Commissioners Terminate Public Health Lease at Florence City Hall

The Board of Commissioners present a formal resolution to Curtis Stone honoring his 45 years of service to the county upon his retirement from the Road & Bridge Department

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners voted at their April 8th regular meeting to formally terminate the lease for the county’s Public Health Clinic in Florence City Hall.   It was only in March of 2013 that the Florence Public Health Clinic was officially opened after the county secured a grant to renovate space in Florence City Hall.   The intent was to reach out to the population in eastern Fremont County with health services to young adults and others.

County Manager George Sugars said that after reviewing finances with the new Public Health Director and the county’s finance director, the department is not able to sustain a long term, or even short term, way to provide a clinic in Florence with employees there so staff the facility.  Sugars said the revenues simply had not materialized over the past year.   Sugars said the clinic has been closed since the middle of January, and the lease expires May 31.

District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said she spoke earlier with the city manager and the mayor of Florence.   She said she explained to them the disappointment of the Commissioners and the fact that the county can no longer afford to run the clinic.   She said the numbers of the clientele being served there simply did not appear the way they originally predicted.   Bell said,  “It’s not a fun thing for us to do, but I think we need to be good stewards of the taxpayer money, and this is what we need to do at this time.”

The Commissioners approved a resolution recognizing the contributions of Curtis Stone who is retiring after 45 years of service with the Fremont County Road & Bridge Department.    District 3 Commissioner Ed Norden noted that soon after he took office in 2005 he came to realize the admiration and respect Stone had from fellow employees and neighbors he served maintaining roads in the Tallahassee area northwest of Cañon City.

In other business at the April 8th meeting the Board of Commissioners:

  • Approved Special Events Liquor permits for the Cañon City Rodeo Association’s Blossom Festival Rodeo on May 2nd & 3rd and the Penrose VFW Post’s Bazaar and Street Dance on May 17th;
  • Set two public hearings for 10 a.m. on May 13th.  The first hearing deals with a zone change request from Ag Living to Business Zone for the Crossroads Event on the southeast corner of Highways 50 and 115 at Penrose.   The other public hearing deals with an amendment to the County Zoning Resolution regarding Special Review Uses for towers, performance standards in the Airport Zone District, and off-street parking requirements;
  • Reappointed Planning Director Bill Giordano to the Fremont County GIS Authority for a two year term;
  • Appointed John Miller of Florence to fill a vacancy on the Fremont County Tourism Council created by a resignation;
  • Adopted a policy guiding memorial donations to the county; Authorized the Chairman to sign a County Deed for property boundary adjustments at Pathfinder Regional Park with the Cañon City Recreation District.
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County Secures $400,000 FEMA Reimbursement for September Flood

The Fremont County Department Transportation cataloged damage to 275 locations on county roads in last September's flash flood damage

The Fremont County Office of Emergency Management and the Fremont County Department of Transportation were successful in seeking financial reimbursement for the county’s emergency response to the flash flooding that hit Fremont County last September.    Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)  Branch Director Roger Jones of Denver notified Emergency Management Director Steve Morrisey that the county will receive $400,364 in reimbursement for the cost of emergency road repairs following the September 11th—13th flood.

The reimbursement represents 75 percent of the cost that Fremont County incurred in materials, labor, and equipment to deal with the flood damage that was assessed across 250 different locations in Fremont County.   The only amount not reimbursed was $1,400 spent on inspections of county roads where there was no apparent damage.

District 3 Commissioner Ed Norden commended the work of Morrisey in coordinating the detailed work on the reports that had to be filed with FEMA.   Norden also commended the work of County Department of Transportation Director Tony Adamic and his crews who documented all of the work that had to be performed in the field.    Norden said the money the county invested several years ago in a computer software program that tracks all equipment, labor, and material expense on every mile of county road certainly paid off for documentation of the September flood emergency.

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2013 Tourism Challenges in Fremont County

(The following article is excerpted from the 2013 annual report from the Fremont County Tourism Council to the Board of Commissioners)

The 2013 tourist season was a difficult one for obvious reasons and one the Fremont County Tourism Council (FCTC) is glad to put behind us.

Despite the Royal Gorge wildfire, lodging tax revenues were actually up a bit from last year; $137,769 for 2013 vs. $136,264 for 2012.  We believe this to be due primarily to the FCTC receiving some $50,000 of funding from various sources including the El Pomar Foundation, local banks and government agencies, to implement a Tourism Marketing Recovery Plan.

With the assistance of VistaWorks, the FCTC acted quickly and decisively to create a new video and ads that were used in a media buy that ran on various platforms during the months of June, July and August.  In addition, VistaWorks and the FCTC helped the City of Cañon City to apply for and receive a $148,000 grant from the EDA to continue this marketing recovery plan into 2014.  The City has since requested that the FCTC oversee the implementation of this plan, which started in March 2014 and will continue through July in anticipation of the re-opening of the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park in August 2014.

The FCTC put the contract for marketing services out for proposals in October 2013 and received two bids, one from its existing contractor, the Cañon City Chamber of Commerce, and one from its existing internet marketing sub-contractor, VistaWorks.  The FCTC awarded the contract to Bryan Jordan/VistaWorks and we are currently fully transitioned and pleased with the services provided so far.  The major reason for the switch was to get fresh input/energy and to develop better relationships with the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) and the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau.  .

During 2013, the Chamber serviced 13,415 individuals for Fremont County from face to face, e-mail, & telephone contacts concerning tourism, vs. 9,762 in 2012.  Walk-ins were down 22% from 2013 but emails and calls were up 129%.

Tourism package requests in 2013 were up with a total of 10,056 packages sent compared to 5,961 in 2012.  Additional monies of $5,000 allocated by the Fremont County commissioners to the FCTC account in September provided funding to fulfill approximately 2,000 of those guide requests, which would have otherwise gone unfulfilled due to budget constraints.

The FCTC is continuing its social and mobile campaign, launched in 2012, using the services of Constant Contact and our mobile app.  This has been in the form of E-blasts that are sent out to our subscribers that we have acquired through not only our Visitor Guide but also through Facebook.

The FCTC continues to look at our presence on the internet and launched a “refresh” of our FCTC web site during 2013 in order to give us a fresher look and possibly encourage more visitors to our area.   Despite a relatively small budget for these items, unique visits to the website continue to increase with almost 560,000 unique visitors in 2013 alone (550,000 in 2012).

For the first time in several years, the FCTC was awarded a $25,000 grant from the CTO to help fund tourism efforts in 2014.  The grant application was submitted in cooperation with the City of Florence, whose piece of the grant is $10,500 for their “Imagine Florence” campaign, leaving $14,500 for various FCTC budget items.

The FCTC community funding process again this year a good number of applications returned with a total of 16 applicants.  The board this year decided to award a total of $6,250, as required by our by-laws, to 12 of the applicants that met the criteria set forth in the grant application.  The applications received were very competitive and the awarding of these grants continues to be one of the more difficult and uncomfortable responsibilities of the FCTC.

Larry S. Oddo, FCTC Chair

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Planning Commission to Consider Crossroads Zone Change

The Fremont County Planning Commission will consider a Penrose area zone change request and an amendment to the county’s zoning resolution at their monthly meeting on Tuesday.

The Planning Commission will consider a request from William Peetz, the owner of the Crossroads indoor arena at Highways 50 and 115 at Penrose to rezone the property.   Peetz is seeking a zone change from an Agricultural Living zone to Business Zone District.   In the application Peetz said the zone change would allow a restaurant and events center on the 41 ½ acre site.   The zone change parallels the previous use, however the Crossroads Events Center previously operated under a Special Review Use Permit for a restaurant, rodeo grounds, veterinary premises, and a future residence within the Ag Living zone.   Angela Bellantoni of Environmental Alternatives will represent Peetz’s zone change application before the Planning Commission.The Planning Commission will also consider an amendment to the Fremont County Zoning Resolution dealing with Special Review uses for towers in the county, general requirements for off-street parking, and deletion of performance standards in the county’s Airport Zone District.

If time allows the Planning Commission may also continue discussion on the update of the Fremont County Master Plan.

The Planning Commission meets at 4:00 p.m. Tuesday (April 1st), in room LL-3 of the Fremont County Administration Building at 615 Macon in Cañon City.

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Commissioners Release 2013 Accountability Report

For the first time in recent memory the Fremont County Board of Commissioners has published an annual accountability report.   Although the idea was contemplated several times in the past, the Board of Commissioners decided in January to set some deadlines and pursue the idea.   District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell coordinated the project which assembled reports from the various county departments and offices of elected officials.

Commissioner Bell said she realized soon after taking office in 2011 that an accountability report had never been assembled to let citizens know what is being done with their tax money.   Bell took the departmental reports and assembled them into a power point presentation which citizens can view at their convenience on the county’s web site.   Bell introduced the power point report at the March 25th regular meeting of the Board of Commissioners.

The three commissioners used the power point to report on the “State of the County” at the annual Senior Citizens Mini College last week at the Fremont Campus of Pueblo Community College.   Citizens can find the link to the accountability report power point on the front page of the county’s web site at www.fremontco.com.

The March 25th meeting also saw the commissioners approve an application to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs for an Energy and Mineral Impact grant that would be the key funding source for creating the Combined Regional Communications Authority.   Cañon City District Fire Chief Dave Delvecchio wrote the grant application on behalf of the Fire District, Fremont County, the E 9-1-1 Authority, and the Cities of Florence and Cañon City.   Because the new dispatch center would serve the entire county, the Fremont County Board of Commissioners submitted the formal application.   The application details a budget of $1.47 million to renovate space for a dispatch area; purchase radio consoles, a backup power generator, computer software and hardware, and furniture; and pay the cost of installation and training.   The application seeks an Energy and Mineral Impact grant totaling $730,000.

In other routine business at the March 25th commissioners’ meeting the Board:

  • Approved an amended Fremont County Noxious Weed Management Plan.   An update is required every three years by Colorado law;
  • Approved the amended bylaws of the Fremont County Weed Advisory Board;
  • Adopted a proclamation declaring April to be Child Abuse Prevention Month in Fremont County;
  • Approved an amendment to Fremont County’s subdivision regulations dealing with a section on vacation of public rights-of-way.
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County Clears Chandler Creek Storm Channel

A state inmate work crew uses a brigade line to move cut brush from the bottom of Chandler Creek to a chipper which reduced the brush to chips and mulch

A Colorado Correctional Industries (CCI) inmate work crew and the Fremont County Weed Manager Jana Gregg made short order of an undertaking to clear undergrowth along the Chandler Creek drainage west of Florence.   As part of the county’s responsibility to help maintain stormwater drainage channels, the project to clear heavy brush along Chandler Creek was completed over 2 ½ days from March 11th –13th.

The county contracted with a CCI inmate crew which started work at the edge of the county’s property near the Arkansas River in Pathfinder Regional Park and worked south.    Cleaning of the stormwater channel extended south through private property, past the creek bridge on Colorado 115, and to the railroad right of way on the south side of the state highway.

This view of the Chandler Creek stormwater drainage shows how the clearing of brush will open up the channel for swift moving storm water

Weed Manager Jana Gregg followed the crews spraying the freshly cut tree stumps with a chemical to prevent any vegetation from growing back.

District 1 County Commissioner Tim Payne said the county spent about $5,000 on the project which was timed to be completed early this spring before the brush and trees began to leaf out.

A worker sprays chemical treatment on cut tree stumps along Chandler Creek within minutes after the trees were cut to prevent regrowth

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Trash Vouchers Available Now for Spring Cleanup

Fremont County and the City of Cañon City are once again making trash vouchers available to citizens at no charge as part of the annual spring cleanup campaign.   Fremont County is making 300 trash vouchers available to residents in the unincorporated areas of the county.   The vouchers are available on a first come-first served basis. (started March 24).    County vouchers will be available in the Fremont County Administration Office in Room #106 of the County Administration Building from 8 to 5 Monday through Thursday.

Cañon City residents may pick up a free Cañon Proud trash voucher from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday at City Hall, 128 Main Street.    Proof of residency is required when obtaining a voucher.  Only one voucher will be issued per household.

Each voucher is good for free disposal of a standard pickup load of trash (2.5 cubic yards) at Twin Enviro’s Phantom Landfill north of the Fremont County Airport along County Road 67.   Persons hauling in excess of 2.5 cubic yards will be charged extra on site.    The landfill is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

The vouchers expire at Phantom Landfill on April 30th at 4:00 p.m.  All loads must be covered, and no commercial haulers or contractors qualify for these vouchers.

As part of the spring cleanup campaign R.D. Recycling, located at 1501 High Street (719-641-0630 or 275-2052) will accept appliances Monday through Saturday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm for free disposal.  They will also pick up large loads in bulk.  Brass, aluminum, and copper will be purchased at prevailing rates.  They will purchase automobile batteries for $5 each.

Junk Masters (429-4590 or 429-2219) will pick up scrap metal, appliances, vehicles/campers, batteries, pipe, wire, machinery, etc., for free.  They will not accept TVs, wood, tires, furniture, paints or other household chemicals or trash.

Call It Gone Metal Recyclers (671-7062) will pick up all metals, appliances, vehicles, and batteries.  Cash will be paid for all vehicles.

No tires, dead animals, or hazardous wastes will be accepted at any site of those participating in the spring cleanup.

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Grant Secured to Fix Roads Impacted by Oil Drilling

Officials break ground at the intersection of CR 100 and Cap Rock Road for a Regional Road Project that will fix roads adversely affected by oil exploration south of Florence. Shown left to right are Jimmy Zeleznikar, Fremont County project supervisor; Tony Adamic, FCDOT Director; Gary Zak, Williamsburg mayor; Connie Higgs, Coal Creek mayor; Keith Ore, Florence mayor; Fremont County Commissioner Tim Payne; Florence City Councilman Larry Baker; Lonny Haugen, chief financial officer, Austin Exploration; Delbert Lennie, Rockvale mayor; Jim Sorensen, materials manager for Austin Exploration; Guy Goudy, chief operating officer for Austin Exploration; and Juan Carlos Carratu, VPGM of Colorado operations, Austin Exploration. (Photo Courtesy: Carie Canterbury / Daily Record)

A group of local government officials who cooperated to secure a Colorado Energy and Mineral Impact grant broke ground yesterday to signal the start of Phase 1 of a five year regional road improvement project.   Coal Creek Mayor Connie Higgs and Fremont County Department of Transportation Director Tony Adamic led the way on the project which secured a $550,000 Energy Impact Grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.   Higgs said the roads will be rebuilt to withstand the impact of heavy truck traffic from oil drilling activity south of Florence.

Fremont County, Coal Creek, Rockvale, Williamsburg, Florence, Brookside, and several oil companies have worked together for nearly a year to put together the five-year Regional Road Project.   Work on Phase 1 of the project begins this week.   Adamic said the first phase includes 7.4 miles of road reconstruction.   About four miles of the project will be asphalt and another 3.4 miles will be graveled road surface.    Adamic says the intent is to apply for a new grant each year to cover the five phases of the project.   The county’s matching contribution to the project is equipment and labor to do the work.

Austin Exploration, whose trucks have impacted many of the roads in the area, is also a partner with the county and area coal towns.   Guy Goudy, Chief Operating Officer of Austin Exploration, said the company feels it’s very important to give back to the community.   Austin is providing some matching funds to improve the thoroughfare that travels through all of the communities.

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Asbestos Mitigation Advances in County Administration Building

A ceiling in the Fremont County Building Department's storage room was enclosed by CHC of Pueblo West during 2013 as part of the county's ongoing effort to address asbestos issue in the County Administration Building

A contract approved at the March 11th meeting of the Board of County Commissioners represents the next step in continuing efforts by the Commissioners to remediate areas of asbestos in the Fremont County Administration Building at 615 Macon in Cañon City.   The Commissioners approved a contract with Colorado Hazard Control (CHC) of Pueblo West in the amount of $79,140.

The contract includes proper cleaning of about 653 square feet of asbestos ceiling cavities in three areas of the building, wet removal and disposal of 1,303 square feet of asbestos fire proofing on structural beams, and the sealing-off of another 459 square feet of asbestos materials in difficult to reach areas.

Fremont County Manager George Sugars said the areas targeted for removal of asbestos includes a storage area used by CSU Extension and the telephone and mechanical room both on the lower level of the building.    Space targeted for cleaning of operations and maintenance areas include maintenance access above the County Treasurer’s break room, maintenance access to the air handler for the Planning and Zoning Office on the 2nd floor, and maintenance access to the air handler above the Human Resources Office.   The two areas targeted to be sealed off are the air handler space in the lower level vault and the mechanical room located adjacent to state inspectors’ offices on the 2nd floor.

The asbestos remediation is part of an ongoing effort to address asbestos issues in the Fremont County Administration Building.    The Board of Commissioners originally contracted for an asbestos management plan in the facility following a request by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment nearly two years ago.

District 3 Commissioner Ed Norden noted that the funding for the asbestos remediation comes from money set aside by the Board of Commissioners as part of the Certificates of Participation refinancing package approved by the Board last September.

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Commissioners OK Rivers of Recovery Permit for Vets

Over the objections of Swissvale neighbors who complained that their privacy is being threatened, the Fremont County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a Special Review Use permit for the Rivers of Recovery (RoR) outdoor experience for veterans.   Dan Cook of Rivers of Recovery explained at the public hearing that the outdoor camping and fishing experience on his 13 acres of private property on the north side of the Arkansas River at Swissvale is one of seven such programs for veterans across the nation.  He explained that the program has proven beneficial for veterans suffering the after effects of fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan including PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  Cook said more than 95 percent of the participants who will use the Swissvale facility are from the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Carson.   He said the veterans attending RoR camp in four tents along the river over a four day period.    He plans to host the weekly camping and fishing retreats weekly from March through October.

Cook started his Rivers of Recovery program at Swissvale without a permit in the summer of 2013 and the activities quickly prompted complaints from several neighbors across the river.   At Tuesday’s public hearing Swissvale resident Yvonne Nelson said she has dealt with nothing but “lies” from both Cook and the Fremont County Planning and Zoning Department.     She promised that if the permit was approved she would be diligent in following up with cameras and watching them.    District 3 Commissioner Ed Norden said nobody, including him, has ever intentionally lied to her.

“I am sorry if you misunderstand the difference between a special review use permit and a building permit,” Norden said. “Therein lies your confusion; the kind of conditions and contingencies that we are talking about have nothing to do with his building permit on a single-family dwelling. End of story.”

Approval of the RoR Special Review Use permit came with certain conditions.    The Commissioners noted that one of those conditions recognizes that Cook will have to satisfy the Colorado Division of Water Resources to allow use of his existing well for commercial purposes in the campground.    Cook will also have to keep his gate closed or install a cattle guard when cattle are present on the railroad right of way.    Because some of his neighbors objected to possible use of the campground for Boy Scouts, church groups, or other non-profits, Cook agreed and the Commissioners imposed a condition that use of his campground facility would be limited to veterans.

The Commissioners on Tuesday also approved a pair of Community Wildfire Protection Plans signaling a heightened interest by residents who live in the urban wildfire interface areas of Fremont County to take a more proactive approach to prepare for the advent of possible wildfires.   County Emergency Management Director Steve Morrisey said multiple agencies were involved with the county in preparing the wildfire protection plans including homeowners associations, the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, and the Cañon City Area Fire Protection District.

One of the plans covers the southwest Cañon City area around the Dawson Ranch subdivision where nearly 800 residential structures are involved along with a few commercial businesses.   The other area is the Garden Park area north of Cañon City where some 60 structures have been built in the urban wildfire interface.

Commission Chairman Tim Payne said he is pleased to see so many people cooperate to formulate the wildfire protection plans.   He said with the plans now in place it will still be a difficult task to find the money necessary to accomplish many of the wildfire mitigation proposals.   Payne added that a lot of the effort will still rely on individual property owners taking steps to mitigate their private property against wildfire threats.

In other business the Board of Commissioners Tuesday:

  • Awarded a series of bids for Fremont County Department of Transportation road materials this spring and summer.   GMCO was the successful low bidder to provide dust suppressant chemical to the county at 59¢ a gallon.   Rocky Mountain Materials was the low bidder to provide asphalt at $49 a ton.   SunCor Energy was the low bidder to provide tack oil at $2.17 a gallon.   Tezak Heavy Equipment was the low bidder to provide aggregate for graveling roads at $8.15 a ton;
  • Approved an intergovernmental agreement to proceed with Phase 1 of road reconstruction and repairs on roads south of Florence in the Coal Creek area.   The cooperating entities have secured a $550,000 state energy grant to use on repairing roads damaged by heavy truck traffic associated with oil exploration;
  • Approved a $79,140 expenditure for asbestos mitigation efforts in the Fremont County Administration Building.
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