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Commissioners Visit Western Fremont County Park

The Fremont County Commissioners met on site at the Western Fremont County Park at Howard April 11th. They met with community volunteers to discuss park priorities for park improvements this spring and summer.

As part of a 2016 goal to address maintenance issues in park properties that Fremont County owns the Fremont County Board of Commissioners made a site visit April 11th to Western Fremont County Park at Howard.   The park property is in the Acres of Ireland subdivision that looks down across the Arkansas Valley south of Highway 50.    Howard residents who have volunteered to serve on a local committee to revitalize the park say they want to emphasize the area as a community park for all residents in western Fremont County.

Mowing and minimal maintenance of the park was originally undertaken by a homeowners association but in recent years most of the work was performed by a single volunteer.   Residents told the Board of Commissioners at a pair of town hall meetings this winter that usage of playground equipment, basketball court, and a picnic shelter had declined in recent years because of an infestation of puncture vine.   The residents say they want herbicide control to resume and a county weed crew began work last week to start spraying in the park area.

In addressing the 2016 goal of dealing with parks maintenance the Board of Commissioners is in the process of hiring a maintenance person initially to work 30 hours a week this spring and summer.   That person will deal with maintenance on county property at Pathfinder Regional Park, the B.F. Rockefellow Ecology Park south of Cañon City, the Fremont County Airport War Memorial Park, and Western Fremont County Park.

During the site visit to Howard the commissioners and County Manager Sunny Bryant discussed weed control, excavating around playground equipment, placing new crusher fines on the playground and a park trail, summer mowing, and repairs to picnic tables at the picnic shelter.  Park Committee volunteers Shari Mohr, Linda Pulley, Nancy Hollen, and Fred Kroll met with the commissioners to discuss park improvements.

Electronics Recycling Opportunity this Saturday

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners is cooperating with the Upper Arkansas Area Council of Governments (UAACOG), and the Florence Grassroots and Clean-Up in sponsoring an electronics recycling event this Saturday, April 9th, at Florence City Hall, 600 W. 3rd Street.  During this event, you will be able to recycle your televisions, computers, printers, and other small electronics at a reduced cost.  The electronic recycling reduced prices include: Computer monitors--$10, CPU’s--$5, and desktop printers--$5.  Small electronics, such as stereos, can also be recycled for $5.  Keyboards, cords, cell phones, ink cartridges, mice and other small peripherals will be taken at no charge when you recycle other components.

Televisions can also be recycled at this event at a reduced cost.   The current standard cost of recycling a television is over $2 a diagonal inch, but at this event, the cost will be $1 per diagonal inch, thanks to assistance from Fremont County.  The Board of Commissioners budgeted $7,500 from the county’s Waste Disposal Fund in 2016 to aid in electronics recycling events across Fremont County.   The commissioners recognized that the county and private property owners are already dealing with the cost of illegal dumping of electronics on county road rights of way and private rural properties.

Colorado implemented a landfill ban on electronics in July of 2013.   Waste electronics and computers from residential and non-residential sources cannot be disposed of in solid waste landfills in Colorado. Harmful chemicals can leach out of this waste and contaminate soil and groundwater. Electronics will be recycled by Southern Colorado Recyclers, a Colorado-registered electronics recycler, as required by CDPHE. All electronics will be recycled responsibly and all hard drives will be destroyed.   Hours for the electronics recycling event this Saturday at Florence City Hall are from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

For more information, please contact Beth with UAACOG’s Regional Recycling Program, Upper Arkansas Recycling at 275-1675.

Sugars Retires After Seven Years as County Manager

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution March 22nd honoring George Sugars for his seven years of service as County Manager. During his tenure Sugars led the restructuring of several county departments; updated and streamlined the county budged process; implemented a comprehensive energy conservation program; and oversaw the purchase and renovation of the Garden Park Building for the Public Health Department, Sheriff Investigations Division, Weed Management, and Emergency Management Office.   County Finance and Budget Director Sunny Bryant succeeds Sugars as County Manager on April 1st.

Planning Commission to Consider Zone Change in Four Mile Area

Consideration of a zone change in the Four Mile area southeast of Cañon City is the only item to be taken up by the Fremont County Planning Commission at their April 5th monthly meeting.     Bill Balhiser is the owner of an agricultural piece of property west of the intersection of Grandview and Steinmeier Avenues in the Four Mile area.    Balhiser is requesting a zone change from Low Density Residential Zoning to Agricultural Rural Zone District.

The property was originally part of the Canon Creek Ranch development.   The original plan called for the property to be developed into 28 residential lots with curb, gutter, and sidewalks.   Balhiser wants to revert the property back to more agricultural uses by dividing the property into only two lots with a minimum acreage of 4 ½ acres on each lot.

The Planning Commission meets at 3:00 p.m. Tuesday, April 5th, in the County Commissioners meeting room on the lower level of the County Administration Building.

Commissioners Table Marijuana Ordinance a Second Time

Despite changes to a proposed ordinance regulating marijuana cultivation in unincorporated areas of Fremont County, the Board of County Commissioners decided to table the ordinance a second time.   District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said the Board wants to make sure they “get it right” before adopting something that may not address all the concerns.   Language that was amended after the first reading on the ordinance on March 8th drew praise from medical marijuana caregivers at the March 22nd commissioners’ meeting.

The amended ordinance dropped all references to acreage limits of five acres and 20 acres and instead focused on a limit of 99 marijuana plants for caregiver grows.  Nathan Robinson, who grows marijuana as a caregiver year round, thanked the commissioners saying the changes represented a good balance.   William DeSpain who also protested the original limitations said he appreciated the revisions.   But regarding personal use marijuana growing, DeSpain said it boils down to neighbors being good neighbors.

Commissioners Bell and Ed Norden expressed last minute reservations.   Norden said while the Board attempted to address concerns raised by caregivers and medical marijuana patients who grow their own plants he feared the commissioners may have swung too far in the other direction.   Bell agreed noting that Pueblo County has a 36 plant limit for marijuana caregiver grows and wondered if that was a number Fremont County needed to move towards.   Bell said “there are a lot of people who do not think a 99 plant limit is a good compromise because it is way too many”.

The commissioners voted to table the ordinance again until their April 12th meeting.    Commission Chairman Norden said following more conversation by the board they hope to have the latest version of the revised ordinance posted on the county web site by April 1st so citizens can review any changes.

The commissioners approved an engagement agreement with George K. Baum Company at their March 22nd meeting for the financing of the Fremont County Jail renovation project.   Since voters approved a one cent sales tax increase for the Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Beicker has been accumulating cash reserves to help finance a complete renovation of the jail’s kitchen and laundry area.

County Finance Director Sunny Bryant said that despite the Sheriff’s efforts to set aside cash, a finance package will still be needed to complete the $5 million project.   George K. Baum will set up a finance package over a seven year period to pay for the renovation using proceeds from the sales tax.   Bryant said the project needed to be financed over seven years so the project can be paid off before the Sheriff’s one cent sales tax reaches its’ ten year sunset.

In other business at the March 22nd Board meeting the commissioners:

  • Approved a Conditional Use Permit for Bennie and Shawnee Koch to resume operations in the Iron Mountain Gravel Pit along Iron Mountain Road 1 ¼ miles east of Copper Gulch Road;
  • Reached agreement with Monty Holmes of Salida who operates Captain Zipline in the Wellsville area.   The commissioners agreed to modify his special review use permit and require him to pay 50 percent of the cost of dust suppressant on County Roads 7 & 45.   Commissioner Debbie Bell also asked that traffic counts be conducted on three occasions in spring, summer, and fall to determine impact from the zip line;
  • Approved a resolution honoring County Manager George Sugars upon his April 1st retirement;
  • Approved a series of bids for purchase of materials for Road & Bridge construction work this summer;
  • Adopted a proclamation declaring April to be observed as Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Free Trash Vouchers Part of Spring Cleanup

Local officials and businesses are once again gearing up for the annual Spring Clean-Up and Canon Proud Campaign.  A limited number of trash vouchers for free disposal of household trash, furniture, construction debris, brush, logs, leaves and yard waste will be available on a first-come, first-served basis to Cañon City and Fremont County residents beginning on March 21st and ending on April 30th.  Trash vouchers are good for free disposal of ½ ton (one regular pick-up truck bed) at Twin Enviro’s “Phantom Landfill” at 2500 Fremont County Road 67 (north of the airport), Penrose, 372-6671.  (Amounts of trash in excess of ½ ton will be charged extra on site.)  Hours of operation are from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Cañon City residents may pick up a voucher from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday at City Hall, 128 Main Street.  Persons living in unincorporated areas of Fremont County may pick up a voucher from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday in Room 106 of the Fremont County Administration Building, 615 Macon Avenue.   Proof of residency is required when obtaining a voucher.  Only one voucher will be issued per household.  Free disposal will end on April 30, 2016 at 4:00 p.m.  All loads must be covered, and no commercial haulers or contractors qualify for these vouchers. The City of Florence will sponsor their city wide cleanup in late April.

Partners in this event include Twin Enviro Services, R.D. Recycling, Junk Masters, and Call it Gone Metal Recyclers.  In addition to the trash disposal vouchers, the following partners will accept recycling, appliances, vehicles, and specific metals; please contact them directly if their services are desired:

R.D. Recycling, located at 1501 High Street (719-641-0630 or 275-2052) will accept appliances Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. for free disposal.  They will also pick up large loads in bulk.  Brass, aluminum, and copper will be purchased at prevailing rates.  They will purchase automobile batteries for $5 each.

All of the Spring Cleanup partners DO NOT accept any tires, TV’s, computer equipment, other electronic equipment, or hazardous waste.

Revised Marijuana Cultivation Ordinance to be Considered

An ordinance to regulate home cultivation of marijuana in unincorporated areas of Fremont County will go back before the Board of Commissioners on second reading with proposed revisions.   At the March 8th first reading of the ordinance a number of people addressed the board saying the marijuana regulations would particularly create an undue hardship on medical marijuana patients who grow their own marijuana or on their caregivers.

Fremont County Commission Chairman Ed Norden said the amended language in the ordinance drops references to acreage limitations and focuses instead on limiting the number of plants to be cultivated.   He said the changes also reflect more latitude for caregivers of medical marijuana patients.    Norden said while the commissioners are trying to respond to the desires of those who cultivate marijuana for medical purposes they still want to maintain the integrity of the ordinance that address the negative impacts to next door neighbors.

A red-lined copy of the amended ordinance has been posted on Fremont County’s home web page at www.fremontco.com so the public can review where the language has been changed.   The ordinance will come up for consideration on second reading at the Board of Commissioners’ regular meeting at 9:30 a.m. next Tuesday, March 22nd.   The Board expects to receive additional public comment at that time before any final adoption.

Commissioners Hear Reaction to Proposed Marijuana Regulations

An example of outdoor medical marijuana plants under cultivation in Fremont County (courtesy photo)

After listening to public comment for nearly two hours Tuesday morning the Fremont County Board of Commissioners indicated they would consider how new marijuana regulations might be modified to address some of the concerns raised by medical marijuana patients and caregivers.   The ordinance that was discussed on first reading would put into place a comprehensive set of regulations governing the cultivation of both medical marijuana and marijuana for personal use in the unincorporated areas of Fremont County.   As written the ordinance would restrict the number of marijuana plants that could be grown outdoors and minimum acreages required for cultivation.   It would also require screening from public view.   The ordinance also addresses indoor cultivation of marijuana.

Most of the opposition voiced at the meeting came from caregivers and individual growers who use what they grow.   Karen Hunter, a registered caregiver for five medical marijuana patients, said the restrictions will force outdoor growers inside and push people to grow on public lands.  Darren Jones said requiring a minimum of five acres for caregiver grows would “cut the legs off some of us”.   He said limiting caregivers will be hardest on patients who can’t afford to go into the store (and buy medical marijuana).    Chris Garrison and Scott Strong, both military veterans, said the ordinance will punish the people who register and comply.   Both spoke of how medical marijuana has proven to be a great medical benefit compared to the debilitating drugs prescribed by the Veterans Administration.

The commissioners did hear support for the ordinance from people who said tougher regulations are needed for people who want to grow marijuana and ignore the impact on neighbors.  Beverly Krieger who lives in the Meadowdale Ranch subdivision along County Road 3 at Parkdale said some neighbors have moved in specifically to grow marijuana.   She says if they violate state law and use well water to cultivate marijuana it could compromise all of the neighbors’ water wells.   Sheriff Jim Beicker said he supports the ordinance and thinks the restrictions are reasonable.   Noting that violations of the ordinance would be a petty offense subject to fines, the Sheriff said the intent is not to put anyone in jail.

Commission Chairman Ed Norden said he appreciated the thoughtful suggestions the citizens offered particularly regarding the impact on medical marijuana patients and caregivers.   But Norden said the commissioners recognize that regulations are needed.   He said “People are concerned about their neighborhoods and a threat of people moving in for no other purpose than to grow marijuana”.   He added that without regulations, “There is an unfettered explosion of people doing whatever the hell they want”.  Rob Harper of Cañon City urged the commissioners to consider some reasonable change to the ordinance restrictions saying that if the ordinance is approved as written, “You’re only going to force people to go underground”.

The commissioners took no action and said the ordinance will come back before the board on second reading with some anticipated changes.   Commissioner Norden said once amended language is proposed a second draft of the ordinance will be available for public inspection on the county’s website at www.fremontco.com.

Commissioners to Consider Ordinance Regulating Marijuana Cultivation

An ordinance that would regulate the cultivation of marijuana for personal use and by medical marijuana caregivers in unincorporated areas of Fremont County will come up for consideration by the Fremont County Board of Commissioners at their regular meeting next Tuesday, March 8th.    The ordinance will address restrictions on both indoor and outdoor cultivation of marijuana.   The ordinance places specific limits on the number of marijuana plants that can be cultivated.   It also restricts access by requiring fencing on all outdoor marijuana grows and addresses lighting, odors, and limits on visual observation of marijuana plants.

The ordinance will be considered on first reading and the Board of Commissioners will take public comment on the proposed regulations.    Citizens can also submit public comment in writing.   The proposed ordinance can be accessed and reviewed by the public by going to the Fremont County website at www.fremontco.com and clicking on the link under the public notice on the home web page.

The Board of Commissioners meets at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 8th, in Room LL-3 of the Fremont County Administration Building.

Riverwalk Reopens with Levee Reconstruction

Construction crews were putting the finishing touches this week on the newly reconstructed Arkansas River levee that carries the Riverwalk Trail west of the Raynolds Avenue Bridge.

With three months to go before runoff from winter snowpack again pours down the Arkansas River, Fremont County has successfully completed the reconstruction of a levee that was undermined last June by near record water levels.    The Arkansas Riverwalk reopens Friday morning after the levee 300 yards west of the Raynolds Avenue Bridge was reconstructed over the past month.

Fremont County Manager George Sugars said Whinnery Construction of Lake City completed work on the levee earlier this week.   After first having to divert the stream flow to allow heavy equipment to go to work in the river bed, crews finished installing ten-ton boulders that should protect the levee from any future flooding damage.   The original concrete wall that was constructed in the early 1990’s was undermined and collapsed during the high spring runoff last May and June.

Whinnery Construction was the successful low bidder on the project at a cost of $147,235.   The Board of Commissioners will consider a $40,000 change order at next Tuesday’s meeting to cover the additional cost of finding and installing boulders that met the engineer’s specifications.   Fremont County intends to recover seventy-five percent of the cost of the project from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).   The Cañon City Recreation and Park District also contributed $14,000 towards the initial cost of the project last fall.

This photo depicts the original concrete levee wall that started collapsing last summer during near record spring runoff on the Arkansas River

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