Moffat County Commission moves forward with pest eradication proposal

In other action ...

At its regular meeting Tuesday, the Moffat County Commission:

• Heard a monthly report from Bill Mack, of the road and bridge department.

• Approved, 3-0, a maintenance contract with the Colorado Department of Transportation for Colorado Highway 317.

• Approved, 3-0, hiring a full-time Social Services child support caseworker.

• Approved, 2-1, a resolution to preserve Habeas Corpus and civil liberties in response to U.S. Senate Bill 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act. Commissioner Audrey Danner voted against.

• Approved, 2-1, a conditional use permit for Martin Woodworking CUP to construct a 40-by-40 building near the intersection of Moffat County Road 174 and Pronghorn Road. Commissioner Tom Gray voted against..

• Approved, 3-0, an amendment from Hardrock Sand and Gravel to expand Moon Pit 2 from five acres to no more than 10 acres.

State senator briefs commission on Federal Mineral Lease Districts Act

State Sen. Jean White, R-Hayden, conducted her monthly phone call with Moffat County officials Tuesday morning before the Moffat County Commission’s regular meeting.

The monthly call provides commissioners and the public with the opportunity to ask White questions about bills coming to the floor in the state legislature.

Commissioner Tom Mathers asked White about the status of Senate Bill 12-31, the Federal Mineral Lease Districts Act, which passed Monday through the Senate unanimously, 33-0.

The bill was written by White and now goes to the House for consideration.

“I don’t see any problem with it coming out of the House, so I think we’re going to be OK,” White said.

“It’s my baby. I kind of feel like I just dropped my baby off for the first day of school and I want to stick around to make sure everything is OK, but I am confident it will get through (the House).”

SB 12-31 allows counties with large expanses of non-taxable federal land to keep payment in lieu of taxes money and federal mineral lease money, which have been dwindling in recent years.

Gov. John Hickenlooper a year ago signed into law House Bill 11-1218, which was sponsored by White in the Senate and created federal mineral lease districts.

However, Ken Salazar, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, challenged in October 2011 the autonomy of FML districts from its home counties.

White’s SB 12-31 cleans up prior legislation by designating FML districts as subdivisions of the state, not the county, allowing municipalities to participate in the program and FML districts to hold federal funds in an account for future, large-scale projects rather than requiring funds to be spent each calendar year.

Moffat County department directors now can designate employees to eradicate pests with a firearm as long as certain guidelines are followed.

Bill Mack, road and bridge department director, asked the commissioners to grant a temporary exemption to chapter 10.01, number 15, of the Moffat County employee handbook, which states carrying or concealing dangerous weapons by county employees while on the job is grounds for termination.

Mack cited a growing Marmot problem at the county landfill as his reason for making the request. He said more humane tactics to remove the animals have been unsuccessful.

“We’ve set traps to catch them alive, but keep finding skunks and raccoons in them,” Mack said. “A skunk’s not a fun animal to try to remove from a trap.”

As part of his request, Mack outlined five guidelines his department and its employees would follow during Marmot eradication, including:

• Providing evidence to the commission of damage or potential damage to county property, or potential hazards to county employees.

• Acquiring written permission from the commission to designate employee(s) for the purpose of pest eradication.

• Only designated employee(s) would be allowed in the area during the time of pest eradication.

• Proper hunter safety training and rules must be used as a guideline for safety.

• The area will be closed to the public and other employees during the time of eradication.

Commissioner Audrey Danner made a motion to approve the request as presented, but it was defeated, 2-1.

Commissioners Tom Mathers and Tom Gray opposed the initial motion. They questioned why Mack’s request couldn’t be expanded to include all department heads.

“Expanding it would allow Lennie (Gillam) to deal with a problem out at (Loudy-Simpson) Park if he needed to,” Mathers said. “I don’t see the point in making someone wait a week to get (commission) approval when all they need to do is let us know and take care of it.”

Rick Barnes, a candidate for the commission’s District 2 seat, agreed with Mathers and Gray.

He said animals can do a lot of damage in a week’s time, citing an incident at Trapper Mine where a raccoon crawled into an equipment control panel, chewed wires and disabled a 90-ton crane.

Mathers offered a new motion to place the responsibility of pest eradication in the hands of county department directors, provided they follow the guidelines as outlined by Mack.

The motion passed, 2-1, with Danner opposing.

“This is not a right to bear arms issue, this is a pest issue,” Danner said. “I feel like the language is too broad and I don’t see why we can’t handle this on a case-by-case basis.”

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