Residents speak out about Loudy-Simpson drilling

Commissioners discuss leasing minerals under park

In other action

At its Tuesday meeting, the Moffat County Commission:

• Tabled awarding a bid for reconstructing the American Legion Post 62 roof because of a discrepancy in information given to bidders.

Some county information asked contractors for 30-year shingles, while other materials asked for 50-year.

When county officials publicly opened the bids Monday, different companies bid different materials, which altered their bid prices.

Commissioner Tom Gray said he was uncomfortable asking companies to rebid because each of them saw their competitors' prices when the bids were opened.

County officials could not determine what they considered a fair solution during the meeting but plan to reconvene on the issue at the commission's Oct. 20 meeting.

• Approved, 2-0, a $35,957 bid from TLC Carpet for new flooring at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion. It was the low bid submitted.

• Approved, 2-0, waiving the formal bid process for the Moffat County Assessor's Office to contract outside companies to assist with auditing energy industry property and appraising commercial buildings.

The county plans to hire Oklahoma-based Visual Lease Services for energy property audits, and Littleton-based ValueWest for commercial appraisals.

Both companies have worked for the county the past few years.

• Approved, 2-0, vacating county ownership of the alley between Center Avenue and Eddy Avenue in Lay, as well as a portion of Center Avenue that runs from County Road 17 to Main Street.

The Commission tabled vacating two alleys in Hamilton until county staff can meet further with residents.

• Approved, 2-0, a personnel requisition for a part-time night manager at Sunset Meadows. It is an existing position.

The Moffat County Commission and a dozen local residents agreed on one important fact at the commission's meeting Tuesday morning.

"A lot of us love this park," Craig resident David Morris said of the county-owned Loudy-Simpson Park.

However, there was some disagreement on how that love might manifest in the park and surrounding areas.

Several community members attended the meeting to voice concerns about the county's recent decision to lease its share of the minerals under Loudy-Simpson Park to an oil and gas drilling company.

Commissioners said there would be no drilling within the park boundaries under the current lease and state statutes.

When Morris heard about the decision after the Oct. 6 commission meeting, his initial reaction was fear of an oilrig in the middle of the largest county-owned park, where many residents enjoy outdoor recreation close to their homes.

"I was upset," he said. "Loudy-Simpson is a place our community owns and loves."

However, he said he has since learned the issue is more complex.

During the Tuesday morning discussion, commissioners Tom Gray and Tom Mathers wanted to address more specific aspects of the lease agreement and state statutes on drilling for minerals. Commissioner Audrey Danner was absent.

"I just want to get some things out there," Gray said to the crowd. "Oil and gas statutes prevent drilling within a 1,000-foot radius of any public building."

He pointed to a map with a circle depicting that radius drawn around the Moffat County Ice Arena.

It eliminated the possibility of drilling in most of the park.

If the company, Samson Resources, did decide to drill in the area, Gray said an agreement would have to be made with the county regarding where on the surface they could drill.

Gray said if a rig were to be placed on the property, it likely would be in the wheat fields behind the park.

Still, resident Carrie Clark said she was opposed to any drilling on or near the park.

"I just don't understand," Clark said. "We have this county the size of Delaware. It's thousands of acres. Why make us be watchdogs for our own park and make us have to protect our land? Now we're looking at this oil rig right up there in our park. Can't we keep one place sacred?"

Gray reiterated several times throughout the discussion that the county leasing rights to its share of the minerals does not mean an oil company could drill wherever it pleases in the park.

"We don't want the park to be drilled on either," he said. "We wouldn't drill up a park for 1/32 of a mineral share."

Still, the option remains for other parties with shares in the minerals to lease portions to Samson, which would be another step along the road to a rig somewhere else on the property outside the park boundaries.

For some, any kind of drilling close to a waterway or residential area should be under scrutiny.

Jane Yazzie, a county resident and member of the Friends of Northwest Colorado environmental group, said water contamination was the "supreme" issue.

She brought examples from her hometown in Pennsylvania, where oil-drilling practices left more than half of the town's water contaminated.

"It's a very serious matter," Yazzie said. "The record of oil and gas companies is that these leases are sold and resold, and we could lose control of our own space."

She said something should be done with the land surrounding the park: it should be annexed on to Loudy-Simpson.

"I would love to see the commission start a dialogue on expanding and protecting the park," she said.

Mathers said he was all for expanding the park, and he would love to build an outdoor amphitheater on the side of the hill.

"The problem is we can't afford it," he said.

Budget concerns are part of the reason the county decided to sign the lease.

Leasing the rights brings in a small amount of revenue, with the possibility of more if Samson finds oil under the property.

"It's a natural occurrence," Gray said. "If you have minerals, you lease them."

But he said he understood that people feel strongly about public parks, enough to want to protect them from possible degradation.

"We're on this whole planet together," Gray said. "(County Commissioners) were elected to be supportive and representative of everyone in the county. And this park is an important part of the county."

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