Training facility behind schedule

A plan for Mesa County and Mesa State College to jointly develop safety training facilities on 32 Road has stalled, as the college is slowly working its way through an environmental assessment of federal land it hopes to acquire.

The delay could jeopardize a grant the county received from the state to pay for most of the project cost.

“We’re about a year behind where we thought we’d be,” County Administrator Jon Peacock said.

The county and college want to use about 160 acres near Whitewater Hill for a variety of training purposes. The college has applied to the Bureau of Land Management to lease that land.

County officials already have built a commercial driver’s license training track on 275 acres the county owns on 32 Road. They want to add a Peace Officer Standards and Training-certified driving track and skid pad for testing of officers’ car-handling skills, as well as a site for training related to natural gas wells.

The college, meanwhile, intends to move its electrical lineman program from Pear Park to 32 Road. The program has been operated on land at 29 and D roads that is owned by the college’s Real Estate Foundation, but it needs a new home because the foundation is pursuing a large housing and commercial development at the Pear Park site.

County Administrator Jon Peacock said there is enough land available on 32 Road so that the county and college eventually could expand an adjacent shooting range and build classroom space.

Two years ago, the county received a $600,000 energy-impact grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to help pay for the approximately $1 million project cost. It used a portion of that grant to create the CDL training track. But the balance of the grant, which must be used within a certain period of time, has yet to be spent because the process of applying to lease the land from the BLM has taken longer than anticipated.

Peacock said the county has asked the department to extend the grant. But he and others are aware of the state’s financial woes and the fact the state already redirected some grant dollars normally routed to communities affected by the energy industry to backfill holes in the state budget.

“Right now we don’t have any indication that we wouldn’t get that extension,” Peacock said. “We’re just wary of the state’s budget situation.”

He said the county should learn in the next couple of weeks whether the state will extend the grant.


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