Tourism Marketing Efforts Detailed to Commissioners

Fremont County Tourism Council Vice President Beth Katchmar shared copies of the 2015 Royal Gorge Region Visitors Guide with the Board of Commissioners Tuesday.

E-mail and social media outreach to promote tourism in Fremont County connected with 4.8 million people in 2014.   That was among the highlights in the Fremont County Tourism Council’s (FCTC) annual report to the Fremont County Board of Commissioners.    Tourism Council Vice President Beth Katchmar presented the annual report which indicated that nearly 71 percent of guests learned of the Royal Gorge Region through some type of online or digital activity.

Katchmar reported that FCTC successfully invested a $150,000 grant for economic and tourism recovery in the aftermath of the Royal Gorge Park wildfire in 2013.   Katchmar said the marketing outreach generated by the grant funds calculated into an estimated $11.73 million economic benefit to the region.

Katchmar said copies of the 2015 Royal Gorge Vacation Guide have been received and are being distributed throughout Fremont County and the region.   100,000 copies of the tourism guide have again been printed.   She said the FCTC RoyalGorgeTravel.com website generated visits from 80,000 people.

Katchmar said lodging tax revenues for tourism promotion lagged behind again in 2014 but despite that, FCTC closed out 2014 more than $21,000 in reserves above expenses due in large part to a $25,000 Colorado Tourism Office grant.   Lodging tax collections in 2014 trailed 2013 levels until December when the final tally showed $139,646 in lodging tax collections which was nearly $3,000 ahead of 2013 levels.

The Board of Commissioners Tuesday also authorized the mailing of a letter to the Cañon City Recreation and Park District urging that board take action to adopt boundary adjustments at Pathfinder Regional Park which the county and Rec District had agreed to more than two years ago.   There was a delay waiting for an engineering report on the flood plain elevations in Pathfinder Park and how that would affect a potential future crossing to be built across Chandler Creek.   The Commissioners’ letter noted that with the engineering report in hand which discourages any crossing upstream on Chandler Creek above the previous agreed to boundary, there is no reason to delay in completing a boundary adjustment.

In other action at Tuesday’s meeting the Commissioners:

  • Reappointed Larry Baker to a three year term on the Fremont County Board of Zoning Adjustment;
  • Agreed to sponsor a grant application of $25,000 for the 11th Judicial District Combined Courts to the Colorado Judicial Department’s Underfunded Facilities Commission.    Courts Administrator Walter Blair said original designs to complete another full courtroom in vacant space now on the 2nd floor of the Fremont County Judicial Center need to be altered to possibly consider using that space for building several court mediation or conference rooms.   District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said she wanted to make it clear that she was consenting only to the grant application for 100 percent state funding and that the county is making no actual commitment of funds to any courthouse renovation at this time.
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New Roof Completed on Historic Garden Park School

As historical renovation work continues on the historic Garden Park School building along Garden Park Road north of Cañon City, crews completed installation of a new roof last week. The school building qualified for historical grant funding after being listed on the Colorado Register of Historic Properties. Grant funds have also been received through the Gold Belt Scenic and Historic Byway. The Fremont County Board of Commissioners also waived the county’s building permit fee for the new roof. (photo courtesy of Peggy Sorenson)

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Commissioners Reject Reconsideration of Marijuana Cultivation

Offering no comment on a reconsideration request, the Fremont County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously at their February 10th meeting not to hear a reconsideration of a January 5th decision to turn down a medical marijuana cultivation license in western Fremont County.   Dan Corsentino of D.C. Security Consultants of Pueblo appealed the Commissioners decision to deny a license to The Organic Seed LLC for an outdoor medical marijuana cultivation at 1785 Kit Carson Trail in the Copper Gulch area.

Corsentino’s nine page appeal addressed each of the Commissioners’ findings in the license denial.  The appeal acknowledged shortcomings on several points in the January 5th presentation by property owner Ryan Griego and offered an apology for Griego having misspoken.    Corsentino said that while the initial application was flawed, if reconsideration were granted, co-owner Nick Dremel would be responsible for the Fremont County application and grow site and that they would follow the county’s rules.

At the February 10th meeting the Commissioners declined an opportunity to pose questions to both Corsentino and Dremel who were in attendance.   After the vote Commission Chairman Ed Norden noted that the property owners still have the right to appeal the Board’s decision to the District Court.

On another medical marijuana (MMJ) related issue the Commissioners voted to set a public hearing at their March 10th regular meeting on a Special Review Use (SRU) permit request by Thressor LLC.   Chris Haight needs the Special Review Use permit to manufacture medical infused marijuana (MIP) products in the existing Business Zone District at the Apple Shed in Penrose.   The SRU approval would have to come before consideration of two medical marijuana licenses sought by Haight for both cultivation of marijuana and the MIP.  Because the public comments on the SRU are expected to parallel those regarding the medical marijuana licenses, Chairman Norden announced that the Board will conduct a single public hearing on March 10th at 10 a.m. combining the issues of the SRU and the two MMJ licenses.

The Board of Commissioners heard an annual report about activities at the Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mine (CC & V) from Jane Mannon.   Mannon said that of the 556 employees at CC & V 113 of them reside in Fremont County.    Mannon said that means $7.6 million in the gold mine’s annual payroll goes to Fremont County residents.    She said the annual salary and benefits for the mine’s employees is $79,000.   Mannon said CC & V expects to increase the number of employees to 600 by next year as production begins at the new Valley Leach facility.    Mannon said CC & V produced 210,921 ounces of gold in 2014 and 110,383 ounces of silver.   Mannon said the community contribution CC & V is most proud of is donation of the gold that was turned into gold leaf that was newly installed on the State Capitol Dome in Denver last year.

The Board of Commissioners and Fair Board President Delores Comstock (pictured right) honor Larry Wagner on February 10th for his lifelong contributions to the county & 4-H. Wagner served as a CSU Extension Agent in Fremont and Custer Counties for many years. He also worked with the Fremont County Fair for 40 years and was Assistant Manager at the Colorado State Fair for 20 years.

In other business at the February 10th Board meeting the Commissioners:

  • Approved a resolution honoring the contributions of Larry Wagner to Fremont County and particularly to 4-H programs;
  • Approved the appointment of Joseph Whelan and the re-appointment of Russell Helm for five year terms on the John C. Fremont Library District Board;
  • Approved the appointment of Sandy Johnston to the Penrose Library District Board for a five year term;
  • Approved a request of a $3,000 expenditure from the county’s Conservation Trust Fund (lottery $$) to assist the Cañon City Recreation and Park District in seeking a grant for new pickleball courts at Rouse Park;
  • Approved a $13,900 expenditure with Atkins Engineering Consultants to prepare documents on the Chandler Creek Flood Plain Map revisions and submit them for approval to the Federal Emergency Management Agency;
  • Heard a 2014 annual report on Code Enforcement activities from Code Officers Ron Zenisky and Robert Sapp.   The Code Officers reported working 174 violations last year reaching resolution on 114 cases;
  • Approved a Commercial Development Plan for Phillip and Teresa Poindexter to operate a mini-storage facility and space for other retail vendors on their property along Highway 50 in the Texas Creek area.   Their 6 ½ acres of property is across the road from an A-frame building that housed a rock shop several years ago.
  • Heard a request from Virginia Green and Dave Bunker for the county to bear the expense of survey work along a two mile stretch of High Park Road (CR 11) in order to secure a state grant for barb wire fencing.   Green and Bunker are concerned that too many motorists speed on the road to Cripple Creek and end up killing their cattle.   Chad Barr added that the matter has become a public safety issue.   The Commissioners said they would inquire about the cost of a survey to determine if the county wants to offer funding.
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Fremont Public Health Vital Statistics Honor

Vital Records staff members Virginia Stacy, Christina Bass, and Linda Leggitt are pictured with Public Health Director Rick Miklich displaying their Five Star Performance Award from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The staff at the Fremont County Public Health Department which administers the Vital Records section was honored by the Board of County Commissioners last week after being notified the office had scored a perfect audit score for 2014.    Public Health Director Rick Miklich said Fremont County Public Health’s Vital Records staff was one of only four county offices in Colorado to receive a perfect audit score last year.

Fremont County Commission Chairman Ed Norden said the honor is particularly noteworthy since the Public Health Department resumed management of the county’s Vital Records less than three years ago in March, 2012.    He noted that the move of the Public Health Department to the county’s Garden Park building on North 6th Street in Cañon City will provide the staff with a much more spacious and secure setting for administering birth and death records for Fremont County.

The Five Star Performance Award was presented to the Public Health Vital Records staff for earning a perfect score on their 2014 audit.

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Board Hears Annual Reports on Roads, Weed, & Heritage Commission

New pavement through Coal Creek was one of the few asphalt paving projects completed by the Fremont County Department of Transportation Department in 2014. It was Phase 1 of a cooperative project between Fremont County, Coal Creek, Rockvale, Williamsburg, and Florence utilizing a $608,000 State Energy Grant. Phase 2 work will take place this summer.

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners heard details of 2014 activities from two county departments and from one of the Commissioners’ special boards at their January 27th regular meeting.

Fremont County Department of Transportation Director (FCDOT) Tony Adamic presented his annual report highlighting the source of revenues for county road and bridge maintenance.    The report shows that 80 percent of the revenue for Fremont County’s $3.66 million FCDOT 2014 budget came from the Colorado Highway Users Tax Fund or the state gasoline tax.   Adamic’s report points out that only 9 percent of his budget comes from local property taxes.   To paint a better picture of the reality of local property taxes used to maintain county roads Adamic presented pie charts showing that out of all property taxes collected in the county, county government receives 21 ½ percent of the total.   Of that 21 ½ percent total, FCDOT receives only 5.4 percent of that portion.

District 3 Commissioner Ed Norden added that in an analysis last year, a rural home in Penrose with an assessed value of $138,000 paid $7.41 for county road maintenance based upon those percentage breakdowns.  The detailed power point presentation on the FCDOT 2014 report can be found on the Department of Transportation web page at www.fremontco.com.

Fremont County Weed Control Coordinator Jana Rapetti presented her annual report showing that once again partnerships with other agencies and other counties were vital to treating noxious weeds in the region.   Rapetti said her weed crew treated a total of 399 acres in 2014 that cut across a six county area.   281 acres of the treated area was in Fremont County.   She said 112 of those acres involved contracts for spraying on private property involving 28 different landowners.    Rapetti’s crews also treated 88 acres of BLM public lands in the area.   Her 2014 budgetary spending totaled $138,589.

Fremont County Heritage Commission Chairman Mike Madone also delivered an annual report citing the group’s volunteer efforts to finalize criteria and submission procedures for designating nine local historical landmarks as the Committee’s crowning achievement in 2014.   Madone said those buildings included the Fremont County Administration Building, the Greenwood Pioneer Cemetery, the Knights of Pythias Hall in Florence, the Bell Tower Cultural Center in Florence, the Deputy Warden’s house in Cañon City, the Coaldale Charcoal kilns, the old Howard Church, the Prospect Heights Jail, and the Julius Parker homestead in Coaldale.

For 2015 Madone said the Heritage Commission will host the 2nd annual Fall Heritage Festival, produce 11,000 copies of a Heritage Booklet, and will put together eight self-guided local Heritage Tours this March and April with the Fremont County Tourism Council.

In new business at the Commissioners’ January 27th meeting the Board approved a Special Review Use Permit for Royal Gorge Paintball on 8-Mile Hill west of Cañon City.   Michael Pond will open a paintball course on the same 2.16 acre site where he operates his heliport for a sightseeing helicopter.

The Commissioners also conducted a public hearing to receive any comment on the 2015 plan to disperse $110,000 in the next year’s allocation of federal Community Service Block Grant funding.   The Upper Arkansas Area Council of Governments (UAACOG) administers the program in Fremont, Custer, Chaffee, and Lake Counties with 44 percent of the funds being distributed to needy families in Fremont County.    Families can only qualify one time for emergency financial assistance which might include rent payments, utility costs, car repairs, medical, and food expenses.   The limit will be raised to $600 per household for 2015.

In other business the Board of Commissioners:

  • Conducted a public hearing on the 2015 Community Block Grant Business Load Fund.   UAACOG Director Judy Lohnes said they have a $290,000 contract for the next two years to assist small businesses in the four county area;
  • Appointed Denise Faoro as a new member of the Fremont County Fair Board;
  • Reappointed Mike Madone, Carol McNew, and Millie Wintz to the Fremont County Heritage Commission and newly appointed Linda Skinner to the Commission;
  • Approved a resolution adopting policies and procedures for Fremont County to follow its Pay Plan for employees;
  • Approved a one year extension of the Dawson Gold Project Exploration Conditional Use Permit on property located off of  Temple Canyon Road southwest of Cañon City.
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Public Input Sought on Plan for Trails in Ecology Park

This view of the B.F. Rockefellow Ecology Park on the site of the county's old landfill is looking southwest. BLM public lands adjoin the Ecology Park to the west where the pinon-juniper trees are pictured.

The Bureau of Land Management Royal Gorge Field Office, Fremont County, and the Cañon City Recreation and Park District are hosting a public meeting to seek input on a proposal to develop non-motorized trails in the Ecology Park area that connects New York Avenue in Cañon City to the Section 13 trail system off of Temple Canyon Road as well as longer distance trail opportunities. The meeting will be held at 6:00 P.M. on Wednesday, January 28th at the Recreation District offices at 575 Ash Street, in Cañon City.

The public lands in the Ecology Park area along Temple Canyon Road serve as an important recreation area for local residents who use a combination of designated trails, social trails and old roads for hiking, biking and riding horses.   Fremont County developed the park on the site of the old county landfill.   These lands provide a great ‘backyard’ recreation opportunity that informally connects with neighborhoods, other trail systems, and destinations. The recreation district, Fremont County, local user groups, and the BLM have begun planning efforts to formalize the trails in this area and enhance the trail based opportunities to better serve the community.

The proposed action includes establishing a formal non-motorized trail network in the area between New York Avenue in Cañon City and Ecology Park along with a small trailhead. It is also proposed to construct a trail that connects Ecology Park with the Section 13 trail system along with additional longer distance loop opportunities. There are a number of safety concerns in the area that the partners also seek to address.

Specific details about the project, including description of the proposed new trails and a map, are available on the Royal Gorge Field Office webpage at: http://blm.gov/84ld.

A public input period gives the public a chance to tell the BLM and the Recreation District what issues and concerns they think should be addressed and alternatives to consider. This input period will run from January 28th to February 28th, 2015. Comments concerning the proposed action, alternatives and identification of environmental issues are most helpful. For additional information or to submit a comment, please contact Kalem Lenard at 719-269-8538 or email comments to rgfo_comments@blm.gov.

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Recession Recovery Underway in Fremont County

Fremont County's Economic Tracker is available on-line at ww.NACo.org, or click on this graphic to view on full screen.

From national economic indicators, one might conclude the economy has recovered quite well. Total U.S. employment has surpassed pre-recession levels, and the economy grew at a rapid pace in the latter part of last year. Local-level economic data, though, tells a much different story.

In a report published by the National Association of Counties (NACo) Fremont County along with nearly three-quarters of all counties across the nation remain below pre-recession employment levels.   The report also said economic output has not recovered in 45 percent of all counties.   Only 65 counties (out of more than 3,000 nationally) have seen all four economic measures fully recover from pre-recession peaks.

The NACO report analyzed four key indicators in each county; job totals, unemployment rates, economic output (GDP), and median home prices.   The report shows Fremont County has recovered in two of the key indicators from pre-recession levels.   Those two included economic output and median home prices.

The report said Fremont County GDP growth rate was 0.3% projected at the end of 2014 compared to the pre-recession peak in 2010.

The report showed that median home prices improved in Fremont County by 6.1% over the past five years.   It estimated median home prices in Fremont County at the end of 2014 at $126,000 compared to $91,000 in 2009.   In reality median home prices in Fremont County followed a national trend and actually showed values falling in the three year period from 2006 to 2009.   The median home price in Fremont County in 2006 was $110,000.

Fremont County’s population reached a pre-recession peak of 47,815 in 2009.   That dropped to an estimated population of 46,451 in 2013.

The report notes that it’s the larger county economies (counties with more than 500,000 residents) that are generating a disproportionate share of new jobs. Many of these jobs, however, are found in low-wage sectors.  “The national numbers mask the reality on the ground,” said Emilia Istrate, NACo’s research director. “It explains why Americans do not feel the good economic measures.”

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Work Advances on Garden Park Renovation

Finish work is underway in the lobby of the renovated Garden Park County Building directly west of the County Administration Building in Canon City. Pictured is the secure service window which will house the Public Health Department's Vital Statistics Office.

Renovation of Fremont County’s Garden Park facility at 201 North 6th Street in Cañon City is proceeding with the Fremont Public Health Department preparing to move into their new quarters in early February.   The Board of Commissioners along with previous boards had been searching for new space for Fremont Public Health for more than seven years.   The Board of Commissioners purchased the former Garden Park High School building from the Cañon City RE-1 School District almost one year ago for $800,000.

H.W. Houston Construction of Pueblo has been working since October on the $465,000 renovation project.   Public Health currently shares cramped space in the Department of Social Services Building along Justice Center Road.    The contract bid will include renovation of the existing Public Health space which the Department of Social Services will utilize to deal with overcrowding in their building.

The northwest corner of the Garden Park facility will house new offices for the Fremont County Sheriff's Department Investigations Team.

In addition to Public Health, the County Office of Emergency Management, the Environmental Health Officer, and the County Weed Control Office will also relocate to the Garden Park facility.   At the request of Sheriff Jim Beicker in December the Commissioners approved the renovation of additional space in the southwest corner of the Garden Park building for Sheriff’s Department investigators.   That work will continue into late February while Public Health and the other agencies make their move into Garden Park.

In addition to office space, Fremont County Noxious Weed employees will have shower facilities and an eye wash station to use when they finish their daily weed spraying duties.

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National Award to Langston Concrete for Royal Gorge Work

This aerial photo shows Langston Concrete crews at work last August pouring concrete on another reconstruction project at the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. (courtesy photo)

An entry by Langston Concrete of Fremont County into the World of Concrete’s “Crews That Rock” awards contest has won first place in the 2014 awards competition for commercial concrete work.   Langston’s work on reconstruction of the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park was the top winner for the commercial “Crews That Rock” category.   The award will be presented February 5th at the World of Concrete annual conference in Las Vegas.

Faced with a tight construction window to rebuild the Royal Gorge Park following the devastating wildfire in June, 2013, Langston Concrete owner Mike Langston said work began a year ago with sub-zero temperatures and harsh winds.   Crews started on the edge of the more than 1,000-foot vertical gorge by drilling and grouting rock bolts in the canyon rim to anchor the footers for the foundation of what was to become the new visitor center.  A new sewer treatment facility was also completed below the new visitor’s center.

Langston said his crews poured more than 3,020 yards of concrete through mid-November of last year and logged 32,813 man hours of work on the uneven granite rock high atop the cliffs looking down into the Gorge.

Langston in his contest entry that even if Langston Concrete didn’t win, he feels his crew has done “an incredible job this year and just on this project alone.”

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners and County Building Official Mike Cox extend congratulations to Langston Concrete for their quality construction work at the Royal Gorge which has allowed the park to reopen to the benefit of Fremont County residents and visitors.

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Commissioners Reorganize/Honor Outgoing Coroner

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners dealt with a busy slate of business Tuesday as they conducted their annual reorganizational meeting at their first official meeting of the new year.   Following the 9 a.m. swearing-in of elected officials the Board of Commissioners took the opportunity at their meeting which followed to honor outgoing Fremont County Coroner Carlette Brocious.   The Board approved a resolution which noted that medical professionals, law enforcement officials, attorneys, and judicial officials have praised the work by Brocious and that she exhibited an exemplary measure of compassion to the families and victims she worked with.

Brocious thanked the commissioners for the opportunity to serve the community.   She said “I loved every moment of it.    It doesn’t seem like the job that somebody wants to do, but when it’s a passion, it makes a difference and you gave me that opportunity — and I will be forever grateful.”    Brocious was appointed by the Commissioners two years ago to fill the unexpired term of Dr. Dorothy Twellman and she had served as a deputy coroner for seven years prior to her appointment.

The Board of Commissioners present a resolution to outgoing Fremont County Coroner Carlette Brocious honoring her for nine years of service in the Coroner's Office. (photo courtesy Carie Canterbury-Daily Record)

The Commissioners reorganized officers voting to name District 3 Commissioner Ed Norden as Board Chairman for 2015 with District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell to serve as Vice Chairman.   Commissioners Norden and Bell presented a special gavel to District 1 Commissioner Tim Payne to thank him for his leadership as Chairman during the past year.

Two public hearings that had been scheduled for Tuesday’s meeting were cancelled.   Chris Haight, the new owner of the Apple Shed along Highway 115 in Penrose withdrew his application for an optional premises marijuana cultivation license.   It was determined that such an application was premature because Haight’s desire to operate a medical marijuana infused products manufacturing facility at the Apple Shed would first require a special review use permit from the county before any cultivation license could even be considered.    Haight’s application for a special review use permit at the Apple Shed will go before the Fremont County Planning Commission at their February 3rd meeting.

The other public hearing scheduled Tuesday on a special review use permit for Royal Gorge Paintball to operate on the same property at the sightseeing helicopter operation on 8-mile hill west of Cañon City was tabled until the January 27th Commissioners’ meeting to meet publication requirements.

The Board of Commissioners conducted a public hearing on a zone change request for Bill & Claire Kerr and Tim & Peggy Ritter for their property in Lincoln Park along the north side of Elm Avenue where the street dead ends just east of the Willow Street intersection.   The Commissioners approved the rezoning of the property from Ag Rural Zone to Ag Suburban Zone which would allow them to subdivide the property into two lots and build a home on each lot.

In other business Tuesday the Board of Commissioners:

  • Approved a liquor license modification for TZ Liquor which will open in the former AK and Zacs at 105 Forge Road south of Cañon City.   Dina Tezak said the plan now is to reopen the convenience store on site with the liquor store operating separately on one side of the building;
  • Reappointed Brenda Jackson as County Attorney for 2015;
  • Approved resolutions designating official county bank depositories, newspapers, and public notice posting locations;
  • Approved agreements with Forest Stewardship Concepts to consult on developing Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP) for the Dakota Hideout subdivision northeast of Cañon City and for the Red Rocks area in the Upper Beaver Creek area northwest of Penrose.   Last summer’s Eight Mile Wildfire in Phantom Canyon came within a half mile of the Red Rocks subdivision and prompted the neighbors to pursue development of the CWPP;
  • Scheduled a public hearing for February 10th at 10 a.m. on a Commercial Development Plan for a multi-use business development along Highway 50 in the Texas Creek area.   The Outpost is property owned by Phillip and Teresa Poindexter just east of the junction with McCoy Gulch Road.

    Commissioners Debbie Bell and Ed Norden present District 1 Commissioner Tim Payne (center) with a gavel noting his leadership as Board Chairman for 2014 (photo courtesy Carie Cantubery-Daily Record)

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