Heavy traffic in the oil and gas fields is tearing up county roads, according to officials, and while some companies say they are willing share the cost with the county to fix and maintain the roads their trucks and heavy equipment traverse, the question remains: How much they are willing to pay?
"We need to throw out a number as a starting point," Eddy County Commission Chairman Jack Volpato said. "We need to decide what percentage we will pay and what the oil and gas companies should pay. As it is now, it's still open-ended. If I was one of the companies, I would be looking at what I would be getting in to."
County Manager Allen Sartin said the Jan. 8 meeting with oil and gas companies was postponed and he expects to meet with company representatives in March or April. He said having a starting point on the percentage the county is willing to pay will be helpful.
Commissioner Glenn Collier said he has spoken with some of the industry leaders in Eddy County and received positive feedback that their companies are willing to partner with the county to keep the roads to the oil and gas fields safe and driveable. However, he said the county needs to be "within the ballpark" of the cost to fix or maintain a road and should be "very careful" of the percentage it agrees to pay.
The commission discussed percentages of 50-50, 75-35 and 70-30, with the greater percentage to be picked up by the oil and gas companies that have expressed a willingness to partner with the county.
Sartin suggested that companies pay 70 percent of road cost and the county 30 percent.
"I like what Allen has suggested," Commissioner Royce Pearson said. "How many companies are we hearing from on the conditions of the roads?"
Sartin replied that he receives a lot of calls from companies, but did not give a number.
After further discussion, the commission settled on the percentage of 70-30 to start the ball rolling with the oil and gas companies.
"It's not slowing down out there," Volpato said. "Looking at the crystal ball, roads and maintaining them are going to be an important part of our infrastructure funding."
While the county continues its dialogue with the oil and gas companies, heavy traffic on county roads continues and the county's road departments are having difficulty in keeping pace with the number potholes occurring on county roads.
Ray Romero, county road superintendent, told the commission that the road departments need asphalt patching machines that will enable road crews to patch potholes on a year-round basis while cutting the number of staff dedicated to patching potholes from four to two.
"This type of machine allows patches to be made more quickly, are of higher quality and last longer," he said.
He said the city of Carlsbad conducted a bid opening in September to purchase an asphalt patching machine and has given the county permission to piggyback on the city's bid and the successful bidder, Watson Truck and Supply located in Hobbs, has agreed to extend the same price, condition and terms in the bid specifications to the county.
The commission voted unanimously to approve the purchase of the two machines totaling $377,143.