Representatives of Fremont Economic Development Corporation (FEDC) and the City of Cañon City urged the Fremont County Board of Commissioners at their November 10th meeting to join the City of Cañon City in adopting incentives to instill some life into a stagnant building construction industry. FEDC Board member Dave Reynolds pointed to recent action by the Cañon City Council to waive water tap fees, building permit fees, and use taxes on building materials for new residential and commercial construction completed by November, 2016.
Commission Chairman Tim Payne said providing an incentive to forgive use taxes is not an option for Fremont County. He said while Cañon City may be able to do that because they are a Home Rule city, the county cannot do so because of Colorado statutes and because of voter approved language in the sales and use tax resolution dating back to 1982.
District 3 Commissioner Ed Norden said that after meeting with the same group informally two weeks earlier the board asked Building Official Mike Cox to analyze the county’s building permit fees. Norden said while the Commissioners were aware that the county’s permit fees were lower than Cañon City’s they were not aware of the extent. He said the analysis shows that Fremont County’s building permit fees are 42% percent lower than Cañon City’s which is also lower than the standard fees used by many counties and municipalities that update bi-annually according to industry valuation tables.
Norden said the Commissioners believe they already have sufficient incentives in place for not only new construction but for all other contractors and homeowners who might be doing building additions and renovations. He said the analysis shows the county’s current building permit fees have saved builders $318,000 in building permit fees on just new construction over the past six years compared to Cañon City’s fees and because taxes are calculated on lower building values it also saved builders $40,000 in use taxes.
District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said the county prefers to continue offering an incentive to new and existing businesses through business personal property tax. Bell said a change in Colorado statutes several years ago now allows counties to offer up to 100% percent forgiveness on business personal property tax as an economic development incentive. Bell said the county’s’ incentives will be similar to what was offered to Green Diamond Tire when that company was trying to start up locally. She said the percentage of personal property tax forgiveness would be tied to the number of new permanent jobs created.
Reynolds said while he recognizes the county charges lower building permit fees it may not help entice new construction the way short term incentives would help get builders’ attention. Commissioner Bell said she believes it’s not fair to the public to waive fees for a new $200,000 home but charge all the fees to someone building a $150,000 addition.
The Commissioners approved an amendment to the Fremont County Zoning Resolution at their November 10th meeting creating a new Airport Overlay Zone District. The intent is to address land uses, densities, and avoiding hazards that might be created when building within a perimeter around the airport. Commissioner Debbie Bell said she was concerned initially that the Airport Overlay Zone could negatively impact potential development nearby and that it was poorly timed. But she noted the Overlay Zone has been in the works for literally a number of years. Commissioner Ed Norden said adopting an Airport Overlay Zone was a priority listed in the recently updated Master Plan for the Fremont County Airport. He said the Federal Aviation Administration urges airports to have such zoning in place.
There was no public comment as the Commissioners conducted a public hearing on the county’s 2015 proposed budget. Finance and Budget Officer Sunny Bryant highlighted key points in the budget document which showed once again that the county will achieve a balanced budget in 2015 by drawing down its’ reserves in many of the county’s funds including the general fund. Bryant said revenues may remain flat next year. She said she is conservatively estimating a two percent growth in sales tax revenue next year but that will be offset by a $200,000 reduction in property taxes due to lower property valuations.
County Manager George Sugars said that for the first time in five years the Commissioners have tried to address some pay raises in the 2015 county budget. Instead of percentage increases across the board the money earmarked for salary increases will follow the county’s salary plan intending to move along some employees on the pay scale that have lagged behind over the years.
Steve Holland, Director of the Upper Arkansas Area Agency on Aging detailed to the Commissioners the status of the nutrition program which provides both congregate and home delivered meals to senior citizens in Fremont County. Holland said 600 people in Fremont County have been served this year at the congregate meal sites in Cañon City and Florence while another 800 seniors have benefitted from home delivered meals. He said 15,828 meals were served in Fremont County in 2013.
Several months ago the nutrition program asked for a $3,000 supplemental budget request from the County Commissioners for 2015. Holland said that money would be used to provide meals to the three staff members who work in the program. He said the State of Colorado has disallowed reimbursement for those staff meals because they are under the age of 60.
In other business at the November 10th meeting the Board of Commissioners:
- Adopted a resolution recognizing the contributions of veterans on Veterans Day;
- Reappointed Samantha Faoro, Linda Valdez, and Greg VanRiper to the 4-H County Fair Sales Committee;
- Approved payment of a $3,249 impact fee to the Cañon City Fire Protection District for renovation of the Garden Park building for the Public Health Department;
- Approved a resolution supporting local businesses by designating Saturday, November 29th, as “Small Business Saturday”;
- Scheduled a public hearing for November 25th to consider an amendment to the Fremont County Building Code to establish a program for licensing of building contractors;
- Scheduled a special meeting at 9:00 a.m. Thursday, December 18th to adopt the 2015 Fremont County Budget and for certification of property tax mill levies.