Cattle guard prices increased

County commission splits, 2-1, on charging ranchers, agencies closer to actual cost

Ranchers and agencies that have cattle guards installed by the county will be paying an amount closer to actual costs -- about twice as much as what they are paying now.

By a 2-1 vote, Moffat County commissioners Wednesday approved a motion to charge for the steel used in cattle guards and the concrete bases that are installed beneath the guards.

The county will charge $1,349 for a 15-foot cattle guard, $1,677 for a 20-foot cattle guard and $1,985 for a 25-foot cattle guard.

Before Wednesday, people were charged $750 for any size of cattle guard.

Moffat County Commissioner Darryl Steele made the suggestion to increase the price, saying he believed cattle guards should be a cost of doing business for the entities having them installed, whether it be a rancher, the Bureau of Land Management or the National Forest Service.

The county is still footing about $1,500 of the bill for cattle guards in costs for labor to make and install the guards.

After Steele made a motion to increase the price of the cattle guards, Commissioner Les Hampton suggested that the county only charge people 50 percent of the cost for the concrete cattle guard base instead of the full cost.

He never made a motion to amend Steele's motion but when it came time to vote on Steele's proposal, Hampton voted against it.

Former Moffat County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson, who was on the county commission that reduced the price for cattle guards in 1999, attended the meeting to voice his opposition to a price hike.

"Somehow there's a view that the guards are there for the benefit of the rancher," Dickinson, who is a rancher, said. "They're there for the traveling public."

He said when the county put specifications on what type of steel was to be used and how the guards were to be built, it drove up the costs for those having them installed.

The travelling public pays the road and bridge department through gas tax dollars and, because cattle guards benefit the public, the public should foot the bill for the guards, he said.

"Everybody benefits, so let's make sure we assign that cost to those who benefit," he said.

But Steele, who is a rancher as are the other two commissioners, disagreed with Dickinson's rational that the public was responsible for the cost.

"I disagree because it is a cost of business," Steele said. "I'll be the first to admit that I went and bought one when you lowered the price a few years ago. But I still believe it is a cost of business for the rancher."

Once the guards are installed, it is the county's job to maintain them.

According to Road and Bridge Department Director Billy Mack, there are 454 cattle guards in the county, and the department installs an average of 15 a year.

With an average of 15 cattle guards being installed each year, the county will save approximately $15,000 per year with the increased cost to those having the guards installed.

Don Jones, owner of Craig Steel, manufactures the guards and told the commissioners Wednesday he would like to see the county charge people the full price for the guards.

"As a manufacturer, I would like to see you charge at least what you have in them so I can at least be competitive," he said.

Hampton seemed to agree with Steele's proposal early on in the meeting.

"I've thought all along that cattle guards were awfully cheap," he said. "I think we need to increase the price to at least what they cost."

But when it came time to vote, he thought Steele's motion called for too much of an increase.

"It's too great of an increase too soon," Hampton said after the meeting.

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.

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