Cpl. Todd Wheeler of the Moffat County Sheriff's Office directs traffic Tuesday morning outside the Moffat County Courthouse. The courthouse was evacuated due to a gas leak.

Courtney Teeter

Cpl. Todd Wheeler of the Moffat County Sheriff's Office directs traffic Tuesday morning outside the Moffat County Courthouse. The courthouse was evacuated due to a gas leak.

Moffat County Courthouse evacuated

Other action

At its Tuesday meeting, the Moffat County Commission:

• Named Kathy Ogle a member of the Maybell Community Center Board. The county will take applications for an alternate position.

• Signed two oil rights lease contracts with California-based The Termo Company that cover roughly 1,060 acres northwest of Lay. The lease agreement is for $110 an acre - roughly $105,000 - and a three-sixteenths royalty on profits from any oil struck on the property.

• Signed an oil and natural gas rights lease contract with Oklahoma-based Samson Resources Co. for about 362 acres south of the Pine Ridge subdivision in southwest Craig. The Museum of Northwest Colorado owns about 92.5 mineral acres, and the rest is privately owned. The museum's contract terms included $150 an acre - totaling about $13,875 - and a three-sixteenths royalty on profits from natural resources on the property.

• Signed an agreement with Alpine Archeological Consultants allowing the company to excavate artifacts around the construction of the ONEOK pipeline in Moffat County. The pipeline will extend from Meeker to Wamsutter, Wyo., and run through Moffat County north to south near Maybell. Alpine will pay the county $10,000 for the rights to dig, and another $250 per box of artifacts for storage at the Museum of Northwest Colorado.

• Approved $2,830 for the Brown's Park School Alumni Association to begin restoration on the school building.

Officials evacuated the Moffat County Courthouse twice Tuesday morning because of a natural gas leak on the building's north side.

Courthouse maintenance personnel punctured the front plate on the building's gas meter outside the rear entrance with a backhoe that morning, Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz said.

Bill Johnston, Craig Fire/Rescue chief, and Jantz said they were impressed with the evacuation response of courthouse staff.

"It all worked fairly well, actually," Johnston said. "People were gathered at set evacuation points, and when I went around to department heads, they all had headcounts of their employees."

Commissioner Tom Mathers was not as pleased with the evacuations.

"I think our evacuation could have been quicker," he said, noting that people still were leaving the building about four minutes after the evacuation started.

"It was a little too casual," he added.

Commissioners said they already had planned to talk with Emergency Management Coordinator Tom Soos next week about courthouse evacuation plans.

Mathers said as a result of Tuesday's events, he is more apt to support a reverse 911 system in which a recorded message rings every courthouse phone and gives instructions for escape.

The gas leak turned out to be a relatively minor event, Johnston said.

Although workers shut off the gas valve within about 45 seconds of puncturing the meter, gas escaped and was sucked into the courthouse by an air conditioning unit on the building's roof, Johnston said.

A few minutes after 10 a.m., Clerk and Recorder's Office staff reported strong smells of gas, as did officials inside the commission meeting room, which is next door to the Clerk and Recorder's Office.

The courthouse was evacuated soon thereafter at the advice of 911 personnel.

Moffat County Sheriff's Office, fire department and Craig Police Department officials responded to the courthouse and closed off side streets and one lane on Victory Way to prevent residents from approaching the building.

Fire crews and Sheriff's Office deputies swept the building for people inside and pockets of natural gas that might be left. Officials also opened the building's ventilation system to bring in outside air.

After about 20 minutes, officials reopened the building.

Another evacuation was called around 11:25 a.m. after Clerk and Recorder's Office staff reported more smells.

Jantz said that likely was a result of Atmos Energy workers "purging" the gas line for air bubbles when they came to fix the gas meter.

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmith@craigdailypress.com

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