Garfield eyes tighter traffic enforcement

The new year ushered in a new approach to traffic enforcement in Garfield County, raising hopes of increased attention being given to energy-industry vehicles.

Just how much those hopes will be fulfilled remains unclear.

The Garfield County Commission adopted the Colorado Department of Transportation’s model traffic code. Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Tanny McGinnis said the big change is that revenue from tickets, except for infractions along state highways, now will come back to the county’s general fund. Previously, they went to the state.

The new code will let the county enforce laws it previously couldn’t, such as parking and abandoned-vehicle laws.

The code’s adoption has raised expectations, including among energy companies, that the Garfield County Sheriff’s Department will play a larger role in dealing with gas field traffic concerns, such as speeding by energy contractors.

Susan Alvillar, spokeswoman for Williams Production RMT, said Sheriff Lou Vallario previously has said the code’s passage would help in this regard.

Energy companies have worked to address the concerns themselves, including by contributing money to pay off-duty sheriff’s deputies and Colorado State Patrol officers to catch contractors who violate traffic laws.

Alvillar said energy companies can chastise contractors, track down violators and take other steps to encourage them to abide by the law, but nothing gets their attention like law enforcement officers.

However, McGinnis and Kurt Conrad, the Sheriff’s Department patrol commander, said they weren’t aware of the traffic code being passed with increased energy-contractor enforcement in mind. Conrad said deputies already can write speeding tickets in area gas fields.

Vallario could not be reached for comment.

County Commissioner John Martin said the point of the code’s passage was to deal with the parking issues in unincorporated residential areas.

Assistant Garfield County Attorney Cassie Coleman said the code will allow the county to better deal with vehicle height and weight issues, such as those that can arise with energy-contractor vehicles. The county will have the option of buying a scale and getting someone certified to weigh vehicles. Now it must ask the Colorado Department of Transportation to enforce weight laws.

“CDOT doesn’t have a lot of guys just waiting to run around the state with a scale,” Coleman said.

Leslie Robinson, of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, said she would be disappointed if the new code doesn’t deal with the concerns of drilling-field residents. She said they have had trouble getting an answer about whether the Sheriff’s Department or State Patrol should be dealing with infractions, and her hope is that residents now will know whom to call and who should investigate problems.


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