Energy grants fuel two improvement projects

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Two Moffat County organizations benefit from a $2.9 million block of grants and low-interest loans approved by Gov. Bill Owens.



The funds, which are going to 11 different community projects throughout the northwest region, come from the Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance program.

"Providing funding for these local communities is essential," Owens said. "I am pleased the state is able to assist these Colorado communities in providing needed services to their residents."

The Craig Rural Fire Protection District (FPD) Hazardous Material (Haz Mat) Team is slated to receive $175,000 in grant money, and the Craig/Moffat Parks & Recreation Master Plan will receive $35,000.

Roy Mason, chief of Craig Fire Rescue, said the district must approve the stipulations of the grant (which spell out exactly how the money must be spent) before the deal is final, but he is confident the badly needed funds will come through.

"The funds will be used for training and to purchase new equipment and a vehicle to pull the Haz Mat trailer," Mason said.

When the Haz Mat team was formed, the city and county each provided $50,000 and the fire department came up with $23,000 for administrative costs. Either the city or county was to provide a vehicle to pull the trailer, but they have not been able to do that consistently, according to Mason.

"Because that vehicle is so important," Mason said, "the county commissioners put this grant at the top of their priority list." Mason added that the Haz Mat team is a critical resource in Moffat County because the State Patrol only has one Haz Mat technician in the area.

"Any time there is a hazardous materials situation, four people are needed to work it, at the minimum," Mason said.

The nearest support for the lone State Patrol technician is in Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction.

"That means if a serious incident occurred, you'd have to wait two, three, maybe four, hours before help arrived. The people of Craig and Moffat county would be in danger for that long, so it's extremely important to have this team here," said Mason.

"We'll get some excellent training and some needed equipment," Mason said of the benefits of the funds. "At that point we'll be one of the best outfitted Haz Mat teams in the State," he said.

The other big winner locally is a project called the Craig/Moffat Parks and Recreation Master Plan. That project will receive $35,000.

Those funds, along with $25,000 from the city and county, will be used to hire a consulting firm to create the 20-year master plan, according to Dave Pike, City of Craig Parks and Recreation director.

"The final product will be a comprehensive master plan for open spaces and trails for Craig and for the county areas surrounding Craig," Pike said. Those areas include Shadow Mountain and Loudy Simpson Park.

Pike's long-term vision includes a more consistent approach to maintaining and operating the many facilities in and around Craig. "The next step will be to get together with the four major players the city, county, schools and college and come up with a good plan that works for everybody," Pike said.

Proposals from five consulting firms have been received. Pike is working with city manager Jim Ferree to select the best proposal.

Pike hopes to make that choice in time for the next city council meeting, Sept. 5.

"Hundreds of projects have been made possible through the Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance program with severance taxes and mineral lease royalties paid by the oil, gas and mining industries," said Bob Brooks, executive director of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

The Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance program assists communities in offsetting the direct impacts of energy and mineral development and in meeting other needs indirectly related to such development. The major stipulation is that the funds must be spent exactly as the proposal lists them.

"We have to buy the exact kind of truck we listed, and the exact kinds of equipment there's no leeway," Mason said.

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