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DA’s Office Seeks Mid-Year Budget Hike of $100,000

11th Judicial District Assistant District Attorney Molly Chilson made a public plea for mid-year budget help to the Fremont County Board of Commissioners at their August 9th meeting.   Commission Chairman Ed Norden noted that Chilson and District Attorney Thom LeDoux had asked for another $100,000 over three months ago in order to hire another Assistant District Attorney.    Norden said the county commissioners in the four counties of Fremont, Park, Chaffee, and Custer did not appear inclined to consider such a request in the middle of the budget year and would rather discuss the request as part of the DA’S 2017 budget.   Norden said no formal budget hearing was necessary to consider the request but since Chilson had sought a public audience before the board, the commissioners wanted to afford her that opportunity.

Chilson explained that the $100,000 supplemental budget was important at mid-year to address a pending cold case murder investigation in Chaffee County.   Chilson said another attorney is needed to handle the investigation of the cold case of Salida resident Beverly England who disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 1980.    Chilson said the intent was to empanel a grand jury.   Chilson also cited statistics of the increased number of cases the DA’s office is faced with prosecuting across the four counties.   She said the DA’s Office has seen an 84 percent increase in prosecution of felony crimes since 2010.   She noted that the legislature has increased funding to the Colorado Public Defender’s Office by 54 percent in recent years while funding for the DA has remained flat.

Chairman Norden noted that commissioners in the four counties gave the DA’s Office a nine percent budgetary increase for the current budget year.   Norden later told a reporter “We gave them a nine percent increase, they ask for another $100,000, and now they say they will face a $100,000 revenue loss in 2017 because they won’t collect fees for providing evidentiary documents to others.”   Norden said with Fremont County picking up 55 percent of the DA’s Office total budget a $200,000 request in 2017 would cost Fremont County $110,000.    Norden said there is no way the county could shift $110,000 to the District Attorney without it impacting other county departments.

District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell told Chilson that given the age of the cold case she didn’t feel the investigation could be harmed by waiting until the four counties discussed the 2017 budget this fall.   But Chilson said if they cannot pursue prosecution of the cold case now it will not be fruitful next year.   Chilson said however that because of the integrity of the investigation she could not publicly discussed the reasons why.

Also at the August 9th board meeting the commissioners approved an ordinance amending certain parts of an ordinance approved two months ago regulating the cultivation of marijuana by individuals and medical marijuana caregivers.   County Attorney Brenda Jackson explained that one amendment removes a restriction on property owners.   She said the original ordinance allowed caregivers to grow on a patient’s property but prohibited the patient from growing themselves.   That restriction was removed.   The original ordinance also allowed the cultivation of 99 medical marijuana plants if a person was growing on parcels of more than 10 acres and is also the owner of the property.    The amendment clarifies that ownership must be at least 50 percent majority ownership.

The commissioners also adopted a proclamation for the Fremont Fall Heritage Festival with events to be observed from September 10th through October 15th.    Mary Chamberlain of the Fremont County Heritage Commission reported that the Heritage Commission is also planning to print an Agricultural Heritage Guide for the county along with an Agri-Tourism Directory in the spring of 2017.  She said that the Fremont County Heritage website ( continues to be popular with over 7,000 visits this year to date.