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Commission mulling electronic mineral ownership records

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At its meeting Tuesday morning, the Moffat County Commission:

• Approved, 3-0, transfer of payment of warrants for the month of March totaling $391,269.85.

• Approved, 3-0, payment of payroll warrants ending April 2 totaling $395,269.45.

• Approved, 3-0, a personnel requisition for a regular, full-time human resources specialist for the human resources department.

• Approved, 3-0, a personnel requisition for a regular, full-time self sufficiency case manager for the department of social services.

• Approved, 3-0, a personnel requisition for a regular, part-time custodial technician for the housing authority at Sunset Meadows II.

• Approved, 3-0, purchasing various vouchers for the 9Health Fair for full-time county employees and to investigate the creation of a wellness program with preventive screenings.

• Approved, 3-0, purchasing a 2011 Ford F250 4×4 pickup and 2011 Ford F350 4×4 crew cab pickup from Lakewood Fordland totaling $47,905.

• Heard monthly reports from the county road and bridge department.

At its meeting Tuesday night, the commission also:

• Approved, 3-0, minutes from meetings March 7, 15, 22 and 29.

• Approved, 3-0, the Cooperative Law Enforcement Operating and Financial Plan.

• Approved, 3-0, an Auto Truck Group credit application.

• Approved, 3-0, the Dinosaur deputy house property lease.

• Approved, 3-0, a proclamation making April Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Moffat County Natural Resources Director Jeff Comstock recently addressed the need for updating the county's current system of keeping mineral ownership records.

"The big reason the time is right in my mind is we have more people than in history that are working through those books, tearing them up and these are physical things and we have people standing in lines waiting," he said. "In this modern day and age it ought to be done at their home computer over the Internet."

Comstock's thoughts were echoed by a group of county employees from various departments who spoke Tuesday to the Moffat County Commission about the need for making electronic those records, which are currently kept in large, worn books in the Moffat County Assessor's Office.

Mason Siedschlaw, Moffat County Information Technology director, said records kept in those books are handwritten.

"When I first saw those books, I had never looked at those before and didn't know how we were tracking that information, but in my mind, in this day and age, there has to be a much more efficient, clearer way of doing this," Siedschlaw said.

The commission gave general approval to form a working group to address the transition, investigate costs, develop a request for proposal for the transition, and talk to other counties that have conducted similar projects.

Siedschlaw said the request for proposal will likely deal with gathering and converting the mineral information to electronic files, and creating an in-house, updated database and mapping system.

The county also has several options for public dissemination of the mineral ownership records on the Internet, which could come through a partnership recently formed with Rio Blanco County.

That partnership was recently approved to develop a public GIS mapping system of Moffat County's surface ownership information with The Sidwell Company, which has already been hired by Rio Blanco County, he said.

The two layers of information — surface and mineral ownership — could be combined into the same GIS system, he said.

"I guess what we anticipate is using the hardware and software resources that Rio Blanco is already obtaining through their work with Sidwell," Siedschlaw said. "We would use those resources to present this additional layer of mineral rights ownership information in an online format."

However, Siedschlaw said the working group needs to identify what the project's end goal would be before such a deal can be agreed to.

"The information in these map books from the assessor's office is where we are going to gain all of this initial information and then we will determine what we want this database to look like, how searchable it will be, what kind of results we will get out of that and then develop the online piece of that," he said.

Tammy Villard, an oil and gas appraiser with the assessor's office, advocated for the transition to electronic mineral records during the meeting.

"It will not be an easy project, it will not, but that is why no one in our office has undertaken this project," she said. "We don't have the time nor the manpower, we just don't."

Villard said her office is "inundated" with landmen requesting information regarding mineral ownership and having that information online would help her work more efficiently.

"Right now, I spend a vast amount of time just deciphering the book for people," she said.

Dan Davidson, Museum of Northwest Colorado director, said electronic mineral ownership information is important to taxpayers and could affect the current oil and gas interest.

"There's almost also an economic development side of it to make it so companies can access that information, which therefore has a positive effect," he said.

Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner shared a similar sentiment.

"This is old," she said looking at one of the mineral ownership books. "It is a treasure, but the data is what we need to conduct our business to increase our ability to put out our mineral leases."

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