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New Sign Erected at Ecology Park

A new sign greets visitors who enjoy hiking and walking dogs in the open space at Fremont County's B.F. Rockafellow Ecology Park along Temple Canyon Road.

A new sign at the entrance of the B.F. Rockafellow Ecology Park is the latest improvement made at the open space park south of Cañon City.   3rd Dimension Signs of Cañon City installed the new sign which incorporates Fremont County’s new logo.

Last year the Board of Commissioners invested some Conservation Trust Funds (lottery money) to make some long needed improvements at the park which sits on the site of the old Cañon City landfill along Temple Canyon Road which was closed more than 20 years ago.   Among the improvements made were to roadside and parking lot fencing, dead trees were replaced with new trees, picnic tables were replaced, and the trickle irrigation system that feeds the newly planted trees was also repaired.

Although there have been requests from some citizens to install restrooms at the site, the Board of Commissioners has decided that since the Ecology Park has always been managed as open space with minimal maintenance, they have chosen not to pursue restroom installation.   District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell has noted that the open space concept is supported by the fact that Fremont County doesn’t actually have a parks department and the current maintenance required on the county’s property at Pathfinder Regional Park and the War Memorial Park at the airport must be handled by the county’s maintenance department.

Newly planted trees and new picnic tables are among other improvements made over the past year at the Ecology Park.

BLM Invites Citizens to Public Lands Visioning Meetings

The Royal Gorge Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management is inviting the public to share their vision for the future of their community and how BLM managed public lands and federal minerals fit into that vision at a series of public meetings in May and early June.   Fremont County residents interested in taking part will have two opportunities to do so with meetings in Salida and Cañon City.  The envisioning meetings will help guide the BLM as they develop the Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan.

Royal Gorge Field Office Manager Keith Berger said, “We want the public to help us determine how their public lands should be managed.”   Berger said public input helps the BLM develop a lasting framework for land use and resource management decisions.

The BLM’s Salida Envisioning meeting is set for Tuesday evening, May 26th from 7 until 9 p.m. at the Salida High School at 26 Jones Avenue in Salida.    The Cañon City meeting is set for Wednesday, June 3rd from 7 until 9 p.m. at the Washington Elementary School at 9th and Washington in Cañon City.

The revision to the BLM’s Resource Management Plan provides planning for managing development, conserving land, and protecting local communities’ character and quality of life.  You can learn more about the Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan by going on line to http://on.doi.gov/1HVULcA.

Colorado Human Service & Health Officials Visit Cañon City

Fremont County officials were afforded the opportunity again on Tuesday to engage in an annual discussion on public health and human services issues with Colorado State officials.   Fremont County Human Services Director Steve Clifton has organized the annual visit by state officials for the past several years.   Sue Birch, Director of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Finance (HCPF), said Fremont County’s Human Services Department is one of the highest performing counties in the state.  Former State Representative Tom Massey, now the Communications and Operations Director at HCPF, said the issues facing Fremont County are the same as those in larger cities, just on a different scale.

During the gathering on Tuesday, state officials toured the departments and met with staff and local governmental representatives to share information on health care reform, mental health services and state legislation.

Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, toured Fremont County’s new Public Health Office in the Garden Park Building.   In a conversation with Public Health Director Rick Miklich and the Fremont County Commissioners, Wolk addressed Fremont County's high suicide rate.   Wolk talked about how Colorado's $65 million State Innovation Model grant will bring money, resources and expertise to integrate both the medical and behavioral health sides so patients will not only have their medical needs addressed, but also their mental health needs at doctors’ offices and clinics.

Wolk noted that he is accustomed to visiting Cañon City a couple times a year to take part in some of the Community Action Group discussions regarding cleanup and repurposing of the former Cotter Uranium Mill site south of Cañon City.

Cañon City State Senator Kevin Grantham joined the group at a noon luncheon.   As a member of the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee this year Grantham said the JBC took a proactive stance on a few issues, including the Children with Autism waiver that provides intensive behavioral intervention and treatment for children with autism spectrum disorder.

Commissioners OK Permit Modification for Pioneer Sand Gravel Pit

The Fremont County Commissioners on Tuesday approved expansion of a gravel pit operation south of Florence along Siloam Road.   While acknowledging that there are major impacts from truck traffic through the Sumo subdivision coming off of Siloam Road, the Board of Commissioners said that while Pioneer Sand is cooperating it is not the company’s responsibility to solve that problem.   Pioneer Sand won approval from the commissioners to expand a gravel pit on the Phillips Ranch property by another 135 acres.   The existing Conditional Use Permit for Pioneer Sand covered 40 acres.

Leslie Novoa pleaded with the commissioners to do something to slow down the truck traffic through the Sumo residential area.   She said there are always kids playing and the problem with speeding trucks is getting worse.   Novoa said the road was never engineered for heavy truck traffic.    Dr. Angela Bellantoni of Environmental Alternatives represented Pioneer Sand at the public hearing and noted that Pioneer has agreed to help fix the road with road base material even though its’ not their responsibility.   She noted that Pioneer has agreed to supply road base or $4,950 cash to the City of Florence to fix the gravel road from the cattle guard on Siloam Road to the Sumo Golf Course entrance.   They will also supply $2,500 for maintenance on Bear Paw Drive and contribute $2,500 a year for maintenance in that area.   Pioneer would also furnish $2,500 if a Siloam Road extension to Highway 67 is completed.

Commission Chairman Ed Norden told Novoa that the Board of Commissioners is well aware of the on-going problems the City of Florence has had with the road through the residential area.   Norden said the Board has discussed the issue with Florence City Council members and urged the city to find out if the Colorado Department of Transportation would reissue an access permit to Highway 67 for a road that was proposed in the past to skirt around the south side of the homes.   Norden said the county stands ready to work with Florence and Pioneer Sand to develop a haul road that could be used to bypass the residential area.

The Commissioners on Tuesday also voted to authorize a grant application to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs for a Community Development Block Grant to help recover more of the funds the county spent recovering from the September, 2013 flooding in the Cañon City and Penrose areas.  Budget and Finance Officer Sunny Bryant said the grant application in the amount of $56,950 would reimburse the county for its’ final costs of local equipment and materials to recover from the flooding.     It was noted that the federal government made $58.2 million available to the Colorado Division of Emergency Management to the 14 Colorado counties that were affected by the flooding two years ago.

The Board of Commissioners Tuesday also agreed to fulfill a request by Cañon City’s Golden Age Shuttle program to make a donation of $5,000 to the transit program for the rest of calendar year 2015.    Golden Age Director Jim Wiles made the request in March saying that since expanding Fremont County’s only public transportation service to include Florence, Penrose, Rockvale, Williamsburg, and Coal Creek, they would not have enough funds or revenue to sustain the program through the year.   District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said the Golden Age Shuttle is the only transportation option for many senior citizens and disabled in eastern Fremont County.   Bell also noted that the $5,000 is a worthwhile investment of county dollars because the transit program is the only one in Colorado that operates exclusively with volunteer drivers.

In other business at Tuesday’s meeting the commissioners:

  • Authorized County Manager George Sugars to sign a contract to accept a $25,000 Underfunded Courthouse Facility Commission grant from the Colorado Judicial Department.   The money is to be used to have a consultant analyze the need for expanded space in the Fremont County Judicial Building for the local courts.    Unfinished space on the second floor of the Judicial Building will be the primary area examined for expansion;
  • Appointed Fremont County Department of Transportation Director Tony Adamic to be the county’s representative on the Regional GIS Authority governing board to replace Bill Giordano who retired.

Commissioners Salute Retiring Planning Director

Retiring Fremont County Planning Director Bill Giordano is pictured with the Board of Commissioners who presented a resolution to him honoring him for his more than 31 years of service to Fremont County.

The Fremont County Commissioners set aside time at their April 28th regular meeting to salute outgoing Planning Department Director Bill Giordano.    Giordano retired from his post on April 30th after more than 31 years supervising the department.     A resolution read into the record noted that Giordano had earned the respect and admiration from members of the Fremont County Planning Commission and the Boards of Commissioners over the years for his diligence in preparation and review of planning documents and reports.

Commission Chairman Ed Norden took particular note of those words saying the Planning Commission had paid a lot of respect to Giordano over the years for the leadership he has exhibited.   Giordano responded, “It has been an honor and privilege to work with Fremont County for this long.  Thank you for all the support I have received to be hired and then continue to work here.”

Giordano is being replaced by Matt Koch, who as owner of Cornerstone Surveying, handled numerous applications which were filed over the years with Giordano and the Planning Department Office.

In other business that came before the Commissioners during the brief meeting the Board:

  • Approved a Special Review Use Permit for Jackie Tripp doing business as Play Dirty ATV Tours to operate her business from a site along US Highway 50 west 1.7 miles west of Texas Creek.   She plans to transport customers and ATV’s on trailers to the nearby Bureau of Land Management ATV trails at Texas Creek;
  • Approved a proclamation declaring May as Foster Care Month in Fremont County.  Carrie Porter of the Department of Human Services said that the Department is always in need of more foster care families noting that many children have to be placed in homes outside of Fremont County due to a lack of foster homes;
  • Heard a report from Budget and Finance Officer Sunny Bryant who reported that Fremont County retail sales tax collections from January and February totaled $581,817 which is $55,900 above collections from the same period a year ago.

Commissioners Plan to Transition Finance Officer to County Manager

Fremont County Budget & Finance Officer Sunny Bryant will have expanded duties as Assistant County Manager. She will assume County Manager duties when George Sugars retires next year.

A decision by Fremont County Manager George Sugars to postpone his retirement will allow the Fremont County Board of Commissioners to initiate a process whereby County Budget and Finance Officer Sunny Bryant will eventually assume Sugars’ management position.  Sugars was preparing to retire in July and the Board of Commissioners had begun a search for his replacement several weeks ago.

Fremont County Commission Chairman Ed Norden said that after the commissioners completed interviews with four out of state finalists there was no clear consensus as to the direction the board wanted to go.   Norden said that last week Sugars put forth a plan that was enthusiastically endorsed by all three commissioners.  The plan is to begin a transitional process that would allow Sunny Bryant to assume the County Manager’s duties while continuing in her role as the Budget and Finance Officer when Sugars retires.   In the interim Bryant will also assume the role as Assistant County Manager.

Norden said Sugars graciously offered to postpone his retirement for at least another year, perhaps longer, to allow time for Bryant to become acclimated to the daily management issues as well as the Human Resources Department which Sugars also manages.    Sugars said that when none of the candidates rose to the top for final consideration he decided to offer his proposal.   Sugars said “I am willing to place my retirement on hold for a while in order to mentor and work closely with Sunny until she feels comfortable taking over the duties and responsibilities of County Manager.  I believe this transition would be in the best interest of Fremont County and this would be a great opportunity for Sunny”.

Bryant went to work as Fremont County’s Budget and Finance Officer in February, 2013, with previous government experience as Finance Officer for the City of Florence.    Bryant said she is appreciative of the opportunity adding, “One career goal I have is to work into a County Manager position.  I am honored and humbled that it is happening at this point in my career.  I look forward to working with George Sugars and all of the county officials and employees to continue moving Fremont County into the future.”

The Commissioners have discussed the need to eventually hire a Human Resources Director to take over those duties when Sugars retires while also addressing any other personnel needs in the Finance Office.

County Secures Grant for Phase 2 of Regional Road Project

Phase 1 of the Regional Road Project got underway in the summer of 2014 with over 7 miles of roads paved in the Coal Creek area south of Florence. Phase 2 this summer will include new pavement on North & South Frazier in Florence

The second phase of a five year road improvement project in the area south of Florence impacted by oil and gas development will get underway this summer thanks to another grant award from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA).   DOLA Interim Executive Director Kevin Patterson has announced that Fremont County has been awarded an Energy and Mineral Impact Grant totaling $351,349 for Phase 2 of the Fremont County Regional Road Project.   The grant award is being matched by $351,350 in local matching funds, equipment, materials, and manpower to complete the work.

Work on Phase 2 to be completed this summer through coordination by the Fremont County Department of Transportation will include milling of old asphalt and the application of a 3-inch asphalt overlay of one mile of North and South Frazier Avenue in Florence and applying a 3-inch asphalt overlay to 1.85 miles of County and Coal Creek Roads 13, 13A, and 84A southwest of Florence.    The five year road improvement project came about through the cooperation of Fremont County, the City of Florence, and the towns of Coal Creek, Rockvale, and Williamsburg to deal with impacts from heavy truck traffic associated with oil drilling activity in that area.

An Energy and Mineral Impact Grant of $608,000 last year helped initiate the $1.4 million Phase 1 of the road improvement project which covered 7 ½ miles and included 2.4 miles of new asphalt.

The Phase 2 grant award by DOLA came after a March 17th grant hearing in Broomfield in which County Transportation Director Anthony Adamic, Florence City Manager Mike Patterson, and Fremont County Commission Chairman Ed Norden presented the grant application to the grant review committee.

Planning Commission Extends Master Plan Comment Deadline

The Fremont County Planning Commission’s monthly meeting scheduled for Tuesday, May 5th, has been cancelled because there are no agenda items for consideration.   The Planning Commission will gather at their regular meeting time on May 5th for another workshop on updating the Fremont County Master Plan.   The Commission does not anticipate taking any public comment during the workshop.   The workshop will begin at 3 p.m. May 5th in Room LL-3 of the Fremont County Administration Building.

Planning Commission Chairman Byron Alsup has announced that the Planning Commission last week agreed to extend the deadline for receiving public comment on the Master Plan until Wednesday, May 13th, at 5:00 p.m.    Comments in writing should be submitted to the Fremont County Planning and Zoning Department in room 210 of the Fremont County Administration Building in Cañon City.

Medical Marijuana Licenses Approved for Four Existing Facilities

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners on Monday continued down the long path of county licensing for medical marijuana facilities in Fremont County already in operation and licensed by the State of Colorado.   The Board approved medical marijuana licenses for another four existing state licensees.

Getting approval for county Optional Premises Cultivation (OPC) licenses were Today’s Health Care at 1015 Highway 115 in Penrose, Mile High Green Cross in Unit A of the former BikerTown store at 685 Highway 115 in Penrose, and Pure Intentions Wellness Center which operates next door at BikerTown on property identified as Unit B.   Maggie’s Farm in the Country Green Shopette at the east edge of Cañon City received approval for a Medical Marijuana Center Pharmacy (MMC) license.

Bill Conkling said he had one complaint from another tenant about marijuana odors at Maggie’s Farm since moving there about a year ago.  He said that was resolved and with tenant neighbors now on both sides of his business he has had no more complaints.   Conkling said his retail MMC has a perfect record with the State and has his own legal team that comes down to do an in-house audit.

The Board of Commissioners did raise concerns with both licensees at BikerTown regarding complaints received from neighbors at the Coyote Coffee Den and the Gooseberry Patch about marijuana odors originating from the BikerTown site.    Adam Zeigler said his Mile High Green Cross cultivation operation in Unit A is totally enclosed indoors and there is no outdoor ventilation that would allow marijuana odor to escape the building.

The Commissioners questioned Unit B licensee Jarod Doi at length about potential odors coming from either his greenhouse or his enclosed cultivation in Unit B.   Doi said his enclosed operation in Unit B does circulate air from outdoors but blamed part of the odor as emanating from Ziegler’s operation on the other side of the wall.    Doi said a wall separates the two but they use a common ventilation system.

Commission Chairman Ed Norden questioned Doi’s engineered odor mitigation system for the greenhouse as being nothing more than exhaust fans which exhaust the odors directly outdoors onto adjoining properties.   The Commissioners approved Doi’s county OPC license on the condition that he get his engineering firm to produce a different odor mitigation system within 45 days that filters the air before it leaves the greenhouse and is circulated outdoors.   Doi suggested a system that adds a scent of lilac to the exhaust air but the Commissioners said they want the marijuana odor filtered out not just covered up with lilac.

Commissioners OK 24-month Medical Marijuana Licensing Moratorium

In the aftermath of approving a Special Review Use for medical marijuana manufacturing in the former Apple Shed at Penrose, the Fremont County Board of Commissioners said the message was clear from Penrose residents that ‘enough is enough’.   County Commission Chairman Ed Norden said the commissioners heard that message repeatedly from Penrose residents during the Apple Shed hearing that they believe there is too much of a concentration of medical marijuana licenses operating in Penrose.   The result of that was action by the Board of Commissioners at their April 14th regular meeting to adopt a 24-month moratorium on the construction, alteration, or use of any building or properties countywide for any medical marijuana business licenses.

District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said the “monster” kind of got out of control and the 24-month moratorium is an effort by the Board to do everything possible to bring it back under control.   Bell said it’s important that the Board have time to step back, take a deep breath, and look at the licensing regulations to see what is or isn’t working.   District 1 Commissioner Tim Payne said he felt the medical marijuana industry would fade away when recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado, but he noted that the exact opposite has happened.

Norden said public comments offered as part of the medical marijuana application review for the Apple Shed in Penrose was key on why the Board wanted to act quickly to impose a moratorium.   Norden said it will also allow enough time for the Board of Commissioners to consider more permanent restrictions on medical marijuana licensing and locations.   All three Commissioners noted during the discussion that potential revenues from medical marijuana have no influence in any of the licensing consideration.

The 24-month moratorium does not affect any existing licensees or applications already under review.   The moratorium means the county will not accept any new medical marijuana licenses application during that period.

The Board of Commissioners approved annual ambulance licensing for all agencies which operate in Fremont County.   They include Arkansas River Ambulance, Deer Mountain Fire Protection District, Penrose Fire Department, Florence Fire Department, and AMR Ambulance.   The four non-profit ambulance operations again requested a waiver of the county’s $100 ambulance licensing fee.   The Commissioners discussed the merits of the requests and in the end approved a motion to forgive half of the fee charging the non-profit operations $50 per ambulance inspection.

In other business at the April 14th Commissioners’ meeting the Board:

  • Adopted resolutions honoring Sandi Allen and Mike & Cathie Merlino upon their selection for the Pueblo Community College Fremont Campus Hall of Fame;
  • Rescheduled a public hearing for Play Dirty ATV’s Special Review Use application for April 28th at 10 a.m.;
  • Scheduled a public hearing for 10 a.m. on May 12th for Pioneer Sand & Gravel’s application for a gravel pit to be operated on the Phillips Ranch along Siloam Road south of Florence;
  • Approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the Bureau of Land Management giving the county cooperating agency status in preparation of the BLM’s Royal Gorge Resource Management Plan.

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