DOLA critical for local government | CraigDailyPress.com

DOLA critical for local government

Changing rules and decreases in available funding worrisome

Collin Smith

— City and county officials said the Colorado Department of Local Affairs is a significant funding source for local government needs and should remain so as long as there’s money.

Representatives from the city, county, Craig Fire/Rescue, Colorado Northwestern Community College, Moffat County School District and Boys & Girls Club of Craig met Tuesday night to prioritize for the next wave of requests for DOLA energy impact grants.

Projects planned for the state agency’s December grant cycle included road paving, a storage facility, an elementary school roof and a security remodel at the Boys & Girls Club.

DOLA energy impact grants are funded through severance taxes, which are paid on natural resources extracted in Colorado and sold in another state. Energy companies pay the majority of the funds.

They are intended to address community impacts from energy industry development, such as strains on roads, health care and schools because of increased heavy traffic and more residents.

DOLA’s available dollars are changing, however, and so is the agency’s grant approval process. Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray and county Budget Analyst Tinneal Gerber said they noticed during a recent hearing with the energy impact program’s advisory committee there is a new emphasis on ensuring grants are awarded to projects that directly address impacts from energy development.

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“As opposed to other impacts from things like tourism,” Gray said.

In addition to its apparently stricter rules, Gray added, DOLA has about twice as many requests as it did last year and less grant funding to distribute.

He said DOLA had about $28 million in available grants and about $58 million in requests.

Commissioner Tom Mathers said the new rules should help Moffat County stay in the game because it is impacted from energy development to the south and the north.

“Out of all the counties, I think we are the most impacted,” he said. “The other counties with impacts get revenue from the oil and gas companies because that’s where they have all their operations. We don’t (get that revenue), we just get kind of squished.”

Tthe city and county request millions of dollars each year, often for expensive purchases and projects, such as road equipment and paving.

Gerber, who administers the county’s DOLA requests, and City Manager Jim Ferree said DOLA grants are of the utmost importance to their budgets.

“It enables us to do the things we wouldn’t normally be able to do,” Ferree said, such as afford $1 million in new equipment for the Road and Bridge Department, an expense the city applied for help from DOLA for earlier this year.

Ferree recently heard the city may not get all the financial help it asked for.

“If that happens, we just won’t be able to purchase all the equipment,” he said.