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Howard County commissioners voted unanimously Friday to adopt a road use agreement in hopes of sharing the mounting cost of rural road maintenance made necessary by the ongoing boom in the oilfield.
The court â€” with Precinct 1 Councilwoman Emma Brown absent â€” voted in favor of the agreement, which has been in the works for several months now, with the fees tacked on to county permits.
â€śThe road use agreement calls for all new access entrances which intersect county roads for commercial purposes â€” except agricultural related industries â€” are requested to apply with the county for a permit before the entrance is built,â€ť County Judge Mark Barr said. â€śThe construction of the entrances must conform with county road and bridge requirements and a fee of $4,500 shall be paid by the applicant at the time the permit is issued.â€ť
Barr said the road use agreement will also include permits for new oil and gas wells, with vertical wells requiring a fee of $7,500 and horizontal wells requiring a fee of $20,000.
â€śNo permit is required if the sole entrance of the lease where the well is located is not accessed from a county road,â€ť Barr said. â€śThe idea behind this road use agreement is to place a portion of the fiscal burden on the companies and corporations which are using the roads and causing a large amount of the damage, instead of county taxpayers having to bear the entire burden.â€ť
According to Barr, the damage to county roadways is currently estimated at $22 million.
â€śObviously, this road use agreement isn't going to solve the problem,â€ť he said. â€śDuring our last budget session, we set aside $400,000 to $500,000 to be spent annually to address the county roadways. This isn't a problem we're going to be able to solve overnight, however, the court feels like it's a step in the right direction.â€ť
Barr said Howard County isn't the only West Texas entity feeling the pinch of the oil boom through its rural roads.
â€śThe road use agreement we adopted Friday is based on a similar agreement other counties are using for the same type of problem,â€ť Barr said. â€śSo, this isn't a problem just in our county, it's a problem that is being felt everywhere the oil boom has greatly increased the amount of traffic â€” especially large truck traffic â€” on its roads.â€ť