Jana Rapetti Named 2016 Weed Coordinator of the Year

Fremont County Noxious Weed Manager Jana Rapetti was named 2016 Weed Manager of the Year by the Colorado Weed Management Association. The award was presented by the Board of County Commissioners. From left are Commissioner Dwayne McFall, Jana Rapetti, Commissioner Debbie Bell, and Commissioner Tim Payne.

Jana Rapetti, Fremont County Noxious Weed Manager, was named 2016 Weed Manager of the Year by the Colorado Weed Management Association. The award was announced Tuesday, Jan. 10, during the Board of County Commissioners meeting.

“This award goes to an individual working in any facet of weed management who has done an outstanding job to further weed management in Colorado,” CWMA said. “The individual selected is one who has best achieved success without regard to obstacles.”

Following the award presentation, Rapetti gave her annual update to the Commissioners. She started by thanking the partners her department works with throughout the year, and said without them, her job would not be possible. She announced her department treated 425 acres of noxious weeds in 2016, slightly above the annual average of 400 acres.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the board took care of annual matters by appointing Brenda Jackson as County Attorney; designating four official depositories for the county, including Sunflower Bank of Cañon City, Surplus Asset Fund Trust, ColoTrust, and Bank of the San Juans/Glacier Bank; continued official meetings at 9:30 a.m. the second and fourth Tuesday of each month; and named the Cañon City Daily Record as primary official newspaper for legal notices and Florence Citizen as secondary.

Official posting places for notice of public meetings is two bulletin boards, one outside Commissioner offices at 615 Macon Ave., Room 105, and the second just outside the main (south) entrance for the building. Board Chair Debbie Bell noted meeting agendas as well as minutes also are posted on the county’s Web site, www.fremontco.com.

In other business, the board:

-          Re-appointed Gardner Fey to the Fremont County Planning Commission for an additional three-year term.

-          Re-appointed Gina Grisenti to the 4-H Sales Committee for an additional three-year term.

-          Re-appointed Paul Garrett and Steve Oswald to the Fremont County Weed Advisory Board for an additional three-year term.

-          Appointed Edward H. Norden to the Fremont County Weed Advisory Board to fill a vacancy for a term ending Dec. 31, 2018.

-          Appointed Matt Koch as County Surveyor for a term ending Jan. 8, 2019, and

-          Approved a resolution terminating Conditional Use Permit 98-3 for Energy Fuels Southfield Mine.

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Commissioners Take Oath of Office

Commissioner Dwayne McFall takes his oath of office from Municipal Court Judge Richard Mandel while his wife, Kendra, looks on.

Fremont County Commissioners Tim Payne and Dwayne McFall took official oaths of office Tuesday, Jan. 10, in a special ceremony officiated by Municipal Court Judge Richard Mandel. Families of both men attended the event, which was held in Commissioner Chambers at the County Administration Building.

Commissioner Payne was re-elected to his second term in District 1, the central part of Fremont County including most of Cañon City, in November 2016. At that same time, Commissioner McFall was elected to represent District 3, the western part of the county, following his first campaign for public office. He replaced retiring Commissioner Edward H. Norden, who chose not to seek re-election following three terms and 12 years in office.

Following the official ceremony, both were seated for the first Board of County Commissioners meeting of 2017. Commissioner Debbie Bell was named Chair of the Board for the year, while Commissioner Payne became Chairman Pro Tem.

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Commissioner Edward H. Norden Chairs Final Meeting

Commissioner Edward H. Norden, center, accepts accolades at his final official board meeting. Fellow Commissioners Debbie Bell, right, and Tim Payne help give him an emotional standing ovation. (Photo courtesy Cañon City Daily Record)

Business turned personal – and emotional – when Commissioner Chair Edward H. Norden conducted his last regularly-scheduled official Board meeting on Dec. 27.

Norden was recognized by Commissioner Debbie Bell with a gavel plaque and a prepared speech. “It’s difficult to find the right words for a send-off that has been, for Fremont County, 12 years in the making,” she said. “Commissioner Norden has meant so much to so many in this county.”

Having served three terms, or 12 years, Commissioner Norden attended 287 regularly-scheduled board meetings and 39 special board meetings. The single meeting he missed was to present a grant application before the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. That application was successful, and the DOLA funds enabled a collaboration to finally offer regional dispatch service throughout Fremont County. He served as chairman of the board for five years. His final gavel plaque included all five years of his service – 2007, 2010, 2011, 2015, and 2016.

“When Commissioner Norden walks out the door for the last time, he will be taking an incredible amount of institutional knowledge with him,” Bell said. “He also will leave with his own particular brand of leadership, standards, values, and so much more that we will miss.” She said future county commissioners would do well to model work habits and ethics after his for the benefit of the entire county.

Accepting the plaque, Norden said the Bible has guided his path throughout his time in office. In particular, he quoted Psalm 121: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.”

In an emotional final statement, Norden said, “Thank you again for the opportunity to serve.” He received a standing ovation from the entire room.

Norden’s final official day is Jan. 9, 2017. A public reception for his retirement is scheduled Thursday, Jan. 5, 3 to 5 p.m. in the atrium of the Administration Building, 615 Macon Ave., Cañon City.

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Commissioners OK Amendment to Dispatch Agreement

In preparation for an application by the Fremont E 9-1-1 Authority to seek an increase in 9-1-1 telephone surcharge fees, the Fremont County Board of Commissioners approved another amendment to the Intergovernmental Agreement which created the new combined dispatch center.    The Fremont County Commissioners eventually plan to seek repayment of $100,000 which the county added to matching monies from all the entities in order to secure a higher grant amount from the state to build the dispatch center.   But so far the cities of Cañon City and Florence, the Cañon City Fire District, and the E 9-1-1 Authority have not agreed on language in the agreement of how the $100,000 should be repaid.

To move beyond that obstacle so an application can proceed to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) the Board of Commissioners approved amended language proposed by the City of Cañon City.   The amendment states that the members acknowledge that Fremont County contributed the $100,000 as matching funds and that the entities are currently in negotiations to reimburse the county.   Once all the partners approve the amendment they can approach the PUC in a unified position to request an increase in the Emergency Service Surcharge.   The E 9-1-1 Authority is seeking an 80 cent increase in the surcharge to help fund day to day operations of the new dispatch center and to begin building reserve funds to pay for future capital equipment replacement.

At their December 13th regular meeting the Board of Commissioners also ratified the Chairman’s signature on a pair of change orders for the kitchen and laundry renovation at the Fremont County Jail.   One change order added a cost of $2,826 for some excavation and different food service equipment while the other change order eliminated the need for some steel fencing which actually cut $5,745 from the cost.

In other business at the December 13th meeting the commissioners:

  • Adopted a proclamation declaring December 15 as Bill of Rights Day;
  • Adopted a proclamation declaring 2017 as a Year of Celebration for the United Presbyterian Church of Cañon City in its’ 150th year of ministry;
  • Reappointed Mark Masar to the Fremont County Planning Commission for another three year term ending January 1, 2020;
  • Reappointed Dennis Wied as the Cañon City representative to the Fremont County Planning Commission for a term ending December 31, 2018;
  • Approved adoption of the Fremont County Evacuation and Re-entry Plan along with a Fremont County Debris Management Plan as developed by Emergency Management Director Steve Morrisey;
  • Approved a consulting agreement with Forest Stewardship Concepts to help develop another Community Wildfire Protection Plan;
  • Approved a subdivision exemption for the Union Pacific Railroad which actually benefits the Arkansas Headwaters State Park.   The exemption allows Colorado Parks and Wildlife to purchase 2.05 acres from the Union Pacific on the northwest corner of the Texas Creek bridge over the Arkansas River thus restoring river access on the property for boaters and anglers.
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Annette Ortega Named “Employee of the Year”

County Commissioners Tim Payne, Ed Norden, and Debbie Bell present FCDOT Office Manager Annette Ortega with her Employee of the Year citation on December 13th and a $300 check that accompanied the honor (Photo Courtesy of CC Daily Record)

The Office Manager for the Fremont County Transportation Department has been honored as the county’s Employee of the Year.   That honor went to Annette Ortega who was nominated by a co-worker and then selected by the county’s elected officials.

Ortega is a ten year employee of Fremont County having first started working in the Planning and Zoning Department.   From there Ortega moved to the County Finance Office.   She has been Office Manager at the Road and Bridge Department for nearly seven years.

In presenting the award the Board of Commissioners particularly noted that Ortega was instrumental in documenting and pursuing reimbursement of over $250,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for damages caused during the summer flooding in 2015.   Much of that flood damage occurred in Phantom Canyon which was closed for several months.

County Commission Chairman Ed Norden also noted that Ortega is on the front line handling phone calls and complaints regarding road conditions and that she does so very graciously.

Ortega said she enjoys her job and noted “When everyone works as a team and do what we’re supposed to do, that’s important, you care about what you’re doing, and at the end of the day, you can look back and see what you’ve accomplished.”

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District Attorney Argues for 20% Budget Increase

District Attorney Thom LeDoux charged at the November 22nd public hearing on Fremont County’s 2017 proposed budget that it’s the Board of Commissioners responsibility to adequately fund the prosecutions in his office next year or face the reality that he will have to make cuts to service in the four county 11th Judicial District.

LeDoux laid out details of how the caseload of prosecutions in his office has doubled over the last six years.    He said his office which serves Fremont, Custer, Chaffee, and Park Counties is at a breaking point.   LeDoux asked the Fremont Commissioners to reconsider the county’s commitment of funding for his 2017 budget.   LeDoux has asked for a 20 percent increase while the Fremont Commissioners have budgeted a 10 percent increase.   LeDoux said his budget has increased an average of about 2 percent per year since he took office eight years ago, which includes a 9 percent increase last year.

District Attorney Thom LeDoux lays out his demands for a 20 percent budget increase for his office in 2017 at the Fremont County Commissioners' meeting on November 22nd. LeDoux said without the increase his office faces severe budget cuts. (Photo Courtesy Canon City Daily Record)

The Fremont County level of funding takes into consideration the intent to replace $100,000 LeDoux says his office will lose in revenue in 2017 from providing copies to other agencies along with a 4.45 percent increase.   Of the four counties, Fremont County picks up 55 percent of the total cost of funding the District Attorney’s Office.

LeDoux said Fremont County is obligated to go along with a 20 percent increase in 2017 because the other three counties have agreed to that level of an increase.    Commission Chairman Ed Norden said it was his understanding that the Custer County Commissioners have since changed their mind and agreed to budget a 10 percent increase the same as Fremont.   Norden noted that while the four counties have informally respected a role of one county-one vote to fund the DA over the years, Colorado law is silent about how multiple counties actually arrive at an agreement.   He said giving 10 percent is still going above and beyond what any other department in the county is going to receive in 2017.

LeDoux also took the Fremont Board of Commissioners to task over the one percent increase in sales tax the voters approved three years ago for the Fremont County Sheriff.   LeDoux said “If you increase the funding for the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, then that results in increased case submissions to my office, I have to have additional resources to adequately prosecute those cases.”    But Sheriff Jim Beicker countered that argument saying that the hiring of additional road deputies which might prompt an increase in the Sheriff’s cases for prosecution is just now beginning.    Beicker said he’s spent the first several years of additional funding addressing jail staffing, patrol cars, and the $5 million renovation in the jail’s kitchen and laundry.

LeDoux said the Commissioners have an obligation to take some of the $3.9 million that the Sheriff continues to get from the county’s General Fund and adequately fund his office.   District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said the Board of Commissioners pledged to the voters and the Sheriff in the election three years ago that if the sales tax was approved, the $3.9 million in General Fund dollars would not be shifted to other uses.   The Board of Commissioners said if any of that money is shifted now it would have to come as a recommendation from the Sheriff.

LeDoux added, “I’m telling you, without the proposed budget, it will not last. It has come to a breaking point, just like the sheriff was at the breaking point in 2013. The district attorney’s office is at a severe breaking point, and we will be making cuts to services.”

Aside from consternation over the District Attorney’s budget, the 2017 budget hearing also brought a question from Cañon City Recreation and Park District Director Jim Hoar about the county’s reserves in the Conservation Trust Fund.   Fremont County’s Conservation Trust Funds, which come from State Lottery proceeds and have restricted uses, shows reserves totaling $527,000 in 2017.   Hoar wanted to know if the county has a multi-year plan for use of those dollars.

Commissioner Bell said the county does indeed have a plan for that money after having spent $80,000 to complete a designed concept plan for development of fairground facilities at Pathfinder Regional Park.    Commissioner Norden added that the county’s intention with that money under the concept plan would be to first construct a multi-use events center followed by a large livestock barn.   Norden said that money would hopefully be used to leverage other grant funds so actual construction could get underway in the coming years.    Hoar remarked that with development of more trails taking place around eastern Fremont County he would hope some of those dollars might be used to support trail efforts.

In other business at the November 22nd meeting the commissioners:

  • Adopted a new set of by-laws for the Fremont County Heritage Commission broadening the requirements for membership on the commission;
  • Approved an agreement between the county and the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience on 8-mile hill providing the new tourist attraction with multiple years of personal property tax credits based upon visitor numbers generated at the attraction;
  • Adopted a resolution designating a number of roads and trails in Fremont County as part of the Pike Trail across southern Colorado where Zebulon Pike traversed over 200 years ago;
  • Approved several change orders for the kitchen and laundry renovation at the Fremont County Jail;
  • Approved a two lot minor subdivision for Collette Divine on 2.8 acres on the northeast corner of Grand and Willow in Lincoln Park;
  • Approved a major modification for the Optional Premises medical marijuana cultivation permit for Maggie’s Farm LLC south of Rockvale.   Maggie’s Farm needed approval to allow the use of 12 metal storage containers for secure drying areas for the marijuana.
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Clerk Reports Large Election Turnout

Fremont County voters wanted their voices to be heard in the national and state election races.   That was the word from Fremont County Clerk and Recorder Katie Barr who reports a large voter turnout.   Barr told the Board of Commissioners at their November 8th regular meeting that 63 percent of mail ballots sent out to voters had been returned.    She said that prior to final voting on election day over 17,000 of the 26,000 ballots that were mailed had been returned.

During the regular meeting the commissioners scheduled a formal public hearing on Fremont County’s 2017 proposed budget for 10 a.m. November 22nd.   A copy of the budget is available for review on the county’s web site at www.fremontco.com.   The Board will hear any comments on the budget and then make any final budget adjustments prior to the scheduled adoption of the budget at either the December 13th regular meeting or a special meeting on December 20th.

The Board of Commissioners authorized change orders for the kitchen and laundry renovation project at the Fremont County Jail totaling just under $13,000.    The change orders involved work on plumbing, cameras, fire sprinklers, and inmate property storage.

In other business at the brief meeting November 8th the commissioners:

  • Appointed Denise Faoro to the Fremont County Fair Sales Committee;
  • Approved an amendment to the operating procedures for the Fremont County Airport Advisory Committee;
  • Adopted a proclamation declaring November 18th as National Adoption Day in Fremont County.
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Restaurant License Renewal Deadline Extended

Restaurants across Fremont County accustomed to receiving their restaurant license renewal paperwork in mid-November will see a delay this year.    Fremont County Environmental Health Officer Sid Darden says that due to a change to a database at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment the mailing of restaurant license renewals for 2017 will be delayed by about three weeks.

Darden says that because of the delay in mailings his office will extend the period of compliance into the new year.   Darden says his office will not hold restaurant operators to the typical December 31st deadline to have restaurant license renewals and payments returned.  Darden said Fremont County will accept 2017 restaurant license renewals through the end of January.   Restaurant operators who have any questions can contact Darden directly the Environmental Health Office at 719-276-7450.

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Commissioners Lift Moratorium on Medical Pot Licensing

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution amending licensing regulations for medical marijuana businesses in unincorporated Fremont County at their October 25th regular meeting.   The action brought an early end to the two year moratorium on licensing any new businesses.   The moratorium was originally set to expire in April, 2017.

Among the changes in the amended regulations the Board of Commissioners want to encourage any new medical marijuana (MMJ) cultivation businesses to find more rural areas of the county for their operations.    The regulations state that the most desirable sites will be those that are located on a minimum of ten acres and at least 1,000 feet away from any neighboring residence.    During a licensing hearing the Board of Commissioners will also consider nearby incompatible land uses close to MMJ cultivation sites, the vicinity in relation to other licensees, and the proposed size of the operation including marijuana plant counts.

In an effort to provide reasonable yet not burdensome enforcement standards for county code enforcement officers the amended regulations provide that investigations of complaints will be initiated if the complaint comes from a party residing or working within a quarter mile distance of the licensed facility.   Complaints from persons not residing or working within ¼ mile of the facility will be reviewed on a case by case basis.   County Planning Director Matt Koch said the changes should really help his officers with enforcement issues.

It was noted during the meeting that the Board of Commissioners took a lot of heat particularly through social media that Fremont County Cannabis (FCC) had been assured the moratorium would be ending so they could relocate their medical marijuana cultivation operation to Fremont County.   FCC owner Dana Soux apologized to the Board for the harsh criticism after District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell complained that the county was somehow being blamed during the moratorium over the fact that FCC lost their lease for their cultivation property in Chaffee County.

As the Board voted unanimously to adopt the amended MMJ business licensing regulations, Commission Chairman Ed Norden said the regulations will give commissioners a certain amount of discernment in how to deal with new applications, where the grows are located, and how they impact their neighbors.

The October 25th meeting also saw the Board of Commissioners put into place Stage 1 fire restrictions at the request of Sheriff Jim Beicker.   After extremely dry conditions over September and October and with recent wildfires in Custer and Pueblo Counties Sheriff Beicker said until we receive some significant moisture there needs to be restrictions on all open burning in unincorporated Fremont County.   A complete list of Stage 1 fire restrictions can be accessed on the county’s home web page at www.fremontco.com.

In other business at the October 25th meeting the commissioners:

  • Approved a major modification to a Conditional Use Permit for KrauthCo which operates a landscaping quarry for large stone along Red Canyon Road north of Cañon City.   The amended permit allows KrauthCo to expand its operations on a 115 acre site;
  • Adopted a proclamation declaring the month of October as Domestic Violence Prevention Month;
  • Approved change orders totaling $1,289 for the kitchen and laundry renovation at the Fremont County Jail;
  • Approved a transfer of ownership for Play Dirty ATV Tours’ Special Review Use permit from Jackie Tripp to William Scrimshaw and David Pruyne.   Play Dirty ATV operates from a site along US Highway 50 west of Texas Creek;
  • Approved the appointment of Lisa Studts to a vacancy on the Fremont County Heritage Commission.   Studts is the curator of the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.
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Commissioners OK Grant Contract for Airport Maintenance

With a brief agenda of business for their October 11th regular meeting the Fremont County Board of Commissioners approved a grant agreement with the Colorado Division of Aeronautics for work to be performed at the Fremont County Airport.    Fremont County receives annual allotments from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for airport projects.    This year the county will receive $260,272 from the FAA representing 90 percent of the cost to perform asphalt maintenance work on the apron and taxiway at the airport.    Fremont County and the State Division of Aeronautics will each pay five percent of the cost amounting to $14,460 each.

The commissioners voted to approve calendars for holiday observances by the county in 2017 adopting two calendars for those working five-day work weeks and one for County Administration Building employees who work four ten-hour days each week.   The calendars reflect that the same holidays will be observed as in the past although those working the four day work week will receive an additional floating holiday in place of observing Veterans Day.    Veterans Day in 2017 falls on a Saturday and the commissioners opted for another floating holiday instead of closing on a Thursday or a Monday.

In other business at the October 11th Board meeting the commissioners:

  • Approved a Special Events Liquor permit for the Fremont Community Foundation as part of the Cañon City Recreation District’s annual Aftermath Halloween event on October 28th;
  • Appointed Keith Berry of Cañon City to fill a vacancy on the Fremont County Heritage Commission;
  • Scheduled a public hearing for 10 a.m. October 25th on a modification to a Conditional Use Permit for KrauthCo Inc. which operates a landscaping stone quarry along Red Canyon Road north of Cañon City.   KrauthCo wants to expand the size of the quarry.
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