Flood waters wash across CR 11--High Park Road Tuesday cutting off employee access and casino traffic into the Cripple Creek and Victor area.
Rainfall of 1 ½ to 2 inches turned quiet streambeds in Fremont County into raging torrents Tuesday. County Road 11, the High Park Road to Cripple Creek, was closed to all traffic early Tuesday morning as flood waters poured across the road about a mile north of the junction with Colorado Highway 9.
The other routes to Victor and Cripple Creek, Phantom Canyon and Shelf Roads, were also shut down due to flooding. Teller County Road crews reported Four Mile Creek was running two feet high over the low water crossing at the Fremont-Teller County line on Shelf Road. In Phantom Canyon, Eight Mile Creek was transformed into a river tossing boulders and large timber around in the narrow canyon. Phantom Canyon Road was washed out in several spots and large boulders fell from the cliffs to block the roadway.
High Park Road was expected to reopen once the water subsides but Phantom Canyon and Shelf Road will remain closed until crews can assess all the damage and begin making repairs. That won’t happen until water levels drop and conditions start to dry out.
Eight Mile Creek was turned into a raging river Tuesday afternoon by all the heavy rain. The canyon road was washed out in several spots. It's expected to take road crews several weeks to assess and repair all the damage.
Undersheriff Ty Martin (left) explains the operational plans for the new regional dispatch center set to open on the 4th floor of the Judicial Center this summer. Florence Mayor Keith Ore is pictured (center) along with other Florence and county officials.
Renovation of space on the 4th floor of the Fremont County Judicial Center for a new regional 9-1-1 communications center is proceeding with the joint governing board still projecting that the new center could be operational by late June or early July. Consoles for each dispatcher’s position are being installed this week which will then signal the start for installation of radio console controls, 9-1-1 computer answering equipment, and the computer aided dispatch system (CAD).
The Fremont County Commissioners and members of the Florence City Council convened their monthly workshop meeting on the 4th floor of the Judicial Center so the elected officials could see first-hand the progress that’s being made. Dispatch supervisor Kris Meredith and Fremont County Undersheriff Ty Martin detailed the project and answered questions.
Dispatch supervisor Kris Meredith shows off the microwave and radio towers on the roof of the Fremont County Judicial Center. The equipment will handle all of the radio communications for the new regional dispatch center which should be operational in July. Pictured right of Meredith are Fremont County Manager George Sugars and Undersheriff Ty Martin.
Meredith said it’s expected that Florence Police dispatchers will be the first to train and transition into the new dispatch center this summer because the new CAD software is from the same company now being used at Florence. Once Florence dispatchers are trained, Cañon City dispatchers will begin the transition to the new facility. It’s envisioned that the transition will involve the new dispatch center and the existing Cañon City Police dispatch both operating for a brief time period until training is completed that will allow the new center to fully operate independently.
The five agencies that came together over the past three years to make the dispatch center a reality include the Fremont County Sheriff’s Department, the Fremont County E 9-1-1 Authority, the City of Florence, the City of Cañon City, and the Cañon City Fire Protection District.
A new sign greets visitors who enjoy hiking and walking dogs in the open space at Fremont County's B.F. Rockafellow Ecology Park along Temple Canyon Road.
A new sign at the entrance of the B.F. Rockafellow Ecology Park is the latest improvement made at the open space park south of Cañon City. 3rd Dimension Signs of Cañon City installed the new sign which incorporates Fremont County’s new logo.
Last year the Board of Commissioners invested some Conservation Trust Funds (lottery money) to make some long needed improvements at the park which sits on the site of the old Cañon City landfill along Temple Canyon Road which was closed more than 20 years ago. Among the improvements made were to roadside and parking lot fencing, dead trees were replaced with new trees, picnic tables were replaced, and the trickle irrigation system that feeds the newly planted trees was also repaired.
Although there have been requests from some citizens to install restrooms at the site, the Board of Commissioners has decided that since the Ecology Park has always been managed as open space with minimal maintenance, they have chosen not to pursue restroom installation. District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell has noted that the open space concept is supported by the fact that Fremont County doesn’t actually have a parks department and the current maintenance required on the county’s property at Pathfinder Regional Park and the War Memorial Park at the airport must be handled by the county’s maintenance department.
Newly planted trees and new picnic tables are among other improvements made over the past year at the Ecology Park.
The Royal Gorge Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management is inviting the public to share their vision for the future of their community and how BLM managed public lands and federal minerals fit into that vision at a series of public meetings in May and early June. Fremont County residents interested in taking part will have two opportunities to do so with meetings in Salida and Cañon City. The envisioning meetings will help guide the BLM as they develop the Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan.
Royal Gorge Field Office Manager Keith Berger said, “We want the public to help us determine how their public lands should be managed.” Berger said public input helps the BLM develop a lasting framework for land use and resource management decisions.
The BLM’s Salida Envisioning meeting is set for Tuesday evening, May 26th from 7 until 9 p.m. at the Salida High School at 26 Jones Avenue in Salida. The Cañon City meeting is set for Wednesday, June 3rd from 7 until 9 p.m. at the Washington Elementary School at 9th and Washington in Cañon City.
The revision to the BLM’s Resource Management Plan provides planning for managing development, conserving land, and protecting local communities’ character and quality of life. You can learn more about the Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan by going on line to http://on.doi.gov/1HVULcA.
Fremont County officials were afforded the opportunity again on Tuesday to engage in an annual discussion on public health and human services issues with Colorado State officials. Fremont County Human Services Director Steve Clifton has organized the annual visit by state officials for the past several years. Sue Birch, Director of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Finance (HCPF), said Fremont County’s Human Services Department is one of the highest performing counties in the state. Former State Representative Tom Massey, now the Communications and Operations Director at HCPF, said the issues facing Fremont County are the same as those in larger cities, just on a different scale.
During the gathering on Tuesday, state officials toured the departments and met with staff and local governmental representatives to share information on health care reform, mental health services and state legislation.
Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, toured Fremont County’s new Public Health Office in the Garden Park Building. In a conversation with Public Health Director Rick Miklich and the Fremont County Commissioners, Wolk addressed Fremont County’s high suicide rate. Wolk talked about how Colorado’s $65 million State Innovation Model grant will bring money, resources and expertise to integrate both the medical and behavioral health sides so patients will not only have their medical needs addressed, but also their mental health needs at doctors’ offices and clinics.
Wolk noted that he is accustomed to visiting Cañon City a couple times a year to take part in some of the Community Action Group discussions regarding cleanup and repurposing of the former Cotter Uranium Mill site south of Cañon City.
Cañon City State Senator Kevin Grantham joined the group at a noon luncheon. As a member of the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee this year Grantham said the JBC took a proactive stance on a few issues, including the Children with Autism waiver that provides intensive behavioral intervention and treatment for children with autism spectrum disorder.
The Fremont County Commissioners on Tuesday approved expansion of a gravel pit operation south of Florence along Siloam Road. While acknowledging that there are major impacts from truck traffic through the Sumo subdivision coming off of Siloam Road, the Board of Commissioners said that while Pioneer Sand is cooperating it is not the company’s responsibility to solve that problem. Pioneer Sand won approval from the commissioners to expand a gravel pit on the Phillips Ranch property by another 135 acres. The existing Conditional Use Permit for Pioneer Sand covered 40 acres.
Leslie Novoa pleaded with the commissioners to do something to slow down the truck traffic through the Sumo residential area. She said there are always kids playing and the problem with speeding trucks is getting worse. Novoa said the road was never engineered for heavy truck traffic. Dr. Angela Bellantoni of Environmental Alternatives represented Pioneer Sand at the public hearing and noted that Pioneer has agreed to help fix the road with road base material even though its’ not their responsibility. She noted that Pioneer has agreed to supply road base or $4,950 cash to the City of Florence to fix the gravel road from the cattle guard on Siloam Road to the Sumo Golf Course entrance. They will also supply $2,500 for maintenance on Bear Paw Drive and contribute $2,500 a year for maintenance in that area. Pioneer would also furnish $2,500 if a Siloam Road extension to Highway 67 is completed.
Commission Chairman Ed Norden told Novoa that the Board of Commissioners is well aware of the on-going problems the City of Florence has had with the road through the residential area. Norden said the Board has discussed the issue with Florence City Council members and urged the city to find out if the Colorado Department of Transportation would reissue an access permit to Highway 67 for a road that was proposed in the past to skirt around the south side of the homes. Norden said the county stands ready to work with Florence and Pioneer Sand to develop a haul road that could be used to bypass the residential area.
The Commissioners on Tuesday also voted to authorize a grant application to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs for a Community Development Block Grant to help recover more of the funds the county spent recovering from the September, 2013 flooding in the Cañon City and Penrose areas. Budget and Finance Officer Sunny Bryant said the grant application in the amount of $56,950 would reimburse the county for its’ final costs of local equipment and materials to recover from the flooding. It was noted that the federal government made $58.2 million available to the Colorado Division of Emergency Management to the 14 Colorado counties that were affected by the flooding two years ago.
The Board of Commissioners Tuesday also agreed to fulfill a request by Cañon City’s Golden Age Shuttle program to make a donation of $5,000 to the transit program for the rest of calendar year 2015. Golden Age Director Jim Wiles made the request in March saying that since expanding Fremont County’s only public transportation service to include Florence, Penrose, Rockvale, Williamsburg, and Coal Creek, they would not have enough funds or revenue to sustain the program through the year. District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said the Golden Age Shuttle is the only transportation option for many senior citizens and disabled in eastern Fremont County. Bell also noted that the $5,000 is a worthwhile investment of county dollars because the transit program is the only one in Colorado that operates exclusively with volunteer drivers.
In other business at Tuesday’s meeting the commissioners:
- Authorized County Manager George Sugars to sign a contract to accept a $25,000 Underfunded Courthouse Facility Commission grant from the Colorado Judicial Department. The money is to be used to have a consultant analyze the need for expanded space in the Fremont County Judicial Building for the local courts. Unfinished space on the second floor of the Judicial Building will be the primary area examined for expansion;
- Appointed Fremont County Department of Transportation Director Tony Adamic to be the county’s representative on the Regional GIS Authority governing board to replace Bill Giordano who retired.
Retiring Fremont County Planning Director Bill Giordano is pictured with the Board of Commissioners who presented a resolution to him honoring him for his more than 31 years of service to Fremont County.
The Fremont County Commissioners set aside time at their April 28th regular meeting to salute outgoing Planning Department Director Bill Giordano. Giordano retired from his post on April 30th after more than 31 years supervising the department. A resolution read into the record noted that Giordano had earned the respect and admiration from members of the Fremont County Planning Commission and the Boards of Commissioners over the years for his diligence in preparation and review of planning documents and reports.
Commission Chairman Ed Norden took particular note of those words saying the Planning Commission had paid a lot of respect to Giordano over the years for the leadership he has exhibited. Giordano responded, “It has been an honor and privilege to work with Fremont County for this long. Thank you for all the support I have received to be hired and then continue to work here.”
Giordano is being replaced by Matt Koch, who as owner of Cornerstone Surveying, handled numerous applications which were filed over the years with Giordano and the Planning Department Office.
In other business that came before the Commissioners during the brief meeting the Board:
- Approved a Special Review Use Permit for Jackie Tripp doing business as Play Dirty ATV Tours to operate her business from a site along US Highway 50 west 1.7 miles west of Texas Creek. She plans to transport customers and ATV’s on trailers to the nearby Bureau of Land Management ATV trails at Texas Creek;
- Approved a proclamation declaring May as Foster Care Month in Fremont County. Carrie Porter of the Department of Human Services said that the Department is always in need of more foster care families noting that many children have to be placed in homes outside of Fremont County due to a lack of foster homes;
- Heard a report from Budget and Finance Officer Sunny Bryant who reported that Fremont County retail sales tax collections from January and February totaled $581,817 which is $55,900 above collections from the same period a year ago.
Fremont County Budget & Finance Officer Sunny Bryant will have expanded duties as Assistant County Manager. She will assume County Manager duties when George Sugars retires next year.
A decision by Fremont County Manager George Sugars to postpone his retirement will allow the Fremont County Board of Commissioners to initiate a process whereby County Budget and Finance Officer Sunny Bryant will eventually assume Sugars’ management position. Sugars was preparing to retire in July and the Board of Commissioners had begun a search for his replacement several weeks ago.
Fremont County Commission Chairman Ed Norden said that after the commissioners completed interviews with four out of state finalists there was no clear consensus as to the direction the board wanted to go. Norden said that last week Sugars put forth a plan that was enthusiastically endorsed by all three commissioners. The plan is to begin a transitional process that would allow Sunny Bryant to assume the County Manager’s duties while continuing in her role as the Budget and Finance Officer when Sugars retires. In the interim Bryant will also assume the role as Assistant County Manager.
Norden said Sugars graciously offered to postpone his retirement for at least another year, perhaps longer, to allow time for Bryant to become acclimated to the daily management issues as well as the Human Resources Department which Sugars also manages. Sugars said that when none of the candidates rose to the top for final consideration he decided to offer his proposal. Sugars said “I am willing to place my retirement on hold for a while in order to mentor and work closely with Sunny until she feels comfortable taking over the duties and responsibilities of County Manager. I believe this transition would be in the best interest of Fremont County and this would be a great opportunity for Sunny”.
Bryant went to work as Fremont County’s Budget and Finance Officer in February, 2013, with previous government experience as Finance Officer for the City of Florence. Bryant said she is appreciative of the opportunity adding, “One career goal I have is to work into a County Manager position. I am honored and humbled that it is happening at this point in my career. I look forward to working with George Sugars and all of the county officials and employees to continue moving Fremont County into the future.”
The Commissioners have discussed the need to eventually hire a Human Resources Director to take over those duties when Sugars retires while also addressing any other personnel needs in the Finance Office.
Phase 1 of the Regional Road Project got underway in the summer of 2014 with over 7 miles of roads paved in the Coal Creek area south of Florence. Phase 2 this summer will include new pavement on North & South Frazier in Florence
The second phase of a five year road improvement project in the area south of Florence impacted by oil and gas development will get underway this summer thanks to another grant award from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA). DOLA Interim Executive Director Kevin Patterson has announced that Fremont County has been awarded an Energy and Mineral Impact Grant totaling $351,349 for Phase 2 of the Fremont County Regional Road Project. The grant award is being matched by $351,350 in local matching funds, equipment, materials, and manpower to complete the work.
Work on Phase 2 to be completed this summer through coordination by the Fremont County Department of Transportation will include milling of old asphalt and the application of a 3-inch asphalt overlay of one mile of North and South Frazier Avenue in Florence and applying a 3-inch asphalt overlay to 1.85 miles of County and Coal Creek Roads 13, 13A, and 84A southwest of Florence. The five year road improvement project came about through the cooperation of Fremont County, the City of Florence, and the towns of Coal Creek, Rockvale, and Williamsburg to deal with impacts from heavy truck traffic associated with oil drilling activity in that area.
An Energy and Mineral Impact Grant of $608,000 last year helped initiate the $1.4 million Phase 1 of the road improvement project which covered 7 ½ miles and included 2.4 miles of new asphalt.
The Phase 2 grant award by DOLA came after a March 17th grant hearing in Broomfield in which County Transportation Director Anthony Adamic, Florence City Manager Mike Patterson, and Fremont County Commission Chairman Ed Norden presented the grant application to the grant review committee.
The Fremont County Planning Commission’s monthly meeting scheduled for Tuesday, May 5th, has been cancelled because there are no agenda items for consideration. The Planning Commission will gather at their regular meeting time on May 5th for another workshop on updating the Fremont County Master Plan. The Commission does not anticipate taking any public comment during the workshop. The workshop will begin at 3 p.m. May 5th in Room LL-3 of the Fremont County Administration Building.
Planning Commission Chairman Byron Alsup has announced that the Planning Commission last week agreed to extend the deadline for receiving public comment on the Master Plan until Wednesday, May 13th, at 5:00 p.m. Comments in writing should be submitted to the Fremont County Planning and Zoning Department in room 210 of the Fremont County Administration Building in Cañon City.