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Commissioners OK Dinosaur Center Attraction

A tourist attraction that would be similar to the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Center in Woodland Park has been given the green light by the Fremont County Board of Commissioners to be developed on eight mile hill west of Cañon City.   Dave and Zach Reynolds detailed their plans for the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Center to the commissioners at the August 11th board meeting.   The dinosaur attraction would feature animated dinosaurs, climbing attractions for kids, educational exhibits, a natural walking trail, ropes course, and retail sales. The 36 ½ acre site proposed for the new attraction is located along the north side of US Highway 50 just east of the turnoff to the Royal Gorge.

At the public hearing Zach Reynolds said the business plan is still being developed but that it’s intended to create new tourism jobs and give visitors another reason to stay longer in the Royal Gorge region.  The commissioners asked Reynolds about his plans for water for domestic consumption and for a fire system. He said he plans to use hauled water as other established businesses in that area do, and a 53,000-gallon water cistern will be on site, along with two hydrants, for fire protection.  Reynolds said they are targeting an opening date in spring 2016, depending on the delivery of building materials.

There was no citizen input offered at the public hearing.   The Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the Commercial Development Plan for the attraction.

The commissioners also heard no public comment during a hearing on a zone change request for Jaime Kelly and Craig Scheer.   The commissioners approved a zone change from Business Zoning to Agricultural Estates for a parcel of property in the Colorado Acres area of Copper Gulch where they hope to build a new residence along County Road 27A.

In other business at the August 11th board meeting the commissioners:

  • Voted to accept the Fremont County Master Plan which was updated over the last several years and formally adopted recently by the County Planning Commission;
  • Approved a land lease for Hanger #8 at the Fremont County Airport to Mat Clark doing business as Superior Systems L.L.C.;
  • Took note of a Proclamation from Governor John Hickenlooper declaring August as “Child Support Services Month” in Colorado.

Senator Cory Gardner Views Royal Gorge Recovery

Colorado US Senator Cory Gardner included a visit to the Royal Gorge Bridge Tuesday morning as part of his tour across southern Colorado. Gardner heard details about the strong recovery underway at the Royal Gorge following the wildfire that roared through the park two years ago. Gardner was told that the Royal Gorge Bridge experienced one of their best July’s on record for attendance. Pictured from left to right: Florence City Manager Mike Patterson, Fremont County Commission Chairman Ed Norden, Senator Gardner, Florence Mayor Keith Ore, Royal Gorge Bridge Manager Mike Bandera, and District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell

Senator Gardner spent much of his visit to the Royal Gorge acting as a tourist snapping photos of the spectacular canyon and bridge views in Fremont County

Heavy Rain in Park County Floods Badger Creek in Fremont

This was the windshield view for a Fremont County Sheriff's deputy when he encountered flash flooding across County Road 2 (Tallahassee Road) northwest of Canon City Tuesday afternoon. The water quickly receded and road crews had the road reopened at 10 a.m. Wednesday

Heavy rains in Park County Tuesday afternoon created flash flooding across southern Park County and into Fremont County with flood waters pouring over the tops of a pair of small conservation dams on two ranches in Park County.  The flash flooding washed out a section of Fremont County Road 2 known as Tallahassee Road at the juncture with Badger Creek.

An assessment report on the status of the dams following the flash flood emphasized that neither of the dams failed.   In a report to Fremont County Emergency Management Director Steve Morrisey, Dam Safety Engineer John Hunyadi of the Colorado Division of Water Resources said neither dam was breached in the flash flood.   He said there was a misunderstanding about the status of the flooding when it was first reported in Park County.  Hunyaki’s report said one of the ranchers reported a heavy rainstorm at 2 o’clock Tuesday afternoon and that by 3:30 the flood waters were running about four feet over the top of his dam.

Hunyaki said in the case of the Upper Dam in Park County the property owner was working to clear out a culvert pipe to allow backed up water to drain.   In the case of the lower dam an overflow pipe was cleaned out to also improve drainage.   Hunyaki said there was some minor damage to the lower dam but that it does not pose any safety concerns.   The engineer’s report said that at capacity the two conservation dams would retain about 9 ½ acre feet of water.

Fremont County Department of Transportation crews responded quickly to the washout the next morning and had CR2 reopened by 10 a.m. Wednesday.   Fremont County Commission Chairman Ed Norden praised the quick response Tuesday afternoon by Morrisey’s Emergency Management Office, Sheriff’s deputies, and County Transportation Director Tony Adamic.  Norden noted that as the flash flood waters poured down Badger Creek and into the Arkansas River, by late Wednesday night the Cañon City river gauge on the Arkansas River showed a spike in flow to 1,750 cubic feet per second which was about a 1,000 c.f.s. increase over river flows earlier Tuesday afternoon.

Commissioners OK Permit for Lincoln Park Pumpkin Patch

Diana's Pumpkin Patch at 1649 Poplar will operate again this fall with a permit from Fremont County

Complaints from neighbors along Poplar and Locust Avenues in Lincoln Park last year prompted Fremont County Officials to consider permit requirements for a popular autumn farm attraction.   Diana’s Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze has been operated by Sue and Tim Madone on their property at 1649 Poplar.   Fremont County Code Enforcement Officers and Sheriff’s deputies fielded complaints last year about traffic congestion, parking, and private property trespass issues from several neighbors.   Because of the growing popularity that was attracting large crowds the County Planning and Zoning Department decided that a permit review would be needed.

The Board of Commissioners approved a temporary use permit for Diana’s Pumpkin Patch at their July 28th board meeting after the Madones detailed plans of how they intend to deal with the crush of crowds and traffic.   The event will run September 19th to October 31st.   It will include pumpkin picking, a corn maze, hayrides, a hay slide, a grain barn, and a snack bar.  Sue Madone said they intend to have young men working as parking attendants and have arranged to have several off-street parking locations nearby.  Those steps are being taken to address complaints by several neighbors who said people were parking on private property, blocking driveways, and urinating in people’s front yards.

District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said the Pumpkin Patch idea is a great attraction for the Lincoln Park and trusts that the Madones can address the neighbors' concerns.   Commission Chairman Ed Norden encouraged the Madones to improve signage throughout the Lincoln Park neighborhood to direct motorists to parking areas and to alleviate traffic congestion.   The Commissioners were also told by Sheriff Jim Beicker that he intends to increase patrols by deputies on the busy weekends around the Pumpkin Patch this fall.

In other routine business at the July  28th meeting the Commissioners:

  • Approved abandonment of a water tap at 201 North 6th Street that was still associated with the Garden Park Building but is no longer in use;
  • Reappointed Mike Pullen and Francis Williams to the Building Code Board of Appeals;
  • Conducted a public hearing and then voted to adopt the January, 2015 Fremont County Pre-Disaster Mitigation Plan assembled by County Emergency Management Director Steve Morrisey;
  • Heard a brief presentation and voted to accept the 2014 county audit report.

Road & Bridge Crews Compete in County Fair Road-e-o

Hair pin maneuvers with an excavator was part of the scoring in the 5th annual Road-e-o sponsored by the Fremont County Department of Transportation at the 2015 Fremont County Fair.

44 competitors from six counties plus the City of Cañon City took part in the 5th annual Road-e-o competition at the 2015 Fremont County Fair sponsored by the Fremont County Department of Transportation.  The public works employees again took the opportunity to test their skills on heavy equipment with others in the region.  Each of the 44 participants competed against the clock and various obstacles to earn points in three categories; road graders, front end loaders, and excavators.

In addition to local competitors from Fremont County and Cañon City others traveled to compete in the contest from Custer, Summit, Teller, Pueblo, and Chaffee Counties.  Top honors for the overall best score in all three events this year went to Tony Swango of Summit County.  Second place went to Bryan Boyer of Pueblo County.

Winners in the individual events included Swango and Boyer who also took first and second places in the excavator category.  Dave Van Winkle of Fremont County took first place in the loader competition while Tony Fabrizio of the City of Cañon City and Chance Harmon of Chaffee County tied for second.  First place in the grader competition went to Mark Stacy of Chaffee County with Swango of Summit County taking second.

The 5th annual Road-e-o was sponsored by John Deere’s southern Colorado dealer in Pueblo, 4-Rivers Equipment.  4-Rivers and several other vendors provided a number of prizes for the competitors.

The 44 competitors, judges, sponsors, and volunteers line up for a photo following the 2015 Road-e-o heavy equipment competition on July30th at the Fremont County Fair

Sheriff’s Deputy Levels Pay Accusations against Commissioners

Acknowledging that he appreciated a pay raise of 33 percent after voters approved a one cent sales tax increase for the Fremont County Sheriff’s Department, Deputy C.J. Youngs said the Fremont County Commissioners acted unethically by adopting a pay plan that was contrary to what Youngs claimed was previously promised.   Youngs argued in an appearance before the Commissioners at Tuesday’s meeting that he should have gotten another raise for his 10 year anniversary last March but did not because the Board of Commissioners adopted an alternate pay plan to give pay step increases after 4, 8, and 12 years of service instead of increases at 4, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years of service.

Commission Chairman Ed Norden told Youngs that when the Board adopts a pay plan it is for all county employees.   Norden said the county is not about to set up a different pay plan for the Sheriff’s Department or any other county department.   He said a county pay plan will treat all employees the same.   Youngs accused the Commissioners of lying to the Sheriff, deputies, and the voters.   He said it was unethical in his view for the Board to start charging the Sheriff for his own utilities and redistributing that money among other departments for personnel costs.  By doing so Youngs charged that the Commissioners removed the Sheriff’s pay scale and balanced the budget on the backs of deputies.

Those allegations brought a quick retort from Commissioner Norden who explained to Youngs that if he had done his research he would have found that for many years the county’s General Fund had paid the costs of the Sheriff’s utilities, maintenance, and supplies.   Norden said there were several years when the Sheriff operated with budget shortfalls and it was a case of the Commissioners either budgeting to pay the Sheriff’s utility and maintenance costs each year or having to cover those budget shortfalls from the General Fund at year’s end.

Norden continued to point out to Youngs that the 4-8-12 years of service pay plan the Board adopted was done so because “this Board of Commissioners acted responsibly to the voters by looking into the future and the county did not have the dollars to support the pay plan Youngs claimed was promised to deputies”.   Norden said those benchmarks were established for all employees and by not singling out one group of employees versus another.  Norden concluded, “We have a fiduciary responsibility to every employee and every taxpayer in this county as to how we handle those dollars”.

District 2 Commissioner Bell took particular exception to the allegations charged by Youngs.  Bell told Youngs, “I do not appreciate the opinion that we lied to anyone or that we lack transparency.  I believe this Board has been more transparent, more honest, and more open with the public and our employees than any other board in recent history.”

Russ Hickman, Regional President of the Fraternal Order of Police, spoke in support of Youngs’ issue saying he represents several deputies who share the same concerns about the county’s pay plan for deputies.   Hickman said whatever the Commissioners did to hold back pay from the deputies should be discussed with them.   Commissioner Norden told Hickman that protocol would require him to first address his concerns with Sheriff Beicker regarding pay and personnel and then if the Sheriff shares those concerns he could bring them to the Board.  Hickman said he wants to see what the Commissioners are going to do before deciding if he wants to pursue the issue from a legal point of view.

Reacting to Hickman’s allegation that the Board of Commissioners are holding back a pay increase for the Sheriff’s deputies, Commissioner Bell told Hickman, “I would submit that giving anyone a 33 percent pay increase, we are not holding anything back”.

BLM Seeking Comment on Bark Beetle Treatment in Fremont County

Mountain Bark Beetles have devastated thousands of acres of timber across Colorado and the mountain west. The beetle is beginning to make stronger inroads into western Fremont County

The Bureau of Land Management’s Royal Gorge Field Office is seeking public comment on an environmental assessment for a forestry project to treat bark beetle infested areas in Fremont County.

BLM Field Manager Keith Berger said the purpose of the project is to reduce the threat to public safety and infrastructure posed by beetle-killed trees in travel corridors and other high-risk areas as well as provide for resilient forests and diverse wildlife habitats.  Berger said. “The project will also help us reduce the risk of severe wildfires and subsequent erosion and watershed damage.”

The Northwest Fremont Bark Beetle Salvage project is scheduled to take place on approximately 2,900 acres in northwestern Fremont County near Stoney Face, Waugh, and Jack Hall mountains. The environmental assessment analyzes three alternatives in detail that span from the effect of taking no action to salvaging dead and dying spruce trees to additional removal of green spruce at risk of beetle infestation. Activities under consideration include commercial timber harvest, non-commercial timber management and prescribed fire.

The preliminary environmental assessment and maps of the project area are posted on the BLM’s website at www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/rgfo/planning/rgfo_bark_beetle_project.html.  Comments on the project can be sent to the BLM Royal Gorge Field Office, Attn: Ken Reed, 3028 East Main Street, Canon City, CO 81212, or email: rgfo_comments@blm.gov with "Spruce Beetle EA" in the subject line.   The BLM requests that comments be submitted by August 31st.

Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment—including your personal identifying information—will be publicly available at any time.  While you can request in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, the BLM cannot guarantee that they will be able to do so.

Plague Confirmed in Prairie Dog Die Off Near Florence

Sudden inactivity in a prairie dog colony near the Colorado State Veterans Home south of Florence raised concerns of a die off due to plague.

The presence of plague has been confirmed in Fremont County following a die off of a prairie dog colony on the south edge of Florence.  The Fremont County Board of Health (County Commissioners) was informed Monday that Environmental Health Officer Sid Darden was called to investigate last week after people along Moore Drive south of Florence noticed inactivity in a normally busy prairie dog colony.   Suspecting a potential die-off possibly due to the plague, Darden investigated and collected fleas from prairie dog holes and dead animals.   All fleas collected tested positive for the plague.

This is the first time in several years that Fremont County has had confirmed plague. At this time there are no reported domestic animal or human cases.

Fremont County Department of Public Health & Environment has these suggestions to keep yourself safe:

•           As plague is transmitted by fleas, protect pets with flea powder and keep pets on a leash and out of wild rodent habitats.

•           Stay out of areas that rodents inhabit such as prairie dog colonies. If you enter areas with rodents, wear insect repellent and tuck pant cuffs into socks to prevent flea bites.

•           Keep outside trash cans tightly covered.

•           Do not touch or pick up sick, dead or dying animals.

•           Prevent rodent infestations around your house: clear brush, rock piles, cluttered firewood and other materials away from outside walls, restrict rodent access to food items such as dog or cat food.

•           Be watchful for any unusual rodent die-off in your area.

•           Do not attempt to catch, feed, handle or exterminate prairie dogs, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits or other wild animals.

Symptoms of plague infection in humans include a high fever, chills, headache, extreme fatigue and tender or swollen lymph glands. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor at once.

Commissioners Set Hearing Date for Dinosaur Center

A commercial development plan for a new tourist attraction on 8-mile hill west of Cañon City has been set for a public hearing by the Fremont County Board of Commissioners.    Plans for the Dinosaur Center proposed by Dave and Zach Reynolds secured a recommendation of approval from the Fremont County Planning Commission on July 7th.   On Tuesday the Board of Commissioners announced that a public hearing on the development plan for the new attraction will take place at the Board’s regular meeting on August 11th at 10 a.m.    Also set for public hearing on August 11th is a zone change request from Business Zone to Agricultural Estates on a parcel of property along Copper Gulch Road in the Colorado Acres area.   Jaime Kelly and Craig Scheer want the simple zone change so they can build a house on the property.

Following a public hearing at Tuesday’s regular board meeting the Commissioners voted to approve a conditional use permit (CUP) for Vaughn Byrd doing business as B & B Septage Treatment.   The permit is for renewal of an existing CUP for Byrd to treat septic waste in a tank and once treated the septage is spread on the prairie across the 40 acre site.   Dr. Angela Bellantoni of Environmental Alternatives assured the commissioners that following treatment of the sewage there is no concern regarding oversaturation of the soils on site.   With that assurance the commissioners agreed to replace Byrd’s existing 10 year permit with a “life of the use” permit.

Dr. John Kearney gave a presentation to the Board on the Colorado Mission of Mercy (COMOM) dental charity event scheduled in Cañon City at the Harrison School on Friday and Saturday, August 14th and 15th.   COMOM began in Colorado in 2007 and once a year some 200 dentists from across Colorado gather to offer free dental care services to patients who otherwise cannot afford a dentist or have neglected dental care.    The dentists will see some 1,500 patients over the two days at the event which will run from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days.   Dr. Kearney said a massive number of volunteers from the community are needed to help pull off the event.   If you’re interested in helping you should visit the event website at www.comom.org.

In other business at the July 14th meeting the commissioners:

  • Agreed to support the Upper Arkansas Area Council of Governments’ housing rehabilitation program for low and moderate income families in the county by reducing building permit fees by $100 on each permit;
  • Approved the hotel and restaurant liquor license renewal for Crossroads Bar & Grill at Highways 50 & 115 at Penrose.   The owner has the property for sale but wants to keep the liquor license active;
  • Voted to abandon a water tap behind the county’s Garden Park Building since the city took over the water tap to be used to water the new green area on Macon Avenue by the Fine Arts Center;
  • Reappointed Michael Pullen to the county’s Board of Zoning Adjustment;
  • Approved a subdivision variance for Dale Boysen on his property along County Road 3A on the way to the Royal Gorge.  The variance allows Boysen to take ownership of a small triangular outlot that adjoins his curio shop as long as it continues to be used only for parking and signage.

Colorado DOLA Director Visits Dispatch Center

Colorado Deparment of Local Affairs Executive Director Irv Halter (second from right) listens to Canon City Fire Chief Dave Delvecchio detail the effort that has gone into getting the new 9-1-1 dispatch center open. Joining the tour (to Halter's left) were Dispatch Supervisor Kris Meredith and Undersheriff Ty Martin.

Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) Executive Director Irv Halter toured Fremont County’s new combined regional dispatch center as part of a visit with local officials in Cañon City on July 16th.    Halter and DOLA Regional Director Christy Culp joined the monthly luncheon meeting of local governmental managers for a discussion on a variety of issues impacting government and the economy in Fremont County and southern Colorado.

Following the meeting Halter and Culp toured the new 9-1-1 regional communications center which initiated operations on July 7th on the 4th floor of the Fremont County Judicial Center.   Halter said projects like the dispatch center which will enhance public safety for Fremont County citizens is a prime example of how Colorado’s oil and gas severance tax revenues can be used along with local matching dollars to accomplish such significant projects.   Fremont County Sheriff Jim Beicker, one of five members of the governing board for the dispatch center, said the project could have never gotten off the ground without the financial assistance from DOLA.

The dispatch center went “live” in the early morning hours of July 7th when Florence Police dispatchers transferred to the new center.   Fremont County Undersheriff Ty Martin, who supervised construction of the new center, said many of the hardware and software problems that emerged on June 16th when the center was originally scheduled to start operating had been resolved.

Communications Center Supervisor Kris Meredith said Cañon City Police Dispatchers are scheduled to transition into the new center on July 28th.   He said Cañon City dispatchers will start training in the coming days to begin familiarizing themselves with entirely new software for computer aided dispatching.  Cañon City Fire Chief Dave Delvecchio, another member of the governing board, said the plan is for all dispatchers to officially become employees of the Combined Regional Communications Authority on August 1st.

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