by Larry Patrick
WALSENBURG- The definition of one word ended up tabling a decision on the Presco issue of drilling for gas. The Huerfano County Planning and Zoning Board recommended denial of Presco’s application but County Administrator, John Galusha said his staff recommended approval based on litigation concerns. Galusha says the County must be careful with regard to its regulation of oil and gas development. He felt the rights of property owners, both surface and subsurface should be considered during this process. Galusha cautioned the commissioners that denial of the conditional use application will result in loss of the County’s ability to exercise control of any activity associated with the CBM exploration, drilling and production. He also cited the fiscal impact of denying the application. The estimated cost of litigation to the County could be as much as $75,000. The current revenue and expenditure situation does not allow for this kind of expense according to Galusha. If the county denies the application, they would have to pay for possible litigation by reducing the number of personnel the county employs. Laying off of personnel would result in reduced service to the public.
The matter was tabled when Richard Ellis of Presco and the County commissioners could not agree on the definition of “operation.” It was decided by both sides to have their attorneys resolve the issue and bring it back in two weeks for a vote.
The biggest hang-up was the County wanting a six month window to review how Presco is meeting the regulations but Ellis of Presco saw the wording as trying to deny a stoppage of work if his firm had to get an extension or reapply again. The County’s attorney, Jeff Robbins was called and the matter appeared to be rectified with a faxed written revision but then the exact meaning of the word “operation” became an issue and Robbins was not available on the phone for clarification a second time. The matter will be taken up again on June 18.
In other issues, the County Commissioners discussed a draft resolution to ask for a 1 ½% sales tax on the November ballot to raise $360,000 for dispatch services in the county. Currently, the city of Walsenburg handles most of the financial burden for dispatch services for the county and La Veta. The matter will be discussed at the next regular meeting on whether to vote to seek the increase.