Playing chicken on De Beque roads

We were optimistic, earlier this summer, when the town of De Beque produced a new planning document more in line with what Mesa County officials wanted, that a long-simmering dispute between the town at the east end of the county and the county government was nearing an end.

Silly us.

When the principal personalities involved act like adolescents — at least with respect to each other — the chance of reaching an adult resolution to the dispute is very slim.

As a result, we have the spectacle of De Beque Town Manager Bruce Smith pulling up county weight-limit signs on portions of roads that used to be in unincorporated Mesa County but are now within the town boundaries, and replacing them with signs proclaiming lighter limits. Those limits will make it illegal for water trucks and other vehicles to reach facilities recently approved by the county.  Smith has vowed to send the town marshal out to write tickets for any violators.

Also, we have Mesa County officials posting signs where former county roads enter the town, proclaiming that the county will no longer provide maintenance or snowplowing for those sections of road. In some places, the road sections are less than one-tenth of a mile long.

And we have Smith, as well as Mesa County Commissioners Janet Rowland and Craig Meis pointing fingers at the other side and proclaiming defiantly, “They started it!”

Here’s a notion for both county and town officials to chew on: Most residents of this area don’t give a hoot about who started it. They’re much more interested in seeing the dispute come to an end.

They want to see roads properly maintained so that they’re safe to travel upon, not a hodge-podge of good and bad roads, snowplowing and no snowplowing, which are dangerous for motorists, regardless of where they live.

They want vehicles associated with legally permitted businesses to be able to access those businesses, not be held up by petty town politics.

And they want local government agencies to work together, not threaten each other like teenagers playing chicken on rural highways.

The earlier dispute between the county and the town over annexation ended up in court — an unfortunate waste of money for taxpayers of both local governments. It will be unfortunate, indeed, if this latest flap also becomes another legal contest, with more taxpayers’ money being wasted by both sides. But, should that occur, at least there is the possibility that a judge might inject some adult rationality into this childish fight.


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