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To Preserve and Protect

Although Fremont County continues to work on closing out year-end 2018, many exciting projects already are complete. Here is an update on just a few of those, including steps taken to preserve and protect the county’s assets.

The Phantom Canyon tunnel repair project is complete, using a $100,000 Department of Local Affairs grant and another $150,000 in county funds. One of the two tunnels on Phantom Canyon Road had structural damage, and without repair, the road eventually would have been closed to the many tourists and workers that drive it every day. Now it is reopen and once again seeing a steady stream of traffic.

A major reroofing project on the west end of the County Administration Building was completed last year. This was a massive undertaking, as it appeared to be the first actual complete renovation of the area in more than 50 years, instead of simply applying another new layer over the old. Workers removed multiple layers of old, deteriorated roofing materials before installing the new protective covering.

The County unveiled a brand-new, clean Web site at Information technology technician Jon Grayson designed the new look to be attractive and user-friendly. In part because of his hard work on the project, Jon was named 2018 Fremont County Employee of the Year.

We created a new position of drainage maintenance equipment operator in our Department of Transportation to coordinate and resolve flooding issues. Prevention efforts included the construction of cross pans on County Road 132, CR45 and CR28. Culverts were installed on both CR45 and CR2 to also aid in directing water flow. Last year saw major flooding following heavy downpours, and county crews quickly cleared Chandler Creek drainage as well as Ninth Street and 15th Street following those floods.

Much work took place in 2018 at the Col. Leo S. Boson War Memorial Park near the Fremont County Airport. Workers installed additional gravel and a drip watering system. Dead trees were removed and new trees planted in their place. Another new interpretive panel also was placed to express gratitude to early donors to the park effort. And, an Upper Arkansas Area Council of Governments mini-grant, plus a local match, allowed the county to install a shade structure over the In God We Trust “penny project,” to protect the fragile display from deteriorating in the strong Colorado sun. This spring, some native grasses will be planted and a thorough cleaning of the military displays will take place.

The year also saw serious grant money awarded to Fremont County.

The Hayden Pass Fire, ignited by lighting on July 8, 2016, burned about 16,000 acres of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. Most of that fire remained on U.S. Forest Service Lands south of Coaldale. Subsequent heavy rains and flooding wiped out roads, driveways, a dam, access to homes, and at least one home itself. Roughly $3.5 million in recovery funds have been secured to mitigate the flooding issues there.

Fremont County secured a $600,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant over three years to assess land previously used for industrial or commercial uses, which may have been contaminated with hazardous waste or pollution. Once cleaned up, those areas can become host to new business development. The County currently is working with its partners, the City of Cañon City, the City of Florence, and Fremont Economic Development Corporation, to finalize members of a Community Advisory Committee that will help this major project move forward.

The County also secured $200,000 in an Underfunded Courthouse Grant to finish an official courtroom at the Judicial Building. We now are awaiting the results of additional grant requests to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs Energy and Mineral Funds to finalize those renovation plans.

The Fremont County Commissioners will release the full 2018 Accountability Report next month. It will include much more detail from departments and other elected officials. That annual report, begun in 2013, is just one part of the county’s continued effort to keep our citizens informed and to hold ourselves to the highest standards in accountability, responsibility, and reliability.

Debbie Bell is the Fremont County Commissioner for District 2. She can be reached at

Annual Budget

The annual budget is the County’s most important financial management document. It is a financial road map for the coming year for all of the various departments and offices. The budget process is a joint effort between the Commissioners the department heads, and the other elected officials to maximize services in the most efficient way possible. According to state statute, the Board of County Commissioners has exclusive power to adopt the annual budget for the operation of the county government, including all offices, departments, boards, commissions, other spending agencies of the county government and other agencies which are funded in whole or in part by county appropriations.


This time of year the County has to go through the budget process preparing its budget for the fiscal year which begins January 1 and concludes December 31. Colorado Revised Statutes mandate the Board of County Commissioners to provide Law Enforcement, Courtroom and Court facilities, a Department of Human Services, and a Department of Public Health. Also under State Statute: We must provide a Road and Bridge Department, as well as staff a Planning and Zoning Department and Building Department for dealing with land uses. There are, of course the other Elected Officials and their staff: Assessor, Treasurer,

County Clerk & Recorder and Coroner.


The first State mandated deadline is on October 15th. This is when the Finance Officer must submit a proposed budget to the County Commissioners. The Commissioners must then publish a “Notice of Budget” upon receiving the proposed budget, this notice states the date and time of the hearing at which the adoption of the proposed budget will be considered. After the October 15th deadline and the proposed budget is submitted, the next sixty days are spent fine tuning the budget for the final budget to be ratified by the end of December.


All costs of doing business continue to rise for government just as they do for other businesses and private individuals. The County has to purchase supplies, insurance, utilities, food, and equipment. These costs have perpetually increased without corresponding revenue increases.

Businesses may pass along these increases to their consumers, but the County does not have this option.


The goal of the County Commissioner is to end the year with a healthy reserve fund balance for those unexpected or emergency situations. This also help keep stability of the county’s finances. We make every effort to be good stewards of taxpayer money. I can assure all taxpayers that prudent thought and multiple oversight has occurred when making spending decisions. However, government services are not free and the cost of doing business continues to rise.

We are working hard for you, Fremont County!


Dwayne McFall, Fremont County Commissioner, District 3

A Slow but Steady Rise

Many local folks are feeling the effects of a housing shortage, either not finding a place to rent or buy, or perhaps paying much more than they really can afford.

Fremont County recently partnered with Upper Arkansas Area Council of Governments, the Cities of Cañon City and Florence, and a couple of other counties for a formal housing study that truly will tell the story of the types and income levels of housing that are needed here. The study will help attract and entice developers and contractors to build here, because they will have the professional proof that housing desperately is needed.

Even though we continue to see a housing shortage, if construction is any indication of a community’s wellbeing, Fremont County is seeing a slow but steady rise in its economic comfort and security.

Both building permits and construction use tax collections have been on a continuous upswing in the past few years. This year is not only looking good in comparison, but it promises to be the best year in the record books for quite some time.

In an effort to compare actual year-to-year, Fremont County Building Official Mike Cox did some research stretching back a few years for the numbers from January through July, since our latest numbers run through July 31 of this year.

In 2015, through July, the county issued 310 building permits, including 26 site-built dwellings. The valuation of all permits was about $10.5 million; site-built dwellings were valued at almost $6.5 million that year. In 2015 the county collected just over $376,000 in construction use tax.

The following year, in 2016, the county issued 339 total permits through July, including 29 site-built dwellings. The valuation of all permits was almost $11.4 million; site-built dwellings were valued at $6.8 million. And, in 2016, the county collected $389,000 in construction use tax.

Last year, 2017, the county issued more permits at 376 total through July, including 29 site-built dwellings. The valuation of all permits was down just a bit to $11.2 million; site-built dwellings were valued at $5.6 million. And construction use tax collected in 2017 was a whopping $525,078.

This year, through July, the county already has issued 440 total permits, including 39 site-built dwellings. The valuation of all permits is just under $12 million; site-built dwellings are valued at more than $7.2 million. Comparable information on construction use tax in 2018 is not yet available.

It is most interesting to note that the average valuation per dwelling, again January through July, also dropped steadily over these four years. In 2015 the average new home construction was $252,181; in 2016, $237,638; in 2017, $195,292; and in 2018, $185,477 – an almost $67,000 drop in just three years. This indicates the industry trend is toward more affordable housing, which may be a reflection of current consumer needs.

Commercial building permits are much more difficult to compare from year-to-year. For example, one commercial permit alone in 2015 was valued at more than $2.2 million while another, that same year, was $104,000.

However, it is interesting to note that in 2015, the county issued a total of 3 construction permits at a valuation of $2.3 million; in 2016, 24 permits at almost $3.8 million; in 2017, 16 permits at $1.6 million; and so far in 2018, 8 commercial permits at $441,000. Commercial permits range from museums to storage units to reroofing to cabins to toilets. It’s no wonder there is a major difference in year-to-year totals in that category.

As Commissioners, the slow-but-steady rise is the best scenario possible. While not indicative of a boom, which inevitably is followed by a bust, it means our community is building at a rate that is necessary, but sustainable. This is good news for all of us.

Debbie Bell is the Fremont County Commissioner for District 2. She can be reached at

July 2018 County Lines

We are very blessed every day to be able to look out and see the majestic Rocky Mountains. The last month however, has been a smoke-filled view. With massive wildfire burning on every side of Fremont County, the valleys are filled with heavy smoke.

The health and condition of our forests have a great impact on the severity of wildfires. Dead trees can be found throughout the forest. Many of these trees are dying from beetle kill and drought. Fallen trees create fuel for fires and set the stage for insect and disease epidemics. Population growth into wildland areas where structures and other human developments meet or intermingle with wildfire fuels can present other challenges. These few factors can cause a fire to burn longer, do more damage and greatly increase the cost of fire suppression and recovery. With recent fires, many homes have been lost leaving people with no certain future.

Many of these fires are started by lightning, but some are caused by human carelessness. Most counties in Southern Colorado are on stage 2 fire restrictions, this includes Federal lands. Fire restrictions can be found online at There are people who feel they need a campfire and the restriction does not apply to them. Not true, they apply to everyone! With the lack of snow last winter and little to no rain this spring we are experiencing severe to extreme drought conditions. With the hot dry air and winds the fire potential is very high.

Tuesday, July 31, I will host a workshop at the Garden Park Building, 201 N 6th St. in Cañon City for anyone interested. The topic “Agriculture in Disaster” is a preparedness event. Speakers, Nick Striegel-DVM Co. Dept. of Agriculture, Christe Coleman Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and Tim Canterbury, Past President of Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and Rancher, will cover issues related to agriculture involved in disaster to include: livestock evacuation challenges during wildfire, land access and temporary re-entry discussions as well as wide spread disease, blizzard and drought issues. Incident command basic and Incident Management Team operations will be discussed to better understand the response side.

Wildfires can be devastating but homeowners can take steps to protect their property and help alleviate the spread of wildland fires by creating defensible space. Defensible space is the area around a home or other structure that has been modified to reduce fire hazard. Information on how to help protect your structures can be found on

Everyone be smart, be safe and pray for rain.


Dwayne McFall Fremont County Commissioner District 3

Retiring Employees Honored with Resolutions

Linda Smith, second from left, is recognized with a formal resolution for 30 years of dedicated service to Fremont County by Commissioners Dwayne McFall, Tim Payne, and Debbie Bell.

Three long-term Fremont County employees who are retiring received recognition in the form of official resolutions by the Board of County Commissioners during regular session on Dec. 26.

Department of Human Services Director Steve Clifton, DHS Agency Administrator Linda Smith, and Denise Miller all were recognized with a cumulative total of almost 80 years of work at Fremont County.

Clifton began work with Fremont County DHS on Feb. 1, 1994, and had almost 49 years of work and dedication to the field of human services. Smith, a valued employee since Oct. 1, 1987, provided the county with behind-the-scenes expertise in human services and its financial intricacies. Miller worked in various positions throughout the County, including at the Administration Building and at DHS, since Sept. 4, 1991, and retired from her final position at DHS.

All three were honored by the Commissioners for their decades of dedicated service and for making a difference in the lives of Fremont County citizens.

“Thank you,” said Board Chair Debbie Bell. “You will be missed.”

Clifton and Smith worked over the past year on completing a formal transition plan to provide a smooth and seamless shift when incoming Director Stacie Kwitek and her team officially take over on Jan. 1, 2018.

Sid Darden Named 2017 Employee of the Year

Sid Darden was named 2017 Fremont County Employee of the Year during the regular Board of County Commissioners meeting on Dec. 12.

Darden, a 30-year employee of Fremont County, works in the Department of Public Health and Environment. He received multiple nominations and won the honor in a year that saw a record number of nominees. He was cited for his dependability, efficiency, positive attitude, and attention to detail. Earlier this year, Darden stepped in as Acting Public Health Director and served for several months in that capacity.

“His skills do not end with just his office work,” one nomination for Darden read. “He also projects a warm, cheerful attitude to our clients and amongst all of our coworkers. I have seen him resolve conflicts and handle other difficult situations with remarkable patience and admirable tact. In the community he goes out of his way to help people succeed. He loves people, works hard, and always tries to lift the spirits of those around him.”

The Employee of the Year is nominated by county line staff and voted on by the eight Elected Officials. In addition to Darden, other Fremont County employees nominated by their peers are:
Danielle Adamic, Building Department
Don Alder, Department of Transportation
Jerry Alexander, Sheriff’s Office
Lysa Collins, Department of Human Services
Sid Darden, Public Health
Ken Dear, Facilities
Lisa DeLawter, DHS
Krystina DelDuca, Administration
Ken Garrett, Sheriff’s Office
Sean Garrett, Planning & Zoning
Carrie Hammel, Sheriff’s Office
Ryan Hileman, Department of Transportation
Matthew Kay, Public Health
Kate Kirst, Clerk & Recorder
Dan Moon, Department of Transportation
Alberta Newell, Clerk & Recorder
Kara Reichert, DHS
Carie Rutherford, DHS
Alexis Schechter, DHS
Roxanne Schuster, DHS
Kylie Stuard, Assessor’s Office

Congratulations to all!

Extension Agent Honored

Fremont County Extension Agent Tommy Covington, right, receives the prestigious Alton Scofield Award from Bill Nobles, Peaks and Plains Regional Director for CSU Extension.

Fremont County Extension Agent Tommy Covington recently was recognized for his lengthy, distinguished career in CSU Extension. Covington received the Alton Scofield Award, which recognizes outstanding performance by an Extension professional throughout their Extension career. Throughout his 22-year career in Fremont County, Covington has tirelessly exhibited an unparalleled level of leadership through the County Extension Office, 4-H Programs, and the community at large. His years of energy and effort spent serving the community and the youth of Fremont County extend far beyond his work with Extension. Tommy’s 19 years of service on the Florence-Penrose Re-2 Board of Education, including his many years of service as President of the School Board, serve as witness to his enduring commitment to the education and growth of Fremont County’s young people. The Fremont County Commissioners congratulated Covington on his honor. “We are so proud to work with Tommy on many different levels,” said Commission Chair Debbie Bell. “He truly has earned this. It’s nice to see him receive the recognition he so richly deserves.”

Sobering Center Opening in November

The Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved a contract for services with St. Thomas More Hospital to open the Fremont County Sobering Center. The center will open the first week of November.

The center will offer a safe place for citizens to sober up providing they have medical clearance. The agreement is the result of a year-long effort by community partners including law enforcement, human services, public health, substance abuse specialists and the medical community, especially St. Thomas More Hospital. Currently, those in need of sobriety are directed either to the hospital or the Fremont County Jail, using countless resources that could better be used elsewhere.

The ad hoc group quickly found that a traditional detoxification center was not financially feasible, so began searching for a new idea. The sobering center is a model currently in use in several other communities throughout the United States, but is new to Colorado.

“The most important thing we are going to do is to continue care and offer them a hand in getting – and staying – sober,” said Commissioner Debbie Bell. “Fremont County is providing a Care Manager, a new employee by the name of Pat Cox, who will talk to folks when they’re ready to leave the center.”

Cox also will follow through with clients. He will offer to help them with whatever kind of assistance they might need, whether they are homeless, in need of food or warm clothing, Medicaid, AA meetings, addiction counseling, all the way up to inpatient treatment services. He is making the connections and finding the resources to help folks create a life without alcohol.

“The Sobering Center will be much more than a place to sober up,” Bell said. “We truly believe it will be a place to change lives.”

Sen. Gardner Tours Flood Area

Sen. Cory Gardner, center, tours the Hayden Pass Fire burn scar with Fremont County Emergency Manager Steve Morrisey, left, and Fremont County Commissioner Dwayne McFall. (Photo courtesy Sunny Bryant)

Sen. Cory Gardner toured the Hayden Pass Fire burn scar watershed June 24 with County Commissioner Dwayne McFall and other local officials. McFall organized the tour to seek assistance in receiving federal funds to help pay for flood mitigation efforts in the Coaldale area.

The Hayden Pass Fire burned more than 16,500 acres in July 2016. Parts of the county now are in danger of flash flooding because nearby creeks fill quickly when it rains, and because burned materials wash down and choke culverts and waterways, redirecting water elsewhere. Wildfires not only burn away natural materials that slow the rain down and hold it in place, but they also sear the ground to a hard, baked finish that is difficult for water to penetrate.

The fire mostly burned on federal lands, so Fremont County is seeking federal funding to assist with the aftermath.

More than a dozen homes are in the danger zone. Some of those already have sustained flood damage. Certain projects can be undertaken to mitigate the threat of flooding, but such projects come with hefty price tags the county cannot afford alone. Officials hope Sen. Gardner will pressure federal agencies to assist with funding the projects. The cost to clean the area affected by the burn scar and flash flooding is estimated at $2.5 million.

Others on the tour included Sheriff Jim Beicker, Fremont County Emergency Manager Steve Morrisey, and Fremont County Manager Sunny Bryant.

Fire Protection, Zone Change and More Approved

Four public hearings brought little citizen comment as the Board of County Commissioners approved a quarry, an outfitter business, a fire protection garage, and a zone change during the May 23 meeting.

Yevoli Cobblestone Pit, located southeast of Florence, received a Conditional Use Permit to quarry and haul stone. A maximum of 10 trucks per day are allowed during the operating hours of 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Loco Mountain Outfitters came into compliance with a Special Review Use Permit to continue its operation southwest of Texas Creek. The business uses an existing ranch house as the base camp for guided hunting trips for a capacity of six hunters and three guides two months each year.

Deer Mountain Fire Protection District will build a new, heated garage for fire equipment in the Indian Springs Subdivision. The 1-acre site recently was given a subdivision waiver and approval for fire use by the Commissioners. The existing garage will remain.

Journey Quest, a nonprofit rafting and outdoor wilderness ministry, received a zone change from Agricultural Forestry to Rural Highway Business for property near U.S. Highway 50 and County Road 27 near Texas Creek. The parcel is 6.29 acres and lies along the banks of the Arkansas River.

In other business, the Commissioners:

-       Proclaimed May 29 through June 4, 2017, as Family Safety Week in Fremont County.

-       Adopted the Community Wildfire Protection Plan for Indian Springs.

-       Accepted a proposal from Armstrong Consulting for Engineering and Planning Services at the Fremont County Airport for a five-year term.

-       Renewed Optional Premises Cultivation license for Cˆ3 Colorado Springs for a grow located at 685 Highway 115 #B.

-       Ratified the chairman’s signature on Change Order 29 for the Fremont County Justice Center Kitchen ad Laundry remodel. The change saved the county more than $14,500.