After listening to Fremont County Sheriff Jim Beicker detail his frustration over the inability to make any progress towards a regional dispatch center over the past five months, the Fremont County Board of Commissioners voted at their February 11th meeting to withdraw from an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) intended to create the center. Sheriff Beicker explained that he still believes it’s important for Fremont County to have a single dispatch center but that withdrawing from the IGA may be the best way to accomplish that goal.
Beicker went on to explain how the governing board has become polarized over those five months and would not move forward in a meaningful way. Beicker said “In the best interest of the citizens of Fremont County and the public safety issues at stake, he recommended the Sheriff’s Department withdraw from the IGA at this stage and then see what the other entities want to do.
When the IGA was approved in early September it set a target date of April 1st to become operational. While several of the parties agreed that date may be unrealistic they said it was important to set that date as a goal. In a letter to the other entities who are parties in the IGA, County Attorney Brenda Jackson said the Sheriff and Commissioners were choosing to withdraw because a project manager has not been hired, the technical aspects or costs of a Florence location had not been explored, no efforts have been made to pursue a spring application for a state grant, and cost estimates for capital improvements in a dispatch center do not yet exist. Commission Chairman Tim Payne said public safety is indeed at the heart of the Sheriff’s and the Commissioners’ concerns and that having the Sheriff proceed to start making some of his own decisions may help advance the project.
District 3 Commissioner Ed Norden said he regrets that the County feels it necessary to take the step to withdraw but that he too has heard about levels of frustration experienced by others involved in the process. Norden said while the IGA may not be the most effective vehicle to establish a regional dispatch center, it is imperative that the Sheriff reach out to the other parties and communicate as to how to keep the other entities involved if the Sheriff takes the lead.
The Commissioners also voted at their February 11th meeting to approve an agreement with the Cañon City RE-1 School District to purchase the former Garden Park School Building at 201 North 6th Street in Cañon City. The building is located across the street to the west from the Fremont County Administration Building.
District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said the agreement to purchase the building for a negotiated price of $800,000 comes after a lengthy search over the past nine months to find a new location for Fremont County Public Health. The Public Health Office is now located in cramped quarters in the Fremont County Human Services building along Justice Center Road. Bell said in fact the previous Board of Commissioners actually began searching for new Public Health space as long as nine years ago. She said the former Garden Park School not only will provide ample space for Public Health but also give the county other options to expand into needed office space. Bell said the Department of Human Services has also been cramped for space and will be able to make immediate use of the present Public Health space in that building once a move is made.
District 3 Commissioner Ed Norden noted that the $800,000 for the building’s purchase came from last year’s refinancing of the county’s Certificates of Participation which provided $2 million in new funding. Norden said what’s important to remember is that payments on those certificates comes from a portion of the county sales tax which voters earmarked for capital construction back in 1981. He said that 25% of all sales tax collections must be used exclusively for capital improvements and cannot be used in the county’s general fund for day to day operational expenses.
The Commissioners also approved an intergovernmental agreement at their February 11th meeting with the City of Florence, Town of Coal Creek, Town of Williamsburg, and the Town of Rockvale for a regional road project south of Florence. Those communities and Fremont County applied to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs for a grant to repair roads that have been heavily damaged by heavy truck traffic associated with oil exploration.
Fremont County Department of Transportation Director Tony Adamic said $550,000 was awarded through the grant for phase one of an asphalt-overlay project on 3.6 miles of county and town roads from Highway 67 south of Florence westward to Coal Creek. The work would be completed by county road crews this summer
In other business at the February 11th meeting the Board of Commissioners:
- Authorized the Chairman to sign acceptance of a Homeland Security and Colorado Emergency Management grant in the amount of $40,381. The grant will help cover a portion of the costs related to damages to county roads from the flooding last September;
- Approved the reappointment of Karen Olmen and Lisa Reid to the Penrose Community Library Board;
- Approved the appointment of James Nelson to the Fremont County Heritage Commission;
- Scheduled a public hearing for 10 a.m. on March 11th on a Special Review Use permit application by Rivers of Recovery. The support group for wounded veterans conducts seasonal retreats from March through October that includes rafting, fishing, and camping experiences along the Arkansas River at Swissvale;
- Approved a contract with Lee & Burgess Associates of Denver to update Fremont County’s compensation classification study;
- Approved a liquor license for the Royal Gorge Bridge Company. The premises modification for the liquor license was required since last year’s wildfire requires complete reconstruction of a new restaurant and serving area.