peggy Tibbetts.Bracken lives adjacent to the Divide Creek Seep, where in 2002 a gas bore leaked and contaminated the creek, prompting a then-unprecedented fine of $371,000 against the Encana Oil & Gas (USA) drilling company, and a one-year moratorium on drilling in the area.According to Bracken, the seep has re-emerged and threatens her domestic water well.Asked by an audience member if she has had any positive interaction with the industry, Bracken replied, “It’s been really minimal. Typically the response is to deny, or position the company in a way that preserves their … innocence, for lack of a better word.”Linman said she has been monitoring the website of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which oversees drilling activities in the state, to learn more about the processes involved.She also said she has been attending meetings of the Garfield County Energy Advisory Board, formed in 2004 to provide a forum for the public and the industry to interact.”There’s a pattern and an intention that I keep seeing in … our local regulations,” she said, explaining that regular citizens “have lost our ability to have a voice” in local governmental affairs.Both she and Briedis said if elected, they would work to encourage greater citizen awareness of, and involvement in, governmental policy making and decisions.”This is how we should be making our decisions,” said Briedis, gazing around the room. “We should have everybody in a circle, talking about it.”From the audience, former county commissioner Trsi Houpt noted that “people have a lot going on in their lives” and can’t attend daytime meetings, such as those held every week by the county commissioners.In that case, Briedis said, there is technology available to take the meetings to the public if the public can’t come to the meetings.Plus, he said, the commissioners can set up office hours geared toward the schedules of citizens.Houpt said one critical area needing analysis is a barrage of changes made to the county’s codes in the last year.Important land use regulations, she said, “are being changed … watered down … eliminated completely. The comprehensive plan no longer has the teeth that it always had.”His first goal, if elected, Briedis said, would be to look at recent changes made by the current commissioners to the county’s land use code, to see if the changes need to be reversed.”The codes need to follow what the people are asking for,” he declared.At the end of two and a half hours of discussion, Linman suggested that more such meetings be called in the coming weeks leading up to the

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