Commissioners OK TANF Transfer to Boulder County

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.
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Medical Marijuana Licenses Renewed

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.
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Healthy Land Stewardship Open House

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.

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Traffic Detoured for Oak Creek Grade Paving

Motorists who typically travel Elm Avenue and south 4th Street to access Oak Creek Grade Road will encounter detours this week.   Crews with the Fremont County Department of Transportation will be paving County Road 143—Oak Creek Grade Road from Tuesday, June 7th through Thursday, June 9th.   During these asphalt paving operations motorists are being asked to detour to 1st Street in Cañon City.   County crews will be paving Oak Creek Grade Road from Elm Avenue south to Shadow Hills.    A portion of Forge Road under county maintenance will also be paved as part of this project.

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Long Awaited Engraving Complete on Memorial Wall

74 names of veterans were added to these two panels in late May on the War Memorial Wall at the Fremont County Airport

The names of another 74 veterans have been engraved on the wall at the War Memorial Park at the Fremont County Airport with preparations underway to dedicate those names in a ceremony over the Independence Day weekend.   The engravings were completed just before the end of May and concluded what was a wait for some veterans and their families that extended for more than two years.

Fremont County Veterans Service Officer Al Augustine said the initial wait for some veterans came because the county needed a minimum of 50 names to place an engraving order with a vendor from Denver.   Once that minimum order was reached at the close of 2014 the engraving order was placed.   From spring through the fall of 2015 the vendor repeatedly encountered scheduling problems that were complicated by wet or windy weather.

Fremont County Commission Chairman Ed Norden said when it became obvious that the engraving would not be completed by the onset of winter, the Board of County Commissioners and the vendor in Denver mutually agreed to part ways.   Arrangements were then made with Rocky Mountain Memorials in Colorado Springs to do the engraving at the earliest good weather opportunity this spring.   Norden said the commissioners apologize to all the veterans and their families for the delay, adding that county officials were equally as frustrated throughout the process.

Augustine is now making arrangements to dedicate the newly added names to the War Memorial Wall at a ceremony scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 2nd.  Details about the ceremony will be announced in the coming weeks.

Commissioner Norden said because the wall is quickly filling with names of veterans more work is planned this summer to make more bricks available.   Norden said Panel A on the War Memorial Wall was originally intended for the listing of donors.   He said brick work will be undertaken to list all donor bricks on the left side of Panel A and thus create another panel of blanks to engrave the names of more veterans.

Veterans or families interested in engraving a veteran’s name on the wall should contact Augustine at the Fremont County Veterans Service Office in the County Administration Building.   There is a $50 cost for the engraving of each brick.

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Jail Renovation Bank Financing Approved

Bank financing to complete a $5 million renovation project in the kitchen and laundry facilities at the Fremont County Jail is now in place.    The Fremont County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution at a special meeting on June 1st arranging for bank financing of the project through Branch Banking and Trust Company which has agreed to purchase the certificates.

Renovation of the jail’s kitchen and laundry areas were listed as some of the key capital improvements needed when Fremont County voters approved a one cent sales tax increase two years ago for the Sheriff’s Department.   Although Sheriff Jim Beicker has worked to accumulate cash reserves in his budget to pay for part of the project, the Board of Commissioners and the Sheriff agreed that some short term financing would be necessary to complete the renovation.   The Sheriff is also using a portion of the capital reserves from the sales tax to replace his aging fleet of patrol vehicles.

The resolution approved by the Board of Commissioners calls for the project to be paid off over a seven year period by 2023.   The payments will not exceed $800,000 a year from the Sheriff’s budget with an interest rate not to exceed three percent.    Fremont County Manager Sunny Bryant said it was important that the renovation project be paid off prior to the ten year sunset of the sales tax.

With financing now in place work can proceed to prepare documents to seek public bids later this summer  to get the project underway.   Bryant said the lease-purchase bank financing means there will be no general obligation debt incurred by the county.

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Child Fatality Team FCF Beneficiary

The Child Fatality Prevention Team under the auspices of Fremont County Public Health was the beneficiary of $1,200 awarded by the Fremont Community Foundation at the May 21st Flashback on Main. Pictured (left to right): Kathy Toothaker & Autumn Dever,FCF Board Members; Lori Steinbeck of Fremont County Public Health; Stacey Kwitek of Fremont County Department of Human Services; and Dan Brown, Pam Marietta, & John Marietta, Fremont Community Foundation Board members.

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Fremont’s 100 Day Homeless Vets Challenge

Pictured Wednesday evening at the reception at the Governor's Mansion in Denver to focus on the 100 Day Challenge to end homelessness for Colorado veterans are (left to right:) Fremont County businessman Brad Rowland, UAACOG Housing Director Autumn Dever, Fremont County Commissioner Ed Norden, Loaves and Fishes Director Dee Dee Clemont, and Jim Berg of the Fremont County Department of Human Services

Volunteers in Fremont County who took up the Governor’s challenge to focus on ending homelessness for veterans in Colorado were in Denver Wednesday to be honored for their efforts by Governor John Hickenlooper.   Fremont County was one of five counties in Colorado that was selected to participate in the 100 Day Challenge to House Veterans Experiencing Homelessness. The 100 Day Challenge was created by the Office of Governor John Hickenlooper and the Department of Human Services’ Office of Behavioral Health as part of the ongoing State and National effort to make Veteran Homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring.

Loaves and Fishes Executive Director Dee Dee Clemont, Upper Arkansas Area Council of Governments (UAACOG) Regional Housing Director Autumn Dever, Jim Berg of the Fremont County Department of Human Services, and Cañon City businessman Brad Rowland, who is interested in transitional housing, are among the volunteers who have spearheaded the 100 Day Challenge in Fremont County.    They were joined at Wednesday’s reception at the Governor’s Mansion in Denver by Fremont County Commission Chairman Ed Norden.

Governor Hickenlooper told those gathered at the reception that 171 homeless veterans in Colorado have been housed so far in 2016.  The Governor said the goal is to house over 500 homeless vets before the year is out.  The Governor said “When we get to functional zero for homeless vets then we can focus on ending homelessness for all in Colorado”.

When the volunteers of Fremont County took up the 100 day challenge early this spring it was estimated that there are 23 homeless veterans in Fremont County.    Key to the effort in Fremont County is pursuit of a 30 unit housing project along Justice Center Road in Cañon City that would target the homeless population in Fremont County.   The UAACOG is in the process of working with the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority to get the financing in place for the project.

Others interested in volunteering to work towards ending homelessness for veterans in Fremont County can contact Autumn Dever at the UAACOG Office in Cañon City.

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Fremont Sheriff Commendations

Deputies Michael Fetterhoff (left center) and Bailey Sandefur (right center) receive their Deputies of the Year Awards from Undersheriff Ty Martin (far left) and Sheriff Jim Beicker (far right) at the May 2nd Awards Ceremony

Fremont County Sheriff Jim Beicker and Undersheriff Ty Martin spent an evening noting the accomplishments of deputies, employees, and supporters at a May 2nd Awards Ceremony at the Holy Cross Abbey.   Sheriff Beicker expressed appreciation for the work that patrol deputies, detention officers, and investigators perform to assure public safety for the citizens of Fremont County.

Among highlights of the commendations at the program Deputy Bailey Sandefur was honored as the Detention Deputy of the Year and Deputy Michael Fetterhoff was honored as the Patrol Deputy of the Year.    Sheriff Beicker said those awards were voted upon by the officers’ peers in the department.

Medals of Merit were presented to Deputy William Ownbey, Lieutenant Brent Parker, and Deputy Peter Rasmussen.   Life Saving Medals were awarded to Deputies Jeremy Amendola, Mike Girten, Clint Wilson, Chris Pape; Sergeants Felix Montoya and Justin Green; and Florence Police Officer Shane Espinoza.

Among many other awards presented during the ceremony Sheriff Beicker gave Special Recognition to the Martin Family at the Gooseberry Patch in Penrose for their support to the department through the years.    Sheriff Beicker also singled out Undersheriff Ty Martin for the hundreds of hours the Undersheriff committed to serve as the county’s project manager to coordinate construction and opening of the FreCom joint dispatch center on the 4th floor of the Fremont County Judicial Building.

Investigator Robbie Dodd (right) is honored by Sheriff Beicker with a 20 year service award to the Sheriff's Department.

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Commissioners Reject Penrose MMJ Expansion

Citing a large concentration of medical marijuana businesses in Penrose and impacts upon neighbors next door the Fremont County Commissioner denied a request at their May 10th meeting to expand a medical marijuana cultivation business at the former Bikertown in Penrose.   Leif Wagner of Mile High Green Cross had sought a modification to his medical marijuana license to allow for expansion into an existing empty greenhouse in front of the former Bikertown building along Highway 115 as well as building another new greenhouse.

The resolution adopted by the Board of Commissioners in denying the expansion listed a number of findings including neighborhood impacts of marijuana odor to a pair of nearby restaurants and the fact that the Penrose area has an unusually high concentration of medical marijuana businesses.   Residents have repeatedly complained that more marijuana businesses along Highway 115 have a negative economic impact on their community.

The most controversial issue to emerge from the May 10th meeting was consideration by the commissioners to formally go on record in opposition to Amendment 69 on Colorado’s November ballot.  Amendment 69 would create a government run, single payer health care system paid for with $25 billion in new taxes.   Commission Chairman Ed Norden said he requested the agenda item intending to personally voice opposition to the proposed amendment.   Norden said he felt that signing a letter of opposition by the entire board would send an even louder message about how bad the amendment would be for Fremont County and Colorado.

Norden noted that the $25 billion collected under Amendment 69 would not be subject to Tabor limits and it would take Colorado from one of the lowest income tax rates in the nation to among the top ten states for income taxes.   Norden said the biggest unknown if the amendment were to pass is how many jobs could be lost because businesses would close their doors or avoid doing business in Colorado because of the 10 percent increase in payroll taxes.

Upon learning that the commissioners were considering a statement of opposition to Amendment 69, several supporters of the amendment appeared before the board asking them not take a public position or at least delay the matter for more study.   Pastor Bob Kippley said if the rate of cost increases for premiums, co-insurance and deductible continues on the same trajectory it has the last 20 years, many individuals and companies will find paying for health care impossible.   He said a systemic change is needed because of the suffering that the present health care system is causing the citizens of Fremont County.   Doug Smith said that beyond the issues within the amendment itself he believed the board should not take a position on behalf of the citizens of Fremont County and instead simply let the voters decide.

District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said she doesn’t want to see Colorado be a guinea pig for health care, the way it has for legalizing marijuana.   Bell said “Amendment 69 does not give us that freedom of choice, and I am completely against it.”

Commissioner Tim Payne said it concerns him that voters won’t have an opportunity to make decisions once a 21 member board is seated, and if the amendment is written into the Constitution, it takes away the ability of legislators to tweak it if there is an issue.

The commissioners voted unanimously to write a letter publicly stating opposition to Amendment 69.

In other business at the May 10th meeting the commissioners:

  • Authorized the chairman to write a letter of support for the Upper Arkansas Area Council of Government’s 30 unit housing project that would be built along Justice Center Road.   The project would be targeted to assist homeless people;
  • Approved a modification to the Cranberry Park Planned Unit Development plan along Steinmeier Avenue to permit front setback changes;
  • Approved a professional services agreement with Reilly-Johnson Architects for design work on renovating the kitchen and laundry areas of the Fremont County Jail.   The design work fee will amount to $215,700;
  • Approved a water service agreement with the City of Florence for purchase of a ¾ inch water tap at the Fremont County Airport.   The water tap will serve new office space for the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention which will be headquartering at the airport.
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