Flash Flood Damages County Roads

Several areas along Road Gulch (CR 28) were washed out in the heavy rains that fell Saturday afternoon

Heavy rains that hit Saturday afternoon and evening caused flash flooding in the Copper Gulch area southwest of Cañon City.    The National Weather Service had issued a flash flood warning Saturday afternoon after reports were received that over an inch of rain have fallen in a short period of time across Copper Gulch and the Royal Gorge area.

Fremont County Department of Transportation Director Anthony Adamic said barricades and cones were put in place Saturday evening along Road Gulch to warn motorists of the damage.   Adamic said Road Gulch, which is the western end of County Road 28, sustained the heaviest flood damage.   Adamic said there was also some flood damage and debris that washed across County Road 69 just west of Cañon City.    CR 69 is the first county road that turns off of US Highway 50 about a half mile west of Skyline Drive.    Flood repairs began Monday morning to those areas most seriously affected by washouts.

Road crews were anticipating having to deal with even more flood damaged roads following word late Monday afternoon that over an inch of rain had fallen in central Fremont County in the Texas Creek, Tallahassee Creek, Cottonwood Creek, and Currant Creek drainages.

Part of the asphalt section of Road Gulch also sustained heavy damage in Saturday's flash flood

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Commissioners Adopt Medical Marijuana Regulations

In Colorado's medical marijuana grow operations every plant must be tied directly to a patient holding a medical marijuana card. Sales of medical marijuana in Colorado continue to outstrip sales of recreational pot through the first six months.

The Fremont Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt regulations governing medical marijuana (MMJ) establishments in the county including MMJ storefronts, cultivation, manufacturing, and processing.    The regulations also set up licensing procedures with fees for the initial applications and fees for the annual licenses.

District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said the Commissioners did not make many significant changes from the regulations that were being considered at the June 26th public hearing.   County Attorney Brenda Jackson said among the changes was the addition of language regulating signage for MMJ storefronts, adding manufacturing to the language as to when water providers would be consulted, and clarifying that multiple state licenses at a single location would require only one license from Fremont County.

Jim Bensberg, a spokesman for the marijuana cultivation business in the former Apple Valley greenhouses in Penrose, put forth a last minute proposition in hopes of expanding cultivation facilities to include recreational pot.   Bensberg’s proposal urged the Board of Commissioners to remove the ban on recreational marijuana cultivation and allow only those facilities now growing medical marijuana to transition into recreational marijuana as well.

Commissioners Ed Norden and Tim Payne emphasized that even if that suggestion was considered it was not going to take place as part of the adoption of the regulations for medical marijuana.    MMJ owner Tim Brown said they offered the amendment because it is a life and death matter now for their business.   That prompted Commissioner Payne to reply, “But you knew that going in, when you came into this county….you were rolling the dice”.    Commissioner Bell said many of the Penrose area opponents have also risked their life savings in their property that may be diminished by nearby marijuana operations.   Bell added, “I don’t think the state is doing its’ job in regulating marijuana….and I only regret that we didn’t do this sooner”.

With adoption of the resolution and the regulations, the county’s Planning Department will soon being accepting applications for MMJ licenses.   The moratorium on any new medical marijuana businesses is set to expire August 1st because those businesses will now have to go through the license application process.

The Commissioners on Tuesday also voted to approve a Special Review Use permit for the Penrose Water District to construct a pipeline from groundwater wells along the Arkansas River to the Penrose area to serve their water customers.    Board member Charlotte Norman said the pipeline and associated pump station will finally allow the Penrose Water District to access the water rights the district secured when they purchased the water rights from the Goodwin Ranch at Howard in 2005.    Engineer Tom McClernan of GMS Consulting Engineers said the district plans to drill six well sites to serve as the diversion for water from the river.   McClernan said contrary to rumors the district will not build a diversion dam on the Arkansas River.

The water would be pumped initially to a holding tank.   A booster pump station would then pump the water through a 12-inch pipeline north to Brush Hollow Reservoir.    Depending on money available and bids received for construction, the district will also consider another 7,000 foot pipeline that could pump the water directly to the water treatment plant’s holding ponds.

Commissioner Debbie Bell commended the Penrose Water District Board for pursuing the project and for the long hours of work it took to accomplish.   Commissioner Ed Norden added that while it’s always disappointing to see more water taken out of agricultural uses on farms and ranches in the county, at least in this case the water will remain in Fremont County to benefit local citizens.

The Board of Commissioners Tuesday also voted to authorize the Chairman to sign a contract with Reilly-Johnson Architecture of Denver for architectural and engineering services to renovate the 4th floor of the Fremont County Judicial Building for the new communications center.   Since the building is county owned, the Board of Commissioners is serving as the lead agency for the project design and construction instead of relegating that task to the joint governing board.   The Reilly-Johnson contract approved by the Commissioners is for a fee of $82,960.

Without casting a formal vote, all three Commissioners Tuesday gave consensus approval to move ahead with developing an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) that could lead to creation of a regional building authority thus combining the services now delivered through the County, the City of Cañon City, and the City of Florence.   Cañon City Council members have also given informal approval to move ahead with an IGA to develop the concept.    Commissioner Debbie Bell, who has served on the regional planning committee, said the group now has a business plan developed which members believe will enable to bring the proposal to reality.    Commissioner Ed Norden said he’s on board with the plan on the condition that it does not cost the taxpayers of Fremont County any additional money than what the county now pays to supplement the County Building Department’s annual budget.

In other business Tuesday the Commissioners:

  • Approved a liquor license for TZ Liquor which will reopen in the former Ak & Zaks store on Forge Road just west of Oak Creek Grade.   Dina Tezak said for now she will only operate a liquor store with no immediate plans to reopen the convenience store and gas station;
  • Appointed County Finance and Budget Officer Sunny Bryant to serve as the Fremont County representative to the Southern Colorado Economic Development District Board;
  • Authorized an expenditure of $7,523 to Mountain Masonry to do brick work on the War Memorial Wall at the airport.  The work will be done so the 103 names of 12th Tactical Fighter Wing veterans can be grouped again in a separate and distinct area.
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Fremont Road Crews Starting 2014 Chip Seal Work

County trucks will apply a coating of oil before laying down road chips on the roadway

The Fremont County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) advises motorists that crews will begin work this week on the Department’s annual chip sealing program of roads.   This week…. from July 8th through next Monday, July 14th crews will perform a chip and seal project on Copper Gulch Road.  The work includes County Road 28 and County Road 3 from the junction with US Highway 50 extending south to mile marker 14.5.    This is the final section of Copper Gulch Road to get a chip seal application which has been completed in sections over the past four years.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, July 15th & 16th crews will do a chip and seal project on Grand Avenue in Lincoln Park extending from 9th Street east to Ash Street.    On Thursday, July 17th the chip and seal will be applied to Ash from Colorado Highway 115 south to Pinion Avenue.    Crews will then move to ‘K’ Street in Penrose on the afternoon of July 17th applying chip and seal between 3rd and 4th Streets.

FCDOT Director Anthony Adamic said the work schedule may vary depending on weather conditions.   He asks that motorists plan accordingly in those work areas to either choose alternate routes or be prepared to encounter delays or detours.

Following the chip and seal applications county road crews will return to the same roadways on July 21st and 22nd to apply a fog seal coating to the road surfaces.    Painting of the roadway striping will take place in late July once the fog seal is allowed to cure.

The Fremont County Transportation budget for 2014 includes just over $217,000 for chip and seal roadway improvements.   That’s more than double the county was able to invest in chip-seal improvements in 2013.

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CU SmileMakers Dental Van Visiting Fremont County

The SmileMakers Van will be parked at the Fremont County Public Health Agency through July 18th.

The Fremont County Department of Public Health is hosting a visit of the Colorado SmileMakers dental van over the next two weeks.    The SmileMakers van is sponsored by the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine and travels the state offering free dental screenings and treatment for children.    Screenings at the SmileMakers van is done through appointment only.

The van will be parked at the Fremont County Public Health Agency parking lot at 172 Justice Center Road now through July 18th.   The SmileMaker van appointments are for children 18 and under who do not have dentists or dental insurance and need treatments.   Medicaid and CHP+ programs are accepted.

To make an appointment, call as soon as possible to 275-1626 or 269-2180.   Appointments are limited.   Visits by the SmileMakers dental van are made possible by the El Pomar Foundation and the Fremont County Public Health Agency.

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Commissioners Table MMJ Licensing Decision

A final decision on setting up licensing and enforcement regarding medical marijuana facilities in Fremont County was postponed by the Board of Commissioners following a June 26th special meeting and public hearing.   The Commissioners said they want to consider some modifications and additions to the proposed resolution and will consider a vote on the matter at their July 8th regular meeting at 9:30 a.m.   18 people spoke at the public hearing offering pros and cons about the sale and cultivation of marijuana in the county but offering few specifics about the proposed regulations governing medical marijuana.

The Commissioners extended a moratorium on allowing any new medical marijuana businesses until August 1st when license applications would start being accepted if the Commissioners approve the regulations and licensing resolution.   District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell asked for patience from the citizens saying she believes the Board needs to do a little more work.   Among the concerns Bell said she believes the Board needs to address was an issue raised by Penrose Water District Board Chairwoman Charlotte Norman.   Norman asked that the resolution add language that water providers to medical marijuana businesses be consulted not only for marijuana cultivation operations but for manufacturing businesses as well.

The sentiment opposing any kind of marijuana operations was summed up by Richard Hollibaugh who said the entire marijuana issues amount to a nuisance.   Hollibaugh added, “By the time we get all these regulations, it is still a nuisance.”

The regulations are intended to deal with mitigating odors and bright lights as well as establish fees for licensing of the medical marijuana facilities.    District 3 Commissioner Ed Norden said he doesn’t believe the county can begin to assess the cost of enforcement.    He said the county is not suddenly going to be able to put a lot of enforcement officers on the streets.

Tim Brown, co-owner of the marijuana grow operation at Apple Valley Greenhouse, said the regulations amount to putting a noose around their neck.    Brown said they have spent $200,000 to $400,000 to address the smell issue but if they can’t increase their revenue stream by converting the plants to recreational pot, the regulations are designed to do nothing else but shut down their business.

The Commissioners unanimously agreed to table consideration of the regulations until their July 8th board meeting noting they wanted to consider some of the changes suggested during the public testimony.

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Planning Commission to Consider Permit for Mica Mine Load-Out

A request for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for a stockpile and load-out area at a mica mine in western Fremont County will be considered by the Fremont County Planning Commission at their July monthly meeting next Tuesday.

Bill Tezak of Colorado Quarries is seeking the CUP for offsite stockpiling of mica, silica, and granite taken from the existing Mica White Mine site at Wellsville.   The 33.6 acre site for the proposed CUP would be leased from the Bureau of Land Management.   4.6 acres would actually be used for the stockpile and load-out area.   The property is located on the north side of Fremont County Road #45.   The existing stockpile and load-out area has been in use for a number of years.

The only other item of business for the Planning Commission is consideration of a two lot minor subdivision in the Penrose area.   Leslie and Carol Wilson propose the Meadowlark Ridge subdivision two-lot split on 9 acres of property at 645 ‘D’ Street in Penrose.   One lot houses a shed with a proposed lot size of 4 ½ acres.   The other lot would house an existing single family dwelling that sits on 4.6 acres.    Both lots would be accessed from ‘D” Street.

The Fremont County Planning Commission meets at 4:00 p.m. Tuesday, July 1st in Room LL-3 on the lower level of the Fremont County Administration Building.

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Engineer to Establish Flood Elevations in Pathfinder Park

Explaining that no events center or county fair buildings should be erected at Pathfinder Park until actual flood elevations are determined, the Fremont County Board of Commissioners Tuesday voted to hire an engineer to complete that work.

The Commissioners voted to enter into a professional services contract with Atkins Engineering of Denver to conduct a hydrologic analysis and floodplain mapping service on the county owned property at Pathfinder Regional Park near the confluence of Chandler Creek with the Arkansas River.   The county will spend $73,690 for the floodplain study plus out of pocket expense for travel and lodging costs.

Chandler Creek which flows through the middle of the county's property at Pathfinder Regional Park will be included in the floodplain and hydrologic analysis of the county's property.

District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said the county cannot build anything further on the park property until the floodplain analysis is completed.    Bell said the county certainly would not want to build something without accurate floodplain data and then have a building flooded in the future.

District 3 Commissioner Ed Norden said he recognizes that some people are frustrated that an events center and fair buildings have not been constructed.    But Norden said if the county proceeded to build and added an extra 18 inches of fill dirt when it might not be needed, that dirt work could end up costing far more than the cost of the engineering study.   Norden added that the county also needs the floodplain elevations to determine if a low water crossing can be built in the channel of Chandler Creek.   He said the county has owned the park since 2005 but to this date remains landlocked from accessing its own property on the east side of Chandler Creek.

The Atkins contract estimates they will spend 490 hours of engineering work on the study with plans to have it completed by mid-September.

The Commissioners on Tuesday also approved a Special Events Liquor Permit for Bad Boys Bull Riding to stage a two day bull riding event at the Pathfinder Park arena on July 11th and 12th.   In addition to the bull riding competition, organizer Boyd Canterbury said they plan to have food and craft vendors, a motorcycle show, and a concert stage with live music each night after the arena events.   The concert stage will be erected on the northwest corner of the existing graveled parking area with picnic tables provided for seating during the live music.    Canterbury said they will have two serving locations for beer which will be served from 1 until 11:30 p.m. both Friday and Saturday.

Noting that this is the first time for a major event to be scheduled in and around the Pathfinder arena since it was built; Commissioner Debbie Bell said the Commissioners are anxious to see how things turn out.    Bell added that she’s confident Canterbury can pull it off telling him “after all, this isn’t your first rodeo”.

In other business Tuesday the Commissioners:

  • Appointed Larry Baker and Michael Pullen to fill vacancies on the Fremont County Board of Zoning Adjustment.   The board hears appeals citizens seek exemptions from county zoning regulations.   Baker and Pullen already serve the county as Planning Commission members;
  • Appointed Steve Kaverman to fill a vacancy on the Fremont County Tourism Council.  The appointment fills the vacancy created when Micah Cantley of the Royal Gorge Route Railroad resigned his position.    Kaverman also used to work for the Royal Gorge Route but now operates his own tourism development consulting business;
  • Approved an exemption from subdivision regulations for creation of a 0.3 acre out lot on property owned by Katherine and Gary Curnutte at Elm and Locust in Lincoln Park.   The out lot has an oil well and storage tanks and creating the out lot will make it easier to sell an adjoining lot with a residence;
  • Approved a transfer of a Special Review Use Permit to Darby Hage for horse boarding, training, and competition events at the Los Pinos property south of Florence.   Hage has not determined the future use of the horse property but wants to keep the permit in place for now.
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Medical Marijuana Ordinance Hearing Thursday

The long awaited consideration of an ordinance setting up licensing procedures for medical marijuana facilities in Fremont County comes before the Board of Commissioners for a public hearing this Thursday afternoon.   The Commissioners decided last month that a special meeting would be in order at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 26th in order to allow more public participation in case some people could not get off of work for a morning hearing.

If the Commissioners take action Thursday to adopt an ordinance requiring licensing of medical marijuana facilities, the ordinance would not go into effect until August 1st.     That would allow the county’s Planning and Zoning Department time to prepare forms and paperwork in order to start accepting applications from medical marijuana businesses on August 1st.

Thursday’s hearing deals only with licensing of medical marijuana facilities.   A moratorium on all new medical marijuana businesses was also extended by the Board of Commissioners to August 1st.

Earlier this year the Commissioners adopted a permanent ban on all recreational marijuana licensing.   That ban will not be affected by any action the Commissioners take on regulations governing medical marijuana.

Thursday’s hearing will convene in the Commissioners’ meeting room, LL-3, on the lower level of the County Administration Building.

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Commissioners Hire Architect for Garden Park Remodel

The former Garden Park High School will soon be remodeled into the Fremont County Administration Annex Building. It will house Fremont County Public Health, Environmental Health, Emergency Management, and Weed Control Departments.

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners has hired a Denver architectural firm to begin the design and engineering work on the former Garden Park High School in Cañon City which the county purchased last February.   The Commissioners voted at their June 10th regular meeting to contract with Reilly Johnson Architecture for the remodeling of the building which is located on north 6th Street in Cañon City directly west of the Fremont County Administration Building.   The newly acquired facility will be known as the County Administration Annex.

The county purchased the building from the Cañon City RE-1 School District for $800,000 following a lengthy nine month search for a new location of the Fremont County Public Health Department.   Public Health is now located in cramped space in the Department of Human Services building along Justice Center Road.   The Public Health move will also enable Human Services to expand into much needed office space in that facility.

In addition to the Public Health Department moving into the Annex, several other county offices that now function in cramped space in the Administration Building will move into the remodeled Annex.   They include Environmental Health Officer Sid Darden, County Weed Department Director Jana Gregg, and County Emergency Management Director Steve Morrisey.   The Commissioners have also discussed setting up a county Emergency Operations Center in the Annex.   An existing large meeting room in the southeast corner of the building will be maintained for community meeting space and as a training room.

The architectural contract with Reilly Johnson totals $59,600 plus $3,100 in reimbursable expenses.   The contract includes design drawings to remodel the existing Public Health space at the Department of Human Services building.   Fremont County has used Reilly Johnson’s services previously.    Architect Bob Johnson designed the 96 bed addition to the Fremont County Jail that was built 11 years ago.

The $800,000 for the purchase of the Annex along with the costs of design and remodeling come from last year’s refinancing of the county’s Certificates of Participation which provided $2 million in new funding.   Payments on those certificates come from a portion of the county sales tax which voters earmarked for capital construction back in 1981.    District 3 Commissioner Ed Norden notes that 25% of all sales tax collections must be used exclusively for capital improvements and cannot be used in the county’s general fund for day to day operational expenses.

In other business at the June 10th meeting the Commissioners:

  • Scheduled a public hearing for 10 a.m. on July 8th for a Special Review Use permit for the Penrose Water District.  The District is proposing to build a raw water pump station and pipeline from the Arkansas River to Brush Hollow Reservoir.  The permit would allow a diversion from the Arkansas River using shallow ground water wells generally located within fifty feet of the Arkansas River.   The water would then be pumped to Brush Hollow Reservoir for storage, or to the District’s water treatment plant for treatment of potable water;
  • Adopted a proclamation put forth by the Fremont County Heritage Commission for the Fremont Fall Heritage Festival.  The festival is being planned for October 9th through the 13th to include a variety of heritage and historical events.  It will include a celebration of historical art, music, cars, tours, films, fossils, buildings, exploration, and more.
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Commissioners Vote to Rescind Letter of Dispatch Withdrawal

Consultants with Technology Plus have recommended the 4th floor of the Fremont County Judicial Center as the preferred site for a new countywide combined dispatch center. The governing board is to make a final decision on June 19th.

The Fremont County Commissioners have pulled a letter off the table that had the county withdrawing from the intergovernmental agreement which serves as the cornerstone for developing a countywide 9-1-1 dispatch and communications center.    The Commissioners had sent the letter in February to the other parties to the agreement; the Cities of Cañon City and Florence, the Fremont County E 9-1-1 Authority, and the Cañon City Fire Protection District.  The Commissioners voted unanimously at their regular June 10th meeting to rescind the letter.

The Commissioners sent the letter of withdrawal at the request of Sheriff Jim Beicker who was frustrated over the lack of progress and the inability of the governing board to make any decisions to move the Combined Regional Communications Authority (CRCA) forward.   In making the motion to rescind the letter of withdrawal, District 3 Commissioner Ed Norden said Sheriff Beicker has since indicated that steady, positive progress is being made by the governing board.   Norden said it is important now that the county withdraw the letter because of the $1 million grant Energy and Mineral Impact Grant application.   He said the grant application for the dispatch center will go before the Colorado Department of Local Affairs in the coming weeks, and it’s important to demonstrate that all of the entities are on board working towards a common goal.

Meanwhile the CRCA Board decided later the same day at their meeting in Florence to postpone a final decision on a preferred location for dispatch center until their monthly meeting on June 19th.   The CRCA Board called a special meeting on June 10th to hear a report from Technology Plus, a consultant hired to review the current technical aspects of the dispatch centers and the technical requirements for the new combined communications center.

Jason Crandel, technologist with Technologies Plus, said his firm was not asked to review different locations until the team actually arrived in Fremont County.   He said they were asked to review the 4th floor of the county’s Judicial Center, the Florence City Hall, and the existing dispatch area at the Cañon City Police Department.   Crandel said after considering the three locations, the best option is the fourth floor of the Judicial Center, because it is a “shell space.”

Crandel said the team eliminated the Florence facility from consideration because the lower floor of City Hall is about a foot above the floodplain.   He said in event of a flood the infrastructure of the building would be impacted.   Crandel said the 4th floor Judicial Center dispatch area could be built without impacting either of the two existing dispatch centers.

Cañon City Administrator Doug Dotson argued that Cañon City could renovate the current police department dispatch center at a fraction of the cost of a new location.   Dotson told Crandel that the city doesn’t see it as significant construction and would only involve adding a wall to close in existing open space.   But Crandel cautioned against picking up and moving Cañon City’s existing dispatch equipment.   Crandel said the Cañon City Police Department has the highest risk of negatively impacting public safety of any of the three sites.   Crandel said the problem is that new dispatch equipment would have to go into the same area currently being used for dispatch.   Crandel asked, “How do you attach a cost to emergency calls that are disrupted to the public?”

Florence City Manager Mike Patterson said he’s glad to see the county back in after rescinding the letter, but Patterson said he didn’t think another week’s delay in making a final decision on a location would cause any harm.   Crandel said more detailed documentation on Technology Plus’ findings will be prepared in time for the June 19th CRCA Board meeting.

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