Meeker group to monitor area's growth

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A national push for greater gas production coupled with fear of unmanaged growth prompted several residents to discuss the possibility of forming a communitywide group that monitors growth and land use.

"The idea of a citizens group, along with a business support group, came up during the past year at Friday morning breakfast think-tanks," said Reed Kelley, a local rancher.

Kelley said Meeker Business in Action, a group started about nine months ago with support from the town of Meeker, grew from a tech support committee to an active group that works with government, residents and business to put ideas into action.

"Many of us still believe with the possible boom in oil and gas production and the talk of oil shale development, we, the public, need an organization to keep track of exactly what is happening in our county," Kelley said.

Boots Campbell, part owner in IOR Internet Services, said she and her partner, Walt Brown, were very concerned about growth and the effect on the county.

"We know we need some growth in the economy, but we don't want the land around us destroyed either," she said.

Campbell said she didn't think anyone was addressing the effect 250 oil field workers moving to the county could have on the community.

"I don't think the county is doing anything to prepare for the growth," she said.

Mike Neumann, director of planning for Rio Blanco County, said that was not true.

"We've met with at least two companies and discussed their part in man camps along with the possibility of busing. They've come to the table willing to negotiate," he said.

Neumann said that although no permits have been issued, the gas companies understand their fees will cover effects to the county as far as roads.

"These companies are well aware if they come here in October with 300 men, they better bring tents because it is hunting season and the rooms are spoken for," he said.

He said he was working closely with the commissioners, updating the county fee schedule and tweaking some of the language in the current county plan so that growth doesn't cost or hurt the county.

Kelley said he was pleased the commissioners had hired a full-time person for the job of planner.

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