District Attorney Argues for 20% Budget Increase

District Attorney Thom LeDoux charged at the November 22nd public hearing on Fremont County’s 2017 proposed budget that it’s the Board of Commissioners responsibility to adequately fund the prosecutions in his office next year or face the reality that he will have to make cuts to service in the four county 11th Judicial District.

LeDoux laid out details of how the caseload of prosecutions in his office has doubled over the last six years.    He said his office which serves Fremont, Custer, Chaffee, and Park Counties is at a breaking point.   LeDoux asked the Fremont Commissioners to reconsider the county’s commitment of funding for his 2017 budget.   LeDoux has asked for a 20 percent increase while the Fremont Commissioners have budgeted a 10 percent increase.   LeDoux said his budget has increased an average of about 2 percent per year since he took office eight years ago, which includes a 9 percent increase last year.

District Attorney Thom LeDoux lays out his demands for a 20 percent budget increase for his office in 2017 at the Fremont County Commissioners' meeting on November 22nd. LeDoux said without the increase his office faces severe budget cuts. (Photo Courtesy Canon City Daily Record)

The Fremont County level of funding takes into consideration the intent to replace $100,000 LeDoux says his office will lose in revenue in 2017 from providing copies to other agencies along with a 4.45 percent increase.   Of the four counties, Fremont County picks up 55 percent of the total cost of funding the District Attorney’s Office.

LeDoux said Fremont County is obligated to go along with a 20 percent increase in 2017 because the other three counties have agreed to that level of an increase.    Commission Chairman Ed Norden said it was his understanding that the Custer County Commissioners have since changed their mind and agreed to budget a 10 percent increase the same as Fremont.   Norden noted that while the four counties have informally respected a role of one county-one vote to fund the DA over the years, Colorado law is silent about how multiple counties actually arrive at an agreement.   He said giving 10 percent is still going above and beyond what any other department in the county is going to receive in 2017.

LeDoux also took the Fremont Board of Commissioners to task over the one percent increase in sales tax the voters approved three years ago for the Fremont County Sheriff.   LeDoux said “If you increase the funding for the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, then that results in increased case submissions to my office, I have to have additional resources to adequately prosecute those cases.”    But Sheriff Jim Beicker countered that argument saying that the hiring of additional road deputies which might prompt an increase in the Sheriff’s cases for prosecution is just now beginning.    Beicker said he’s spent the first several years of additional funding addressing jail staffing, patrol cars, and the $5 million renovation in the jail’s kitchen and laundry.

LeDoux said the Commissioners have an obligation to take some of the $3.9 million that the Sheriff continues to get from the county’s General Fund and adequately fund his office.   District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said the Board of Commissioners pledged to the voters and the Sheriff in the election three years ago that if the sales tax was approved, the $3.9 million in General Fund dollars would not be shifted to other uses.   The Board of Commissioners said if any of that money is shifted now it would have to come as a recommendation from the Sheriff.

LeDoux added, “I’m telling you, without the proposed budget, it will not last. It has come to a breaking point, just like the sheriff was at the breaking point in 2013. The district attorney’s office is at a severe breaking point, and we will be making cuts to services.”

Aside from consternation over the District Attorney’s budget, the 2017 budget hearing also brought a question from Cañon City Recreation and Park District Director Jim Hoar about the county’s reserves in the Conservation Trust Fund.   Fremont County’s Conservation Trust Funds, which come from State Lottery proceeds and have restricted uses, shows reserves totaling $527,000 in 2017.   Hoar wanted to know if the county has a multi-year plan for use of those dollars.

Commissioner Bell said the county does indeed have a plan for that money after having spent $80,000 to complete a designed concept plan for development of fairground facilities at Pathfinder Regional Park.    Commissioner Norden added that the county’s intention with that money under the concept plan would be to first construct a multi-use events center followed by a large livestock barn.   Norden said that money would hopefully be used to leverage other grant funds so actual construction could get underway in the coming years.    Hoar remarked that with development of more trails taking place around eastern Fremont County he would hope some of those dollars might be used to support trail efforts.

In other business at the November 22nd meeting the commissioners:

  • Adopted a new set of by-laws for the Fremont County Heritage Commission broadening the requirements for membership on the commission;
  • Approved an agreement between the county and the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience on 8-mile hill providing the new tourist attraction with multiple years of personal property tax credits based upon visitor numbers generated at the attraction;
  • Adopted a resolution designating a number of roads and trails in Fremont County as part of the Pike Trail across southern Colorado where Zebulon Pike traversed over 200 years ago;
  • Approved several change orders for the kitchen and laundry renovation at the Fremont County Jail;
  • Approved a two lot minor subdivision for Collette Divine on 2.8 acres on the northeast corner of Grand and Willow in Lincoln Park;
  • Approved a major modification for the Optional Premises medical marijuana cultivation permit for Maggie’s Farm LLC south of Rockvale.   Maggie’s Farm needed approval to allow the use of 12 metal storage containers for secure drying areas for the marijuana.
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Clerk Reports Large Election Turnout

Fremont County voters wanted their voices to be heard in the national and state election races.   That was the word from Fremont County Clerk and Recorder Katie Barr who reports a large voter turnout.   Barr told the Board of Commissioners at their November 8th regular meeting that 63 percent of mail ballots sent out to voters had been returned.    She said that prior to final voting on election day over 17,000 of the 26,000 ballots that were mailed had been returned.

During the regular meeting the commissioners scheduled a formal public hearing on Fremont County’s 2017 proposed budget for 10 a.m. November 22nd.   A copy of the budget is available for review on the county’s web site at www.fremontco.com.   The Board will hear any comments on the budget and then make any final budget adjustments prior to the scheduled adoption of the budget at either the December 13th regular meeting or a special meeting on December 20th.

The Board of Commissioners authorized change orders for the kitchen and laundry renovation project at the Fremont County Jail totaling just under $13,000.    The change orders involved work on plumbing, cameras, fire sprinklers, and inmate property storage.

In other business at the brief meeting November 8th the commissioners:

  • Appointed Denise Faoro to the Fremont County Fair Sales Committee;
  • Approved an amendment to the operating procedures for the Fremont County Airport Advisory Committee;
  • Adopted a proclamation declaring November 18th as National Adoption Day in Fremont County.
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Restaurant License Renewal Deadline Extended

Restaurants across Fremont County accustomed to receiving their restaurant license renewal paperwork in mid-November will see a delay this year.    Fremont County Environmental Health Officer Sid Darden says that due to a change to a database at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment the mailing of restaurant license renewals for 2017 will be delayed by about three weeks.

Darden says that because of the delay in mailings his office will extend the period of compliance into the new year.   Darden says his office will not hold restaurant operators to the typical December 31st deadline to have restaurant license renewals and payments returned.  Darden said Fremont County will accept 2017 restaurant license renewals through the end of January.   Restaurant operators who have any questions can contact Darden directly the Environmental Health Office at 719-276-7450.

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Commissioners Lift Moratorium on Medical Pot Licensing

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution amending licensing regulations for medical marijuana businesses in unincorporated Fremont County at their October 25th regular meeting.   The action brought an early end to the two year moratorium on licensing any new businesses.   The moratorium was originally set to expire in April, 2017.

Among the changes in the amended regulations the Board of Commissioners want to encourage any new medical marijuana (MMJ) cultivation businesses to find more rural areas of the county for their operations.    The regulations state that the most desirable sites will be those that are located on a minimum of ten acres and at least 1,000 feet away from any neighboring residence.    During a licensing hearing the Board of Commissioners will also consider nearby incompatible land uses close to MMJ cultivation sites, the vicinity in relation to other licensees, and the proposed size of the operation including marijuana plant counts.

In an effort to provide reasonable yet not burdensome enforcement standards for county code enforcement officers the amended regulations provide that investigations of complaints will be initiated if the complaint comes from a party residing or working within a quarter mile distance of the licensed facility.   Complaints from persons not residing or working within ¼ mile of the facility will be reviewed on a case by case basis.   County Planning Director Matt Koch said the changes should really help his officers with enforcement issues.

It was noted during the meeting that the Board of Commissioners took a lot of heat particularly through social media that Fremont County Cannabis (FCC) had been assured the moratorium would be ending so they could relocate their medical marijuana cultivation operation to Fremont County.   FCC owner Dana Soux apologized to the Board for the harsh criticism after District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell complained that the county was somehow being blamed during the moratorium over the fact that FCC lost their lease for their cultivation property in Chaffee County.

As the Board voted unanimously to adopt the amended MMJ business licensing regulations, Commission Chairman Ed Norden said the regulations will give commissioners a certain amount of discernment in how to deal with new applications, where the grows are located, and how they impact their neighbors.

The October 25th meeting also saw the Board of Commissioners put into place Stage 1 fire restrictions at the request of Sheriff Jim Beicker.   After extremely dry conditions over September and October and with recent wildfires in Custer and Pueblo Counties Sheriff Beicker said until we receive some significant moisture there needs to be restrictions on all open burning in unincorporated Fremont County.   A complete list of Stage 1 fire restrictions can be accessed on the county’s home web page at www.fremontco.com.

In other business at the October 25th meeting the commissioners:

  • Approved a major modification to a Conditional Use Permit for KrauthCo which operates a landscaping quarry for large stone along Red Canyon Road north of Cañon City.   The amended permit allows KrauthCo to expand its operations on a 115 acre site;
  • Adopted a proclamation declaring the month of October as Domestic Violence Prevention Month;
  • Approved change orders totaling $1,289 for the kitchen and laundry renovation at the Fremont County Jail;
  • Approved a transfer of ownership for Play Dirty ATV Tours’ Special Review Use permit from Jackie Tripp to William Scrimshaw and David Pruyne.   Play Dirty ATV operates from a site along US Highway 50 west of Texas Creek;
  • Approved the appointment of Lisa Studts to a vacancy on the Fremont County Heritage Commission.   Studts is the curator of the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.
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Commissioners OK Grant Contract for Airport Maintenance

With a brief agenda of business for their October 11th regular meeting the Fremont County Board of Commissioners approved a grant agreement with the Colorado Division of Aeronautics for work to be performed at the Fremont County Airport.    Fremont County receives annual allotments from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for airport projects.    This year the county will receive $260,272 from the FAA representing 90 percent of the cost to perform asphalt maintenance work on the apron and taxiway at the airport.    Fremont County and the State Division of Aeronautics will each pay five percent of the cost amounting to $14,460 each.

The commissioners voted to approve calendars for holiday observances by the county in 2017 adopting two calendars for those working five-day work weeks and one for County Administration Building employees who work four ten-hour days each week.   The calendars reflect that the same holidays will be observed as in the past although those working the four day work week will receive an additional floating holiday in place of observing Veterans Day.    Veterans Day in 2017 falls on a Saturday and the commissioners opted for another floating holiday instead of closing on a Thursday or a Monday.

In other business at the October 11th Board meeting the commissioners:

  • Approved a Special Events Liquor permit for the Fremont Community Foundation as part of the Cañon City Recreation District’s annual Aftermath Halloween event on October 28th;
  • Appointed Keith Berry of Cañon City to fill a vacancy on the Fremont County Heritage Commission;
  • Scheduled a public hearing for 10 a.m. October 25th on a modification to a Conditional Use Permit for KrauthCo Inc. which operates a landscaping stone quarry along Red Canyon Road north of Cañon City.   KrauthCo wants to expand the size of the quarry.
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Fair Board Applications Sought

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners is seeking letters of interest from persons to serve on the Fremont County Fair Board.   The Fair Board is comprised of 15 to 20 members whose responsibilities include planning and conducting the annual Fremont County Fair.   The commissioners will be appointing someone to fill an unexpired term and will consider appointing several new members depending on applications received.   Fair Board members serve three year terms.

The Fremont County Fair Board meets the 2nd Tuesday of every month at 7:00 p.m.  Fair Board members also contribute many other hours of volunteer time and labor to organize, supervise, and work alongside other youth and adults in helping set up and conduct various county fair activities.

The Commissioners urge anyone with an interest in 4-H programs, agriculture, gardening, baking, floriculture, livestock, horses, crafts, photography, wildlife, or other interests that may be promoted as part of open class and 4-H programs at the county fair to submit a letter of interest.

Letters of interest should be submitted by mail, email, or in person to the County Administration Office in Room 106 of the Fremont County Administration Building.  The deadline to submit letters of interest to serve on the Fremont County Fair Board is Thursday, November 10th at 12 noon.

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CR 40 Closed on Public Lands in Cottonwood Creek

The Bureau of Land Management Royal Gorge Field Office is issuing an emergency closure for Cottonwood Creek (Fremont County Road 40) as a result of potential flooding concerns relating to the Hayden Pass Fire. The road closure begins as CR 40 enters BLM-managed public lands.

“Public safety is our number one concern with this road closure,” said Royal Gorge Field Office Manager Keith Berger. “The post-fire assessment team recommended closure of this road until the threat of flooding in the drainage has lessened.”

The closure only applies to motorized travel and only on that section of CR 40 on public lands.   For more information, contact the BLM Royal Gorge Field Office at 719-269-8500.

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Fremont Consumers Recycle Over 4 Tons of TV Sets

An electronics recycling event in Cañon City last month saw consumers deliver more than four tons of old television sets to the recycling effort.   The Upper Arkansas Regional Recycling Program and the Fremont County Commissioners sponsored the September 17th electronics recycling as 14,405 pounds of old computers, monitors, printers, and TV sets were brought in for recycling.   Recycling Program coordinator Beth Lenz said she didn’t have a precise number of television sets delivered but the 9,330 pounds of televisions probably meant that consumers brought in more than 450 TV sets.

The popularity of the electronics recycling event was due in large part to the fact that consumers were able to pay half price to recycle old computer equipment and TV sets.   The discounted recycling price was because of $7,500 the Fremont County Board of Commissioners budgeted in 2016 from the county’s Waste Disposal Fund.   $5,000 of that amount was spent to subsidize the September 17th recycling event in Cañon City while the other $2,500 subsidized a similar event in Florence last April.    The funds originate from surcharges the county gets from waste collected through local transfer stations and the landfill.

Lenz said in addition to electronic items delivered on September 17th some of the subsidy covered the cost of electronic items which were collected due to illegal dumping since the April event.   She said trucks filled up so quickly on September 17th that volunteers spent another day the following week picking up electronics items from people who were unable to drop off their items that day.

Fremont County Commission Chairman Ed Norden said the Board of Commissioners hopes to budget another $7,500 for electronics recycling in 2017.   He said one of the goals was to reduce the amount of illegal electronics dumping on public and private property and that the half price electronics recycling certainly proved to be even more popular than anticipated.

Lenz says besides electronics recycling next year in Cañon City and Florence they will look to offer a similar event in western Fremont County.

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Commissioners Criticized Again Over Opening Prayers

The decades-long tradition of opening meetings of the Fremont County Board of Commissioners with an invocation came under criticism again at the September 27th commissioners’ meeting.    Cañon City resident Karen Hunter, who previously took exception to opening meetings with Christian prayers, accused the board of discrimination.   Hunter argued that the county does not comply with the establishment clause of the constitution saying that her research showed that only Christian clergy ever offered a prayer at commissioners’ meetings.

When the board reinstated the invocation following Hunter’s complaints several months ago the Board said any clergy of any denomination is welcome to offer the opening prayer and that the county does not discriminate against any particular religion.    Hunter disagreed in her remarks at the meeting saying further that she has been discriminated against as a non-Christian, as a medical marijuana provider, and as a woman.  Hunter finished her remarks saying “I demand that you cease and desist with your prayer and any idea that discrimination is appropriate in your ordinance writing”.

The Board of Commissioners also approved six change orders for the renovation work underway by Nunn Construction in the Fremont County Jail kitchen and laundry areas.   Three change orders added $16,812 to the cost of the project but two other change orders actually reduced the renovation cost by $23,127.    The net of the six change orders was actually a reduction in cost of $6,315.

In other business at the brief meeting the Board of Commissioners:

  • Reappointed Leonard Mino and Tom Schilf to three year terms on the Fremont County Airport Advisory Committee;
  • Approved a lease agreement for a helibase office space on a lot at the Fremont County Airport with the Colorado Department of Public Use where a modular unit will be set to house the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control;
  • Approved a new hotel-restaurant liquor license for My Sister’s Place restaurant at the corner of US Highway 50 and County Road 3A at the turnoff to the Royal Gorge;
  • Appointed Blaine Heckart to fill a vacancy on the Fremont County Tourism Council;
  • Approved the Moose Point minor subdivision creating two lots on a three acre area on the east side of Locust Street just north of the junction of Highway 115 in the Lincoln Park area.
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Planning Commission to Consider Quarry Amendment

The Fremont County Planning Commission will deal with one item of business at their monthly meeting on October 4th.    The Planning Commission will hear a request to modify a Conditional Use Permit held by KrauthCo, a local landscaping company, which operates a stone quarry north of Cañon City.   The modification is for a 115 acre piece of property located one mile north of the junction of Red Canyon Road and Field Avenue.   KrauthCo currently excavates large landscaping rock from the quarry.

The Planning Commission meets at 3:00 p.m. Thursday, October 4th, in the commissioners meeting room on the lower level of the Fremont County Administration Building.

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