Frugality is name of game in ’13

County assessor warns of natural-gas values

La Plata County Commissioner Bobby Lieb outlined a plan for the county that emphasizes fiscal responsibility, regional cooperation and simplification of the land-use process in the coming year.

In his state of the county address Tuesday, Lieb said the county’s conservative budget practices during the last several years enabled it to maintain a healthy fund balance that will help support several large capital projects in 2013.

The county plans to begin work on a new carpool parking lot at County Road 225A and U.S. Highway 160, an area pinpointed through several traffic studies through the years, said Jim Davis, director of public works. The $120,000 lot will accommodate about 23 parking spaces and is primarily funded through a $96,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Lieb also listed county plans to expand the Durango Gun Club’s shooting range to accommodate use by local law enforcement. The county’s previous shooting range was eliminated when the county expanded its detention facility, Davis said.

Capital expenditures will total $13.3 million in 2013, Lieb said.

While the county’s finances look stable for next year, darker clouds are on the horizon, Lieb said. The valuation of natural-gas production in the county is expected to drop dramatically in 2013, which will have drastic effects on the county’s property-tax revenues in 2014.

In a December letter sent to commissioners, La Plata County Assessor Craig Larson warned that natural-gas valuation could drop 50 percent next year.

“We must remain frugal,” Lieb said in his address.

Lieb also celebrated the county’s collaboration with the city of Durango and residents on a development plan for the La Posta area. He called the process a model for future collaborations.

Intergovernmental and regional cooperation are high priorities for the county, he said.

Commissioners will continue work started last year to amend the county’s land-use code with the goal of simplifying the permitting process, he said. They will also take steps to implement a facilities master plan that outlines ways for the county to satisfy its facility needs during the next 20 years.

Lieb looked to the coming year as a time of “change and opportunity for La Plata County,” he said.