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Commissioners Oppose Housing Guantanamo Prisoners in Fremont County

The Administrative Maximum Security federal prison south of Florence, also known as SuperMax, was one of the prisons visited recently by a team from the Pentagon. The Pentagon team is reviewing facilities for possibly housing military combatant detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners has made their position known regarding the possibility of Guantanamo Bay terror suspects being housed in prisons in Fremont County; they oppose the idea.   When the Commissioners met on October 12th for a quarterly luncheon with the Florence and Cañon City Councils, Florence City Manager Mike Patterson urged local officials to join the opposition to such a proposal by the Obama Administration.

With Pentagon Officials visiting the Federal Prison Complex south of Florence and the empty CSP II state penitentiary on the East Canon Correctional Complex last week the Board of Commissioners reacted quickly signing a letter of opposition at their October 13th regular board meeting.   The letter was sent to the President and Colorado’s entire congressional delegation.   In the letter penned by District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell the Commissioners acknowledge that the Bureau of Prisons staff can handle the additional 114 prisoners behind the walls of the SuperMax prison.  But the letter warns, "These individuals intensify the threat level to an unacceptable point because of the inherent dangers posed by their associates on the outside. Just imagine all of the creative ways these terrorists could wreck chaos and destruction on our homeland."

Commission Chairman Ed Norden noted that Fremont County Sheriff Jim Beicker previously expressed concerns about terrorists already housed at the Federal Prison Complex and noted that based on intelligence from the FBI, Beicker has been told that terrorist groups already have accumulated a lot of information about Fremont County.   Norden expressed appreciation for the opposition already being voiced against such a move by Colorado Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennett.

The Commissioners approved a Special Review Use Permit for Acord Trucking at their October 13th meeting.   Acord plans to set up a truck terminal on a four acre lot along Skyland Drive in the Fremont County Airport Industrial Park where a maximum of 20 trucks would be parked overnight and on weekends.   Dr. Angela Bellantoni explained the site will mainly be a dispatching center for trucks to haul propane between wholesale and retail facilities.  The site will provide the opportunity for truckers to park their rigs between loads.   She said the propane tanks will be empty when parked.

Addressing a concern at the public hearing regarding the risk of hazardous materials on site, Acord Site Manager Matt Hobby said propane is the only material the trucks would be hauling and if any residual propane would leak from the tanks it would turn to gas and vaporize.   He said there is very minimal potential for any explosion because there would be no source for a fire.

A requirement to address impacts to traffic on Highways 50 and 67 from the truck traffic was dropped from the permit conditions.     Traffic counts conducted for both incoming and departing traffic indicated that existing businesses that generate traffic onto the state highways have a far greater impact than the additional truck traffic that would be created by the truck terminal.

The Board of Commissioners approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOA) with the Cañon City Recreation and Park District that will lead to reconstruction of a flood levee where the Arkansas Riverwalk trail was washed out during high river flows last May and June.   The Recreation District was making preparations to rebuild a flood retaining wall on the levee when a review of historical documents revealed that the now defunct Fremont Flood Control Conservancy District turned over all ownership and responsibilities of its flood control levees to the County of Fremont.

The MOA calls for Fremont County to apply for emergency assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in efforts to secure 75 percent of the funding necessary for the river bank stabilization project at an estimated cost of $200,000.   The county will have to pay the 25 percent local share.   The MOA also states that the Recreation District’s contribution will be the $11,170 they have already spent on engineering the river bank repairs.    Work on the river bank stabilization will not be able to start until mid or late November.

The Board of Commissioners approved a resolution modifying the service fee schedule for solid waste disposal charges paid by the two commercial trash haulers in Fremont County; Twin Landfill and Howard Disposal.    The fee schedule change will now charge on the basis of $1.67 per ton of solid waste instead of a previous rate of 50 cents per cubic yard.   The State of Colorado has already switched to tracking solid waste disposal by tonnage instead of cubic yards.

During a third public hearing at their September 13th meeting the Commissioners approved an 8th Amendment to the Fremont County Zoning Resolution.   The amendment made three changes to the zoning resolution.   The amendment expands the size of a recreational cabin footprint to 600 square feet.   Echo Canyon Campground owner Andy Neinas requested the change to 600 square feet saying that is an industry standard in order to allow space for steps into a loft for the cabins.   The other two changes adds “rafting” to allowed uses in the county’s Business Zone District and places an Airport Overlay Zone District into its own zoning section in the resolution.

In other business the Board of Commissioners:

  • Reappointed John Marietta and newly appointed Bruce Claremont to the Fremont County Airport Advisory Committee;
  • Approved a Special Events Liquor License for the Fremont Community Foundation’s Halloween event;
  • Approved an intergovernmental agreement for the Colorado Coroners’ and Medical Examiners’ Association in event of a need to respond to mass casualty incidents in neighboring counties;
  • Scheduled two public hearings.   One at 10 a.m. on October 27th will deal with a Special Review Use Permit for the Deer Mountain Fire Protection District to allow an expansion of facilities at the Deer Mountain Fire Station.   The other public hearing was set for 10 a.m. November 10th on a request by Gary McWilliams to vacate a street and alley that was platted back in 1900 but were never developed for public use.