The Fremont County Board of Commissioners has gone on record in support of an amendment to make it more difficult to amend Colorado’s constitution. A petition drive was launched this summer by a group of government and civic leaders to place a question on Colorado’s November ballot. “Raise the Bar—Protect Our Constitution” would raise the threshold for voter approval of a constitutional amendment from the current 50 percent plus one vote to 55 percent.
In addition, those who want a constitutional amendment would have to obtain at least 2 percent of the signatures from residents in every one of Colorado’s 35 Senate districts. Currently, both statutory and constitutional amendments can get on the ballot with 5 percent of signatures that can be fully collected along the state’s populous Front Range. That leaves out the voices of people on the Western Slope and the Eastern Plains.
Several supporters note that the U.S. Constitution has just 27 amendments. But the Colorado constitution now has 150, dealing with issues that can and do change. County Commission Chairman Ed Norden concurred with that view questioning why Colorado voters put such amendments in the Constitution that ban large hog farms and spring bear hunts.
Supporters also point out that trouble occurs when the Constitution gets cluttered with conflicting amendments that, once approved, cannot be readily changed. The most notorious example of this is the constitutional and budgetary clash between the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which limits Colorado’s revenue and Amendment 23, which requires increased investment in K-12 education. These and other constitutional prescriptions have made a mess of Colorado’s budget and hamstrung lawmakers’ efforts to fulfill their obligations.
In the resolution adopted at their July 12th regular meeting the commissioners noted that there is no incentive to seek a statutory change as opposed to a constitutional amendment since the standard to change both is the same. The resolution also points out that the ease of amending Colorado’s constitution leaves the state vulnerable to out of state special interest groups. The commissioners adopted the resolution in support of “Raise the Bar” by a unanimous vote.
The Board of Commissioners also approved ratification of their signatures on a letter of support for the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District which is pursuing state grant funding to conduct a Phase 2 water study in the Upper Arkansas River drainage basin. Phase one of the project was initiated several years ago to study the Salida and Buena Vista region. Phase Two of the water study will focus on Custer and Fremont Counties. District 1 Commissioner Tim Payne said one of the key pieces in the Phase 2 study will be to examine the possibility of underground water storage by pumping surface water into underground cavities.
In other business at the July 12th meeting the Board of Commissioners:
- Approved the change of operator and change of name for three quarries in Fremont County operating under conditional use permits. Martin-Marietta is the new operator of the three quarries which include the Red Canyon Quarry near the Fremont-El Paso County line, the Rocky Mountain Materials Penrose Pit along Highway 120 two miles east of the junction with Highway 115, and the Rocky Mountain Materials Coyote Ridge Quarry along Highway 67 just south of County Road 100;
- Appointed Bill McDowell of Atmos Energy to the Southern Colorado Economic Development District;
- Heard an annual report on activities at the John C. Fremont Library in Florence.
Fremont DHS SNAP Program employees were celebrated Tuesday with this award for their efficiency in meeting timely delivery of SNAP services and benefits
Fremont County Department of Human Services employees who work in the Food Assistance Department were presented with a timeliness award by state officials on Tuesday. Colorado SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Program Specialist Carol Spink and two other program specialists from the Colorado Department of Human Services traveled to Cañon City to present the award in person.
Spink saluted the Fremont County SNAP (previously known as Food Stamps) program staff for their proficiency in meeting federal and state standards in timely delivery of benefits. Spink said that from May, 2015 through May, 2016 the Fremont SNAP Department met or exceeded the 95% compliance rate in timeliness of services.
Colorado State SNAP Program Specialist Carol Spink (left) presents the timeliness award Tuesday to Fremont County's SNAP Program Supervisor Wanda Embry and County DHS Director Steve Clifton
Hot and dry conditions which have contributed to the Hayden Pass wildfire at Coaldale have now prompted the Fremont County Board of Commissioners to impose a fire ban at the request of Fremont County Sheriff Jim Beicker. A resolution to impose a fire ban was added to the Board of Commissioners’ regular meeting agenda Tuesday morning. Sheriff Beicker told the commissioners that in light of the Hayden Pass wildfire he has become more aware of low moisture content in wildfire fuels across the county. Beicker told the Board, “We don’t need another fire event and the long range forecast shows very little moisture”.
Beicker said he intends to have further conversations with the local fire districts and the Bureau of Land Management in an effort to make sure everyone is on the same page. Beicker said he is initially imposing Stage 1 fire restrictions which prohibits all agricultural burning, all fireworks and explosives. Campfires are only permitted within developed campgrounds. Use of charcoal grills are prohibited in undeveloped areas and use of gas grills are allowed only in areas free of flammable vegetation. Stage One first restrictions also prohibit outdoor smoking and discarding of cigarette butts from any vehicle is also strictly prohibited. The restrictions apply to all unincorporated areas of Fremont County and went into effect immediately.
County commissioners in Park and Teller County imposed fire bans yesterday and the Custer County Board of Commissioners is also expected to consider imposing a fire ban this week. A detailed list of what’s prohibited and what’s allowed under Stage 1 fire restrictions can be reviewed on the home page of Fremont County’s web site at www.fremontco.com.
The Hayden Pass wildfire had already consumed nearly 14,000 acres by late Monday evening when this photo was taken. At times it appeared as if the intense cloud of heat and smoke was generating its own weather
In an effort to prepare for the worst but hoping for the best, the Fremont County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution at Tuesday morning’s regular meeting declaring a local disaster in the wake of the Hayden Park wildfire. The disaster declaration makes note of the fact that as of the time the resolution was adopted over 14,000 acres of Sangre De Cristo wilderness in western Fremont County had already burnt.
The resolution also notes that the wildfire is not yet contained and continues to pose a threat to at least 206 structures in the vicinity in and around the Coaldale area. The intent behind adoption of the disaster declaration is to better position Fremont County to tap into federal emergency disaster assistance should conditions worsen.
Just prior to Tuesday morning’s regular meeting the Board of Commissioners had a briefing on the wildfire from Christy Coleman of the Colorado Office of Homeland Security, Fremont County Emergency Management Director Steve Morrisey, and Sheriff Jim Beicker. Coleman indicated that having an emergency disaster declaration in place would help expedite paperwork if federal disaster assistance is needed.
Sheriff Beicker told the commissioners that several people in the Fox Creek subdivision refused to evacuate Monday afternoon. He said 47 large animals plus a number of goats and chickens have been evacuated to the Chaffee County Fairgrounds near Poncha Springs. Beicker said an area he is particularly concerned about is the Eagle Peaks subdivision south of Cotopaxi which could be threatened if the wildfire continues to push southeastward towards Custer County.
Beicker said the Rocky Mountain Type 2 Fire Management Team will continue to be in charge of managing the fire. The team is headquartered at the U.S. Forest Service Ranger Station just east of Salida. It’s expected at some point the management team will conduct a community meeting for residents in the Coaldale and Howard area.
With such a large fire, steep terrain, and difficult weather conditions, one of the fire team leaders told all the cooperating agencies at Monday evening’s initial briefing, “Be patient, it’s going to be a long process”.
As construction gets underway on a roundabout and realignment of Dozier Avenue with US Highway 50 at the east edge of Cañon City, the Fremont County Commissioners approved a petition at their June 28th meeting to annex part of Dozier Avenue into Cañon City-city limits. While Fremont County is petitioning for the annexation the City of Cañon City actually requested the annexation in order to secure the necessary grant funding for the project.
Since the City of Cañon City applied for the grant the Colorado Department of Transportation requires that the project area be under the jurisdiction of the City. The annexation of Dozier Avenue from Highway 50 north to the intersection with Glenmoor Road enables the City to meet that requirement. The Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the petition to the City of Cañon City requesting the annexation. Construction of the roundabout began Tuesday with traffic flow from Dozier Avenue eventually to be directed eastward to a new intersection aligning with Steinmeier Avenue on the south side of the highway.
In the only other business to come before the commissioners at their June 28th regular meeting the Board received a petition from Four Mile area resident Joseph DeCook urging the county and City of Cañon City to make safety improvements to the intersection of East Main and Rhodes Avenue. DeCook’s petition carried the names of 64 residents in the area of Sierra Court, Countryside Court, White Pine Court, and Sparton Drive. DeCook said 98 percent of the people he contacted enthusiastically signed the petition.
The petition points out that Cañon City and Fremont County have been aware of the safety hazard at East Main and Rhodes Avenue for over ten years and that nothing has been done to solve the problem. The petition demands that the problem be solved now.
The commissioners told DeCook that money is the biggest obstacle to improving the intersection because it is much more complicated than a simple fix by widening. Those complications include securing private property on the southwest corner, a railroad crossing that sits a few feet away that cannot be moved, and the biggest issue is that of the existing irrigation ditch and stormwater drainage. City Engineer Adam Lancaster told the commissioners previously that the Oil Creek Ditch Company may balk at any drainage improvements affecting their ditch water. Lancaster said improving the intersection would also require dealing with stormwater that crosses under Highway 50 and will have to drain to the river.
The commissioners told DeCook they will continue to explore options for improving the intersection but without securing a grant the project could be cost prohibitive.
Commission Chairman Ed Norden presents the $5,000 check to kick off the COSI Scholarship funding to Fremont County Foundation members (left to right:) John Marietta, Pam Marietta, and Dan Brown
Fremont County Commission Chairman Ed Norden presented a $5,000 check to the Fremont Community Foundation to initiate fundraising for the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI) in Fremont County. The Colorado Department of Higher Education has made $50,000 available to Fremont County through a 1:1 match for every dollar raised locally. The COSI scholarships will be made available to qualifying low income students in the county. If you’d like to contribute to the COSI scholarship fund and have every dollar of your donation matched 1:1, mail your contribution to the Fremont Community Foundation at 901 Main Street, Cañon City. For more information contact County Commissioner Ed Norden.
Linda Leggitt prepares to cut a cake on her last day of work at Fremont County Public Health after 26 years of service to the county.
The Board of County Commissioners and co-workers honored Linda Leggitt with a reception on June 16th. Linda retired from her position as Office Manager at Fremont County Public Health Department. Linda served for 26 years with Fremont County Public Health.
Fremont County Airport personnel refuel the skycrane helicopter that spent a night at the airport before heading north
A Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane helicopter overnighted at the Fremont County Airport on June 23rd. The large wildland firefighting apparatus was enroute to the Black Hills to help fight a large wildfire near Spearfish, South Dakota. The Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane is an American twin-engine heavy-lift helicopter that drafts water from streams and lakes into its’ large tank.
Colorado Civil Air Patrol Operations Section Chief Major Von Campbell details training missions to Fremont County officials last Sunday
Volunteers with the Colorado Civil Air Patrol (CAP) were at the Fremont County Airport June 25th and 26th conducting operational training missions. The CAP has a complete operations center in a modular unit at the Fremont County Airport that was installed several years ago for the StarFire Squadron of the CAP. Fremont County is one of only two sites in Colorado where a permanent CAP operational center is located. Fremont County Commissioners Debbie Bell and Ed Norden along with County Emergency Management Director Steve Morrisey visited during the training session on Sunday.
Crews worked through the searing heat during early June on Oak Creek Grade south of Canon City
Crews with the Fremont County Department of Transportation are spending a full month’s time this summer performing asphalt paving and chip seal projects on various county roads. Work started the first full week in June paving nearly 1 ½ miles of road on Oak Creek Grade and Forge Road south of Cañon City. Crews then laid asphalt on ¾ mile of roadway on Ute Street and Rhodes Avenue at the east edge of Cañon City. Because of budget limitations those are the only roads getting new asphalt overlays in 2016.
Much of the summer road construction work deals with chip and seal projects. During the last week of June crews put down a new coat of chip seal on County Road 28 which is also known as Road Gulch in the Copper Gulch area. Chip seal operations will be conducted on County Road 1A south of Cotopaxi during early July. If weather cooperates the crews will perform chip seal on North and South Broadway through Penrose on July 13th and 14th.
Residents along Oak Creek Grade and in the Dawson Ranch and Wolf Park subdivisions south of Canon City are enjoying new pavement on Oak Creek Grade and Forge Road courtesy of the Fremont County Road Department
A twenty minute regular meeting of the Fremont County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday was highlighted by board action to transfer some Department of Human Services funds to Boulder County. The commissioners voted to ratify the Chairman’s signature on paperwork that was signed last Thursday transferring $100,000 in TANF reserve funds to Boulder County.
TANF—Temporary Aid to Needy Families, involves restricted funds that Fremont County was still holding in reserve as the close of Colorado’s fiscal year approaches on June 30th. Fremont County was in a position where the reserve dollars would have to be turned back while Boulder County was experiencing a shortfall. Fremont County Department of Human Services Director Steve Clifton told the commissioners in a workshop meeting last week that in past years Fremont County was on the receiving end of some of those needed dollars. He says this year Fremont County was able to return the favor.
The commissioners adopted a proclamation declaring the week of June 20-26th as Amateur Radio Week in Fremont County. Local club representative Amanda Alden told the board that local ham radio operators were instrumental in recent years with such major events as the Waldo Canyon Fire, the Black Forest wildfire, and the Royal Gorge wildfire. Alden said local amateur radio club members are working with other clubs to develop a backbone infrastructure of ham radio operators stretching from Cheyenne, Wyoming, south to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Ham radio operators will participate in Amateur Radio Field Day exercises on June 25th and 26th at the Holy Cross Abbey in Cañon City.
In other business Tuesday the Board of Commissioners:
- Approved action to support the Upper Arkansas Area Council of Government’s housing rehabilitation program by reducing building permit fees for qualifying families. County building permit fees will be reduced by $100 for every housing unit that undergoes rehabilitation to preserve housing for low to moderate income families in rural areas of Fremont County;
- Authorized the Chairman’s signature on the annual Southern Colorado RETAC contract allowing the Fremont County EMS Council to secure $15,000 in grant funding;
- Heard a monthly report from County Clerk and Recorder Katie Barr in which the county’s portion of motor vehicle registration fees for May, 2016 totaled over $569,000. Barr reported that amount was $100,000 more than the amount collected in May of 2015.
The Fremont County Commissioners dealt with the renewal applications for five medical marijuana (MMJ) licenses at a special meeting that was conducted on May 26th. One of the licensees, Pure Medical LLC, which operates at 440 8th Street in Penrose, sought not only a renewal of their medical marijuana cultivation license but also applied for an expansion of the growing area. Karlie Van Arnam explained that when the cultivation license was originally issued a year ago there was a misunderstanding over the growing area.
Van Arnam said their intent was to be permitted to grow MMJ within the entire fenced area at the site while the Planning and Zoning Department misconstrued and thus licensed only a covered canopy area for growing the marijuana. Van Arnam said the expansion application was to permit what was actually intended in the original application plus permission to erect a building for harvesting with an odor mitigation system. The building will add to security during harvest time and help with odor mitigation during the most fragrant part of the growing season.
Several Penrose residents testified in opposition to the modification. Clarice Roney who lives across the street from the facility said she gets marijuana odor from two different MMJ operations who end up pointing the finger at each other. Tony Gleiforst simply asked the commissioners to preserve the Penrose area saying, “Enough is enough”. Despite complaints, investigations over the past year about odor complaints from Pure Medical’s cultivation were unfounded according to Planning Director Matt Koch.
A motion by District 1 Commissioner Tim Payne to permit only construction of the building but not to expand the growing area died for lack of a second. Following a discussion in which the commissioners recognized that the county was in error for not identifying the correct growing area a year ago, District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell offered a motion to approve the modification for both the building and the expanded cultivation. Bell added a stipulation that the board will revisit the expanded growing area a year from now to determine if more plants under cultivation create any negative impacts upon the neighborhood. The motion was approved on a 2-1 vote.
Also approved for MMJ renewals were:
- Pure Intentions Wellness greenhouse cultivation at 685 Highway 115 in Penrose—the former Bikertown property;
- Golden Meds greenhouse cultivation at 890 7th Street in Penrose—the Apple Valley greenhouses;
- Maggie’s Farm LLC greenhouse cultivation at 4211 County Road 84 near Rockvale;
- and Maggie’s Farm MMJ storefront location at the Country Green Shoppette at the east edge of Cañon City.
The Upper Arkansas Cooperative Weed Management Area is hosting an open house in Cañon City to offer landowners information on Healthy Land Stewardship. The event on Saturday, June 18th, will take place at Fremont County’s Garden Park Building. Several stations will be set up providing landowners, from ranchers to backyard gardeners, information on a variety of topics dealing with soil conservation and control of noxious weeds and invasive plants.
If you need assistance in identifying problem weeds or other plants on your property, you’re invited to bring plants to the open house for identification. Custer County CSU Extension Director Robin Young will assist in plant identification. Teller and Park County Conservation District Manager Mary Menz will explain how to collect and submit noxious weed specimens from your property. District Conservationist Rick Romano of the Fremont County Natural Resource and Conservation Service will offer information about maintenance of native grasses and land management.
If you need assistance in reading and interpreting labels on herbicides, you’re invited to remove the label from the container and take it to the open house where Chaffee County Weed Supervisor Larry Walker will assist you in chemical identification and herbicide recommendations to control particular weeds and invasive plants. If you practice chemical control on your property and have a back pack or hand held sprayer you can bring the sprayer to the open house where Fremont County Weed Management Coordinator Tony Telck will help calibrate your sprayer. If you bring a sprayer for calibration make sure it is triple rinsed.
The open house will run from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 18th at the Garden Park Building at 201 North 6th Street in Cañon City. Persons attending should enter at the rear door next to the alley. For more information about services offered at the Healthy Land Stewardship open house call the Fremont Conservation District Office at 275-4465.