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Under Attack, Again

Coming straight from our own neighbors on the Front Range, a new ballot initiative is threatening the livelihood of our local farmers and ranchers as well as threatening our affordable, available food sources.

The “Protect Animals from Unnecessary Suffering and Exploitation” campaign bills itself as an animal-rights measure, but in reality, is working hard to kill our agricultural industry and disrupt all aspects of meat production, sales, and export.

Also known as Initiative 16, the measure would ask voters to criminalize commonly accepted veterinary and animal care practices throughout the state. It also would ban the slaughter of livestock until at least one-quarter of their anticipated lifetime, a standard far longer than consumer and foreign markets demand or can afford.

The initiative will appear on the November 2022 ballot if almost 125,000 signatures are gathered from Colorado residents, which appears likely.

Agriculture leaders and their organizations are fighting back. “Coloradans for Animal Care” is a coalition formed to oppose Initiative 16 and includes Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Dairy Farmers, Colorado Wool Growers Association, Colorado Livestock Association and Colorado Pork Producers Council.

This measure is another in a long line of attacks and insults to our agricultural heritage and the meat industry in Colorado, which is a $3.4 billion state industry with a $40 billion economic impact. We currently enjoy 38,900 farms and ranches spread across 31.8 million acres in Colorado.

Those good folks work tirelessly 365 days a year to produce commodities for both the state and the entire nation.

Their work currently includes best practices in animal husbandry, which would be criminalized by Initiative 16. In addition, today’s common animal care practices would be rebranded as cruelty to animals.

Surprisingly, the measure also would affect pets. Some medical procedures and tests may be outlawed – which could include spaying and neutering of dogs and cats – and means pets may no longer have access to the high level of medical care they now enjoy.

Even though Colorado Gov. Jared Polis recently declared a “Meat Out” day in Colorado – which saw rural Colorado rise to join forces and fight – he opposes this measure.

The Governor said he “agrees with farmers and ranchers that the PAUSE ballot initiative would hurt Colorado and destroy jobs.”

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser tweeted, “CO’s farming & livestock businesses are the backbones of CO rural communities. This measure is not based on science and will raise food prices for us all; worse yet, it will cost rural jobs & devastate communities. I will be fighting against it.”

Obviously, this is not a partisan issue. It is one that would affect every person who raises meat or eats it or has pets. If PAUSE is voted in as law, the price of all beef, beef by-products, dairy products, other meat, and other animal products would increase significantly. The availability of these products will decrease, and the taste and palatability of these products will change. Consumption of other types of proteins also will increase, creating more shortages.

A recent poll by the United States Farmers and Ranchers Alliance showed 72 percent of consumers know nothing or very little about farming or ranching. It also proved 86 percent of farmers and ranchers believe the average consumer has little to no knowledge about modern farming and ranching.

These decisions should not be left to urbanites who do not understand the realities of agriculture. Join the fight. Refuse to sign the petition to get Initiative 16 on the ballot. If it makes it to the ballot, vote NO.

Most importantly, talk to all your friends, relatives and neighbors. Tell them how important this is and ask them to help us fight back.

Debbie Bell is the Fremont County Commissioner in District 2.

Commissioner Discusses Recovery with Governor

Fremont County Commissioner Debbie Bell and other board members of Colorado Counties Inc. met with Governor Jared Polis on Friday, March 19, to discuss recovery from the pandemic.

Bell, who currently serves as CCI President, presided over the meeting. The board met in person at CCI offices in Denver, and the governor joined virtually.

“This was a wonderful opportunity to address the governor with our concerns,” Bell said after the meeting. “Several board members stepped up to the plate to discuss various areas of recovery, including reopening and vaccinations. We also asked, again, for the state to return control to local governments. Colorado is a vast state with both rural and urban regions, and one size does not fit all.”

During the meeting, Bell asked Gov. Polis to partner with CCI and its members as a team.

“We join you in your concern with economic recovery even as we continue to take care of the health and welfare of our citizens,” she said in her opening remarks to the governor. “We would like to know the state’s pathway to reopening, and to let us help you – both with reopening and with vaccinating our citizens.

“In short, we are here today to find out how we can help you and help the entire State of Colorado recover.”

Gov. Polis said the new “Dial 3.0” scheduled for public release Tuesday to take effect Wednesday, is a step in the right direction and addresses many issues surrounding the continued closures.

“Every day, we see another instance that voluntary compliance is becoming a thing of the past,” Bell said. “We respectfully ask for clear and concise criteria to enable counties and regions to regain local control.”

She also referenced the lack of communication coming from the state.

“We hope to see real, true, two-day communication with your office,” Bell said. “We ask again for courtesy notification of new decisions and executive orders before they are released to the general population.

“Please, let us help you and allow us to work as a team.”

The meeting was another in a long line of historical sessions between CCI and seated governors. The organization brings Colorado counties together to work on common issues, focusing on information, education and legislative representation. CCI works to present a united voice to the Colorado General Assembly and other government and regulatory bodies to help shape the future.

Drinking from the Firehose

Greetings Fremont County from your newest County Commissioner!

On January 12, 2021 I was officially sworn into office and began to once again enjoy the immense privilege of serving the people of Fremont County as one of their voices in our representative government. I look forward to seeing what we can do together to move our wonderful community forward together in these turbulent and uncertain times.

As we look to the future we can’t ignore the tremendous contribution of the giants on whose shoulders we stand. For me it is my predecessor, Tim Payne. As in 2011, when I took office as State Senator, I had to follow in the footsteps of a great public servant, Ken Kester, and now I follow another exceptional leader and public servant into office. Thank you, Tim, for your wonderful service to and accomplishments on behalf of this county over the last eight years.

My first three weeks remind me a lot of my first three weeks in the State Senate. You take in as much information as possible and learn as much as you can but at the end of the day it is akin to drinking from a firehose. Fortunately, there is a lot of overlap between the jobs and I am rolling up the sleeves and getting to work.

As I have campaigned since 2007 during my first city council run I want to be a responsive representative for you. And I will continue to do that to the best of my abilities as I have done in my other elected roles fighting for the rights of all Fremont County citizens.

The task at hand presents many new opportunities in this current economic climate as we will strive to prepare ourselves for a post-Covid world. I will continue to work toward the goal of ensuring we are poised to make the most of those opportunities to draw business and industry to Fremont.

I look forward to working with you to build a better and brighter future for all of us here in Fremont County.

Submitted by Kevin Grantham, Commissioner District 1

Code Changes Affect Ag Land

New changes to the Fremont County Building Code were adopted by the Commissioners last November and took effect Jan. 1.

For years, Fremont County had been working under the 2006 International Building Code. Building Official Wyatt Sanders worked for the better part of a year to plan and prepare to implement the changes. Following workshops, discussion and a Public Hearing that saw no input from the public, we adopted the 2018 IBC with a few minor changes.

Naturally, the new code affects only unincorporated Fremont County only, and not land that falls within the limits of any city or town. Each city and town adopts their own Building Code.

The county’s modifications shouldn’t come as a surprise to builders or contractors, but some citizens who own agricultural parcels may not understand the changes affect them, too.

Many of the revisions were minor, housekeeping items that did not affect the way the Building Department or contractors do business. Most of the substantive changes affect ag land, including a modification of the agricultural “exempt from permit” status and the definition of “Agricultural Building.”

“Exempt from permit” status previously meant an ag owner could put up an ag building with no notification to or permission from the county. Although agricultural buildings still do not need an actual building permit, owners now are required to submit plans for a determination on the building’s conformity with the new definition of “Agricultural Building.”

Those plans must include a plot map that will be shared with the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning, where it will be examined to ensure all setbacks follow regulation, which is required even on ag-designated parcels.

Ag buildings still will not be issued an actual building permit, and there will be no fees for the review by the Building Department. However, the process will create a permanent record of the conforming building that will be used in the future by both the Building Department and Assessor’s Office.

Plan approval should prevent questions and issues, including challenges of legality, for ag buildings. The new code is not to stop anyone from building, it is intended to be more definitive and to apply the rules uniformly.

Checking in with the Building Department before putting up a new Ag building will save a lot of time and trouble in the end.

Although a new Building Code is in force, all building fees adopted in 2016 remain the same. There were no increases for building permits.

In addition to adopting the 2018 International Building Code, your County Commissioners also adopted the 2018 International Residential Code and the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code. All are available to view on the county web site, www.fremontco.com; or you may contact the Building Department for more information.

Debbie Bell is the District 2 Fremont County Commissioner.

Stay Safe, Vote "Yes" on 1A

In a world where “Defund the Police” is becoming a popular sentiment, it’s refreshing to see local citizens consider renewing specific funding for the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office.

Issue 1A on this November’s ballot asks voters to renew the Sheriff’s 1 percent sales tax for public safety. It is important to note this is not a new tax. It does not increase current taxes.

Originally approved by local voters in November 2013, the tax has provided desperately-needed funding for the Sheriff’s Office to maintain a professional department that is compliant with state law, including unfunded mandates.

Sheriff Allen Cooper, just like Sheriff Jim Beicker before him, has done an excellent job of directing the funds where they were promised in 2013.

At that time, our citizens wanted to see animal control return to the Sheriff’s Office. That service has not only resumed, it has increased with two fulltime animal control officers.

As promised, the Sheriff is finally able to hire and retain deputies by paying comparable wages and providing appropriate training. We no longer serve as the training ground for other nearby law enforcement agencies and are able to keep good people to serve our citizens.

When I entered office in January 2011, I was appalled to learn the county did not pay for deputies’ uniforms or equipment. Our employees were making substandard wages, and buying uniforms and equipment out of their own pocket, while putting their lives on the line for public safety.

Two separate major renovations have been completed at the Fremont County Detention Center with this funding. The first was a complete rebuild of the kitchen and laundry areas, which had been desperately needed for many years.

The second, arguably more important upgrade, was in the security system. A massive transformation occurred with new doors, new lock mechanisms, new cameras, new video storage, and more.

These upgrades created a safer for our employees as they go about their work every day.

The Sheriff also promised to replace worn-out patrol vehicles, and that also has happened. He now has a vehicle rotation schedule in place to keep a fleet maintained and ready to roll.

Also with these additional funds, the Sheriff’s Cotopaxi Substation has been reopened and now is staffed with four deputies.

All of these improvements mean better, faster service for all of Fremont County.

The public safety tax also allows the Sheriff’s Office to keep up with unfunded mandates handed down from the state. Those mandates are coming down fast and furious following the “Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity” bill that was signed into law by the Governor. That bill requires body cameras for every deputy, as well as a massive electronic storage system to keep that video safe, and other new mandates.

The General Fund alone cannot keep up with these many additional expenditures, even though they are required by law.

Finally, the Fremont County Commissioners said in 2013 we would continue the same level of funds transfer from the General Fund into the Sheriff’s Office, meaning we would not trade away other funding if the tax was in place. We have kept our word, and continue to transfer more than $3.939 million from the General Fund to the Sheriff’s Office every year.

You can help keep yourself, your family, your neighbors, and our entire community safe. Please vote “Yes” on Ballot Issue 1A.

Debbie Bell is the District 2 Commissioner and current Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners.

Unsung Heroes of the Fair

Even though life has changed dramatically since the second week of March, we were incredibly happy to see one tradition alive and well – the Fremont County Fair.

Admittedly, because of COVID-19, the 2020 edition looked different than it has in the past. All appropriate physical distancing and mask requirements were in place, which meant the Fair spread out over about two weeks instead of the usual one. In addition, the number of attendees had to be kept to a minimum, so few spectators were allowed at many of the events. Despite all the obstacles, the Fair was an overwhelming success!

The Fremont County Fair Board struggled for a few months with major decisions surrounding the Fair. Should we cancel it? Should we limit it? Should we hold it? If so, how can we possibly be successful while adhering to the new rules? Likewise, the Fremont County Livestock Sale Committee was consulted with questions of how it might be possible to hold the Sale.

Those decisions were terribly difficult for these 28 county residents, all of whom have close ties to the Fair. All volunteers, many of them have offered their personal time to serve on the Fair Board for years, and in some cases, decades. They were raised in 4-H, or are leaders in 4-H, or have children or grandchildren in 4-H – or, in some cases, all of the above. These extraordinary folks have a heart for the work they do.

Discussion centered on the 4-H and Future Farmers of America kids themselves, especially once the Open Fair division was canceled. What would they miss out on if the Fair did not happen? And the even bigger question: What might they learn if it did?

For 2020 seniors in high school, this would be their last opportunity to participate in the County Fair. Their last chance to show off their baking skills, to exhibit their photography, to march through the arena with their prized steer. Remember, these are the very youth who already have missed out on so much, including Senior Prom, state tournaments, and a traditional graduation.

The Fair Board, much to the Commissioners’ everlasting praise, ultimately decided to continue with the Fair by making the necessary changes. This year’s crop of kids in 4-H and FFA, from the youngest to the seniors, were handed the opportunity to learn life lessons that typically aren’t part of the Fair.

They learned things don’t always go their way, and how to adapt.

They learned choices can be taken away, and how to move forward.

They learned life hands out disappointments, and how to succeed anyway.

Having participated in 4-H in my own childhood, I remember all the life lessons I learned during those formative years: Responsibility. Patience. Deadlines. Leadership. Quality. This year’s crop of 4-H’ers and FFA’ers came away with all those same lessons, and many more: Resilience. Adaptability. Gratitude. Goodwill. Unity.

We applaud the unsung heroes who made the 2020 Fremont County Fair a success: the 19 members of the Fremont County Fair Board, the nine members of the Fremont County Livestock Sale, every 4-H’er, every FFA’er, their families, 4-H Extension, and everyone else who volunteered their time to make this year’s Fair a success. Lessons learned today will help ensure every youth’s success tomorrow.

Debbie Bell is the District 2 Commissioner and current Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners.

COVID Thanks

Even frigid temperature won’t stop our community from lending a hand. On February 13th Fremont County Public Health held a drive through Covid vaccine clinic. 1400 doses were given at this clinic and the second shot will be administered on March 13th.

This event could have not happened without the many volunteers who helped make it extremely successful. We have received many compliment on how well the events are planned and executed. Not only do I want to thank Kayla Marler and her Staff of the Fremont County Health department, and Emergency Manager Mykel Kroll, but below is a list of awesome Fremont County

Individuals/Entities that took part in the February 13th mass clinic include:

Canon City Police Department

Ryan Chan

Austen Philips

Fremont Search and Rescue (SAR)

Marlys Caulfield, Pat Caulfield, Michael Cordes, Dave Dickens, Debbie Dickens

Dusting Elliott, Kristin Hegler, Cherryl Hotze, William Hotze, Matthew Katchmar,

Michael Katchmar, Terry Leyshock, Kevin Rivard, Jane Rubio, David Thorson

Dave Walker

Fremont County Emergency Management/Emergency Operation Center Team

Aimee Dyson, Adam Guerra, Bill Hartless, Lori Jenkins, Sterling Jenkins

Mykel Kroll, Wendy Leyshock, Randy Linnen, Mark Norris, Shane Roberts

Donna Toeroek

Fremont County Department of Public Health

Michelle Boscia, Gillian De Leon, Dawn Decker, Shannon Espinoza, Amy Jamison,

Kayla Marler, Sarah Miller, Danielle Santilli, Paula Spurlin

Sol Vista/Volunteers/American Medical Response (AMR)/Doctors/Nurses

Amy Banker, Steven Barbee, Kim Biecker, Linda Black, Pat Cox, Helen Jones,

Micheal Banker, Sheila Banker, Crystal Lundy, Victoria Mehl, Trish Mitchell,

Chris Mohr, Gary Mohr, Jessie Niedens, Nicole Ortega, Glenda Peterson,

James Reppert, Joan Sindler, Marc Sindler, Lori Steinbeck, Don Kroll,

Dr Rieger, Della Rieger, Dr Mccurry, Becki and Dennis Vettese.

 

I apologize if I missed any great volunteers. Without the help of all the Staff and wonderful volunteers these events could not happen.

THANK YOU!

February 25th CDPHE vaccination team will be in Fremont County. They will provide vaccine to RE-3 at their school location.

February 26th CDPHE vaccination team will vaccinate Re-1 & Re-2 staff here at our health department.

The Health Department is running at least 400-500 doses a week.

They will be running a big walk-in clinic on March 16th and 18th (we will administer 900 doses this week).

As of 2/24, FCDPHE has administered 4428 1st and 2nd doses.

 

Dwayne McFall

Fremont County Commissioner District 3

Projects Update

Over the past two months, the Fremont County Commissioners have been dealing with the State of Colorado trying to get our Fremont County businesses back open, as well as spending many hours on a few recent projects.

In December of 2019, we were awarded a Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) Energy and Mineral Impact Grant for $1 million to construct a community center at Pathfinder Park. The DOLA grant, combined with about $600,000 from the 4-H Foundation and approximately $917,000 from in-kind work and Conservation Trust Funds, will provide our community with a much needed community center which will provide an updated and spacious facility to begin moving the Fremont County Fair to Pathfinder Park as well as a location for other community events. It’s worth noting that we have received some verbal commitments from local companies to help with the in-kind work for the Pathfinder Project. We expect design work for the building to be completed by the end of June.

One of the goals of the Commissioners when I took office in January of 2013, was to find a permanent home for the Fremont County Search & Rescue (SAR). They have been housed at the Sheriff’s office, and have outgrown the space available. The old Atmos buildings on East Main Street recently became available, and our offer of $425,000 was accepted. These funds will come from the Sales & Use Tax Fund, which is a voter approved fund for capital expenses, and this type of project would work well for those funds. We are currently in Phase Two of an environmental assessment to determine if there are any environmental hazards on the property, and Stantec Inc. is working on finalizing the reports.  We should have results by next week and are scheduled to close by the middle of June. We are hopeful to move forward with relocating our SAR group and a few other county services to a bigger location.

And lastly, Canon City Councilman Jim Meisner and I have met twice within the past month with the Oil Creek Ditch Board of Directors to come up with a plan for the new storm drain intersecting the Oil Creek ditch on Rhoades Avenue. Our last meeting with them included Atkins Engineering, and I believe we can come up with a solution to benefit all the entities involved. This storm water project is a combined effort with the City of Canon City and Fremont County is contributing $200,000 of Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funds towards this project, which runs just north of East Main Street down the west side of Rhoades Avenue. I believe this will be money well spent, as the flood of September of 2015 through this area severely impacted not only Rhoades Avenue and businesses along East Main, but the Sherrelwood and Cranberry Park subdivisions as well.

While the bulk of our time is spent on working on variances to present to the State of Colorado due to Covid-19, we are still working on a plethora of projects, both large and small for the citizens of Fremont County.

Tim Payne,

Fremont County Commissioner, District One.

Public Land

Wikipedia’s definition of a Range War: A range war is a type of usually violent conflict, most commonly in the 19th and early 20th centuries in the American West. The subject of these conflicts was control of "open range", or range land freely used for cattle grazing, which gave the conflict its name. Typically they were disputes over water rights or grazing rights and cattle ownership. Range Wars may still exist today, but not necessarily with violent conflict. Today the conflict is between Cattle Ranchers and outdoor recreation.

The total land in Fremont County is 981,800 acres. The total acreage of Public Land within Fremont County is over 54%. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and United States Forest Service (USFS) consist of 455,300 acres. The State Land Board has control over 65,557 acres of Trust Lands and Wildlife Areas. Several hundred acres owned by Canon City include: Red Canyon Park, Temple Canyon Park, the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, Skyline Drive and the other parks inside the city limits. Both Florence Mountain Park as well as some smaller parks within Florence city boundaries and Fremont County’s 4 parks, Pathfinder Regional Park, B.F. Rockafellow Ecology Park, Western Fremont County Park, and Col Leo Sidney Boston War Memorial Park.

With all of this public land we certainly have a large area for outdoor recreation. While outdoor recreation is a huge part of our economy bringing in folks from all over, we have to keep in mind some of these lands are used for other purposes. Much of the Federal and State land is leased to Cattleman for their cattle to graze. Grazing the land helps conserve the land and lessens wildfire fuels. Some land is leased for mineral extraction. Tons of gravel and rock are mined for use on our roads, buildings and landscaping. Hunting on the public lands brings in hundreds of people and thousands dollars every year.

Over the last several years we have seen a huge increase in hikers and bikers using the public land right alongside of the cattle and the wildlife grazing. I expect we will continue to see an increase in people enjoying the open public lands we are so lucky to have in our back yard. It is more important now the ever that the multi-use of these public lands be done with respect. Not only for the land, but for other users as well. It is valuable to stay on existing trails with bikes or all-terrain vehicles, also pick up and carry out any trash, (pack it in-pack it out). If the gate was closed when you got there make sure it is closed while you are there and when you leave. Now I know you may encounter a “cow pie” on the trail once in a while but remember it is all natural. Let’s all get along and not have a Range War!

With all the open public land we have in our back yard, let’s all get along and get out and enjoy what God has created.

Dwayne McFall

Fremont County Commissioner District 3

Working With the White House

Working With the White House

 

All three Fremont County Commissioners recently joined historical discussions with officials at the highest levels at the White House in Washington, D.C.

For the first time in history, all 580,000 County Commissioners across the United States were invited to participate in in a three-year, ongoing series of State Leadership Days under President Donald Trump. Colorado Commissioners joined other participants from the seven-state Western Region in September.

This event allowed us a unique, bipartisan opportunity to discuss challenges we all share. We not only listened to presentations from federal officials, but we also had the opportunity to engage with them and ask questions relevant to all citizens of Fremont County.

Since 2017, 5,213 Republican, Democrat, and Unaffiliated officials joined the unprecedented movement to take our concerns to the White House. The 45 different events held over those three years allowed serious face-to-face communications and professional relationships that are essential to build strong intergovernmental partnerships.

Vice President Mike Pence addressed our group and said six million new jobs have been created in this country since President Trump took office. He said the current administration is focused on investment in infrastructure, workforce, and safety. We were most pleased to hear the White House believes in empowering local communities, an issue we all focus on every day.

Because the Western Region encompasses most federal lands in the United States, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt also spoke during our session. He discussed current difficulties with attracting high-ranking agency staff to live in Washington and the administration’s efforts to move the positions where the jobs are. That effort created the Bureau of Land Management federal headquarters move from Washington to Grand Junction, Colorado. Bernhardt, a Colorado native, also said more people are working now than ever before.

Following the conclusion of State Leadership Days, Bernhardt said he appreciated the opportunities to visit with and learn from leaders across the country.

“Their input and insight are invaluable in our work and service to the American people,” Bernhardt said.

During the event, we also heard other officials discuss current administration priorities, including shared stewardship of federal lands, combatting the opioid crisis, permanent funding for Payment in Lieu of Taxes, facilitating infrastructure development and rural prosperity, promoting economic and workforce development, and improving disaster recovering and resilience.

Perhaps one of the most interesting topics was the Selective Service System. Director Don Benton said men are registered to require before the age of 26 or face lifetime consequences. If not registered after the age of 25, men cannot be employed by the federal government or by federal contracting agencies including UPS and FedEx. About 50 percent of all states have adopted the same policies, so unregistered men also would not qualify for state jobs. In addition, there are no federal grants for college for men who have not registered. He said this equates to more than $10,800 in lost financial aid and other funding per person that would otherwise be available.

Most registrations – a full 92 percent currently – take place online, at www.sss.gov. Benton said kids who drop out of high school are at the biggest risk for not registering.

“It takes 45 seconds to save a man 45 years of heartache,” Benton said.

In addition to all the discussion, I believe one of the most important pieces of information we received was a list of contact information for many of the folks in White House Intergovernmental Affairs, allowing us to contact any of them in the future for one-on-one discussions.

Casey Hammond, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior, told us to use that contact information when the need arises.

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” Hammond reminded our group. “If you have to, knock twice.”

Armed with the information we received during State Leadership Days, the Fremont County Commissioners are now more prepared than ever to work with the current administration in moving local priorities forward.

Debbie Bell is the Fremont County Commissioner for District 2. She can be reached at debbie.bell@fremontco.com.

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