From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 8, Number 35 - November 20, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Channels open to cope with impacts

by Tiffany Turner

The increase of problems from the impacts brought into the county by industry growth resulted in the round-table discussion last Friday among the county, Pinedale, Big Piney, Marbleton, Gov. Dave Freudenthal, Sen. Mike Enzi and industry leaders.

Prior to the meeting, the towns and county had met with Greg Kennett of Ecosystem Research Group (ERG), which completed the 2007 countywide socioeconomic impact study, to draft a specific list of problems, impacts and funding priorities to present to industry and higher government officials.

The majority of the problems faced by all municipalities is their inability to keep the infrastructure up to size and code to service the current population and traffic increases due to the industry boom. Problems range from water and sewer unable to keep up with current usage, as well as new street projects needed to deal with increased road usage because of increased residential and truck traffic on county and town roads.

Other town or county-specific projects need enlargement and maintenance to keep up with the new needs, although funding basic infrastructure needs remains the high priority.

Community-wide needs are the basic community needs such as childcare, policing, healthcare and housing shortage.

This list of needs was presented to industry with the help of Enzi and Freudenthal. Enzi drew on his experience of mayor of Gillette during its boom-bust cycle and the different approaches taken there to deal with the consequences of each stage of the cycle and to preparethe community for the imminent return to “normal” after the boom time.

“(The meeting) was to try to really get a scope on what the concerns were,” said Cara Eastwood, Freudenthal’s press secretary. “(It was) so these local leaders can really plan for the impacts in their communities.”

The meeting was used as an opening to create and open up a structure in which those concerned can discuss the impacts and work together to create solutions.

“The basic needs and qualities of life surrounding oil and gas development in the area are important for both the companies and communities,” Enzi said. “It is in a unique situation because of the number of operators in the area and the relatively small population. At this juncture in a boom time it is imperative for all stakeholders to work together.”

“We need to lay the groundwork today to ensure that there is an open working relationship between these groups so that we all benefi t from the development in this area,” he added.

The meeting is just the first of many, Enzi said, and accomplished the sharing of ideas and problems as well as opening the door to cooperative solutions.

The next step, which industry has agreed to, is to set up a timeline of when and how needs will be met.

“It was a good first step,” County Commissioner Joel Bousman said. “We got an agreement for a timeline.”

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