Commission opponents disagree on road, bridge funding

Democratic Mesa County Commission candidate Dan Robinson says the county has been decreasing its road and bridge budget, and he calls on the county to begin requiring energy companies to post a bond for overweight vehicles and for the county to hire more deputies to enforce those weight limits.

Commissioner Craig Meis, who is being challenged by Robinson in District 1, rejects the idea of requiring bonds and says the County Commission has increased, not decreased, the road and bridge budget. He argues for taking a solid look at law enforcement and crime statistics before hiring more deputies.

Meis said he can understand how someone might assume the road and bridge budget has been slashed, because in 2006 the commission moved capital expenditures out of the road and bridge budget into the capital fund.

In the past three years, the budget “has consistently gone up,” said Stefani Conley, assistant county administrator. Three years ago, the road and bridge budget was about $7.9 million, and now it is at $10.9 million, she said.

To better maintain Mesa County’s roads, Robinson suggests requiring a bond from energy companies.

When roads are damaged by the energy industry’s large vehicles, the bonds can be tapped for repairs.

Meis said the county has been doing better by working with the industry, saying he is not aware of any instance in which a company has damaged a road and not repaired the damage.

“Maybe we are trying to create a solution to a problem that does not exist,” Meis said.

The county does require a bond for some companies driving vehicles heavier than 150,000 pounds, said Eric Bruton, the county’s director of roads and bridges. EnCana, Plains Exploration and Production (which was bought out by Occidental Petroleum in Mesa County) and Delta Petroleum have bonds with the county, which also cover their subcontractors, Bruton said.

Enforcement of the overweight permits is another area of contention for Robinson.

“They know there are numerous violations,” Robinson said. “They just don’t have the personnel.”

The Sheriff’s Department has one rural deputy working the energy-impacted east end of the county, and he is aggressive, Bruton said. Also, road and bridge crews occasionally stop and check vehicles for proper permits, he said.

Robinson is pressuring the commission to adopt the state’s model traffic code, which would enable the county to keep revenue from tickets that deputies write and use the revenues to pay for additional deputies. Currently those revenues go to the state.

Meis hammered Robinson for supporting more deputies without examining crime statistics.

“I choose not to live in an area where we have a lot of officers handing out tickets because they have nothing better to do,” Meis said. “I want officers that are here to serve and protect, not to harass and intimidate, and you get that when you get some of these traffic codes.”

Meis said Robinson is against the energy industry.

“He is essentially trying to regulate it and run it right out of this community,” Meis said.

Robinson said he is not anti-energy. Energy industry officials, he said, would be willing to accept many of his ideas.


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