Commission: County needs road-damage plan

The Mesa County Planning Commission is recommending the Mesa County Commission devise a policy for roads damaged by heavy, energy-industry traffic.

Mesa County “needs an additional policy regarding road improvements and maintenance on county roads impacted by gas exploration and development,” the Planning Commission wrote in its recommendation. It was drafted Dec. 4 as the commission debated a proposal for a compressor facility near Collbran.

According to the meeting minutes, Planning Commission Vice Chairman Mark Bonella said the Mesa County Commission “needs to come up with some sort of a pay schedule or something.

This is something that needs a long hard look at ... Something needs to be done.”
County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said the Planning Commission’s specific recommendation was somewhat vague, but he agreed county roads need more attention.

“Are we meeting 100 percent of the needs in Mesa County? No,” Acquafresca said. “For a long time the needs have outpaced the county’s ability to keep up.”

Hardest hit is the eastern part of the county, surrounding the town of Collbran, which has been considering a bypass.

Some energy companies are working with the county on road maintenance and keeping trucks idle when school buses are running.

But there is no over-arching plan. Neither is there an understanding by the county of what energy companies are planning five to 10 years into the future. Thus, there is no easy way to see the cumulative effect on county roads of permitting more energy facilities, said Tom Kenyon, a planning commissioner.

“It is kind of on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

County Commissioner Craig Meis said the county has been working on various components of an energy master plan that can help manage traffic.

“There are a lot of things we are working on that the Planning Commission may not know about,” Meis said.

Meis said the county needs to find a way to get advance payments on ad valorem taxes from the industry to help offset its impacts.

“The (ad valorem) revenue we receive from oil and gas activity is three years in arrears,” he said. “By that time, the impact has already occurred.”

With the industry slowing down — as is the rest of the economy — now might be the time to do some planning for when the industry again ramps up, Meis, Acquafresca and Kenyon said.


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