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Clerk Reports Large Election Turnout

Fremont County voters wanted their voices to be heard in the national and state election races.   That was the word from Fremont County Clerk and Recorder Katie Barr who reports a large voter turnout.   Barr told the Board of Commissioners at their November 8th regular meeting that 63 percent of mail ballots sent out to voters had been returned.    She said that prior to final voting on election day over 17,000 of the 26,000 ballots that were mailed had been returned.

During the regular meeting the commissioners scheduled a formal public hearing on Fremont County’s 2017 proposed budget for 10 a.m. November 22nd.   A copy of the budget is available for review on the county’s web site at www.fremontco.com.   The Board will hear any comments on the budget and then make any final budget adjustments prior to the scheduled adoption of the budget at either the December 13th regular meeting or a special meeting on December 20th.

The Board of Commissioners authorized change orders for the kitchen and laundry renovation project at the Fremont County Jail totaling just under $13,000.    The change orders involved work on plumbing, cameras, fire sprinklers, and inmate property storage.

In other business at the brief meeting November 8th the commissioners:

  • Appointed Denise Faoro to the Fremont County Fair Sales Committee;
  • Approved an amendment to the operating procedures for the Fremont County Airport Advisory Committee;
  • Adopted a proclamation declaring November 18th as National Adoption Day in Fremont County.

Restaurant License Renewal Deadline Extended

Restaurants across Fremont County accustomed to receiving their restaurant license renewal paperwork in mid-November will see a delay this year.    Fremont County Environmental Health Officer Sid Darden says that due to a change to a database at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment the mailing of restaurant license renewals for 2017 will be delayed by about three weeks.

Darden says that because of the delay in mailings his office will extend the period of compliance into the new year.   Darden says his office will not hold restaurant operators to the typical December 31st deadline to have restaurant license renewals and payments returned.  Darden said Fremont County will accept 2017 restaurant license renewals through the end of January.   Restaurant operators who have any questions can contact Darden directly the Environmental Health Office at 719-276-7450.

Commissioners Lift Moratorium on Medical Pot Licensing

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution amending licensing regulations for medical marijuana businesses in unincorporated Fremont County at their October 25th regular meeting.   The action brought an early end to the two year moratorium on licensing any new businesses.   The moratorium was originally set to expire in April, 2017.

Among the changes in the amended regulations the Board of Commissioners want to encourage any new medical marijuana (MMJ) cultivation businesses to find more rural areas of the county for their operations.    The regulations state that the most desirable sites will be those that are located on a minimum of ten acres and at least 1,000 feet away from any neighboring residence.    During a licensing hearing the Board of Commissioners will also consider nearby incompatible land uses close to MMJ cultivation sites, the vicinity in relation to other licensees, and the proposed size of the operation including marijuana plant counts.

In an effort to provide reasonable yet not burdensome enforcement standards for county code enforcement officers the amended regulations provide that investigations of complaints will be initiated if the complaint comes from a party residing or working within a quarter mile distance of the licensed facility.   Complaints from persons not residing or working within ¼ mile of the facility will be reviewed on a case by case basis.   County Planning Director Matt Koch said the changes should really help his officers with enforcement issues.

It was noted during the meeting that the Board of Commissioners took a lot of heat particularly through social media that Fremont County Cannabis (FCC) had been assured the moratorium would be ending so they could relocate their medical marijuana cultivation operation to Fremont County.   FCC owner Dana Soux apologized to the Board for the harsh criticism after District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell complained that the county was somehow being blamed during the moratorium over the fact that FCC lost their lease for their cultivation property in Chaffee County.

As the Board voted unanimously to adopt the amended MMJ business licensing regulations, Commission Chairman Ed Norden said the regulations will give commissioners a certain amount of discernment in how to deal with new applications, where the grows are located, and how they impact their neighbors.

The October 25th meeting also saw the Board of Commissioners put into place Stage 1 fire restrictions at the request of Sheriff Jim Beicker.   After extremely dry conditions over September and October and with recent wildfires in Custer and Pueblo Counties Sheriff Beicker said until we receive some significant moisture there needs to be restrictions on all open burning in unincorporated Fremont County.   A complete list of Stage 1 fire restrictions can be accessed on the county’s home web page at www.fremontco.com.

In other business at the October 25th meeting the commissioners:

  • Approved a major modification to a Conditional Use Permit for KrauthCo which operates a landscaping quarry for large stone along Red Canyon Road north of Cañon City.   The amended permit allows KrauthCo to expand its operations on a 115 acre site;
  • Adopted a proclamation declaring the month of October as Domestic Violence Prevention Month;
  • Approved change orders totaling $1,289 for the kitchen and laundry renovation at the Fremont County Jail;
  • Approved a transfer of ownership for Play Dirty ATV Tours’ Special Review Use permit from Jackie Tripp to William Scrimshaw and David Pruyne.   Play Dirty ATV operates from a site along US Highway 50 west of Texas Creek;
  • Approved the appointment of Lisa Studts to a vacancy on the Fremont County Heritage Commission.   Studts is the curator of the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.

Commissioners OK Grant Contract for Airport Maintenance

With a brief agenda of business for their October 11th regular meeting the Fremont County Board of Commissioners approved a grant agreement with the Colorado Division of Aeronautics for work to be performed at the Fremont County Airport.    Fremont County receives annual allotments from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for airport projects.    This year the county will receive $260,272 from the FAA representing 90 percent of the cost to perform asphalt maintenance work on the apron and taxiway at the airport.    Fremont County and the State Division of Aeronautics will each pay five percent of the cost amounting to $14,460 each.

The commissioners voted to approve calendars for holiday observances by the county in 2017 adopting two calendars for those working five-day work weeks and one for County Administration Building employees who work four ten-hour days each week.   The calendars reflect that the same holidays will be observed as in the past although those working the four day work week will receive an additional floating holiday in place of observing Veterans Day.    Veterans Day in 2017 falls on a Saturday and the commissioners opted for another floating holiday instead of closing on a Thursday or a Monday.

In other business at the October 11th Board meeting the commissioners:

  • Approved a Special Events Liquor permit for the Fremont Community Foundation as part of the Cañon City Recreation District’s annual Aftermath Halloween event on October 28th;
  • Appointed Keith Berry of Cañon City to fill a vacancy on the Fremont County Heritage Commission;
  • Scheduled a public hearing for 10 a.m. October 25th on a modification to a Conditional Use Permit for KrauthCo Inc. which operates a landscaping stone quarry along Red Canyon Road north of Cañon City.   KrauthCo wants to expand the size of the quarry.

Fair Board Applications Sought

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners is seeking letters of interest from persons to serve on the Fremont County Fair Board.   The Fair Board is comprised of 15 to 20 members whose responsibilities include planning and conducting the annual Fremont County Fair.   The commissioners will be appointing someone to fill an unexpired term and will consider appointing several new members depending on applications received.   Fair Board members serve three year terms.

The Fremont County Fair Board meets the 2nd Tuesday of every month at 7:00 p.m.  Fair Board members also contribute many other hours of volunteer time and labor to organize, supervise, and work alongside other youth and adults in helping set up and conduct various county fair activities.

The Commissioners urge anyone with an interest in 4-H programs, agriculture, gardening, baking, floriculture, livestock, horses, crafts, photography, wildlife, or other interests that may be promoted as part of open class and 4-H programs at the county fair to submit a letter of interest.

Letters of interest should be submitted by mail, email, or in person to the County Administration Office in Room 106 of the Fremont County Administration Building.  The deadline to submit letters of interest to serve on the Fremont County Fair Board is Thursday, November 10th at 12 noon.

CR 40 Closed on Public Lands in Cottonwood Creek

The Bureau of Land Management Royal Gorge Field Office is issuing an emergency closure for Cottonwood Creek (Fremont County Road 40) as a result of potential flooding concerns relating to the Hayden Pass Fire. The road closure begins as CR 40 enters BLM-managed public lands.

“Public safety is our number one concern with this road closure,” said Royal Gorge Field Office Manager Keith Berger. “The post-fire assessment team recommended closure of this road until the threat of flooding in the drainage has lessened.”

The closure only applies to motorized travel and only on that section of CR 40 on public lands.   For more information, contact the BLM Royal Gorge Field Office at 719-269-8500.

Fremont Consumers Recycle Over 4 Tons of TV Sets

An electronics recycling event in Cañon City last month saw consumers deliver more than four tons of old television sets to the recycling effort.   The Upper Arkansas Regional Recycling Program and the Fremont County Commissioners sponsored the September 17th electronics recycling as 14,405 pounds of old computers, monitors, printers, and TV sets were brought in for recycling.   Recycling Program coordinator Beth Lenz said she didn’t have a precise number of television sets delivered but the 9,330 pounds of televisions probably meant that consumers brought in more than 450 TV sets.

The popularity of the electronics recycling event was due in large part to the fact that consumers were able to pay half price to recycle old computer equipment and TV sets.   The discounted recycling price was because of $7,500 the Fremont County Board of Commissioners budgeted in 2016 from the county’s Waste Disposal Fund.   $5,000 of that amount was spent to subsidize the September 17th recycling event in Cañon City while the other $2,500 subsidized a similar event in Florence last April.    The funds originate from surcharges the county gets from waste collected through local transfer stations and the landfill.

Lenz said in addition to electronic items delivered on September 17th some of the subsidy covered the cost of electronic items which were collected due to illegal dumping since the April event.   She said trucks filled up so quickly on September 17th that volunteers spent another day the following week picking up electronics items from people who were unable to drop off their items that day.

Fremont County Commission Chairman Ed Norden said the Board of Commissioners hopes to budget another $7,500 for electronics recycling in 2017.   He said one of the goals was to reduce the amount of illegal electronics dumping on public and private property and that the half price electronics recycling certainly proved to be even more popular than anticipated.

Lenz says besides electronics recycling next year in Cañon City and Florence they will look to offer a similar event in western Fremont County.

Commissioners Criticized Again Over Opening Prayers

The decades-long tradition of opening meetings of the Fremont County Board of Commissioners with an invocation came under criticism again at the September 27th commissioners’ meeting.    Cañon City resident Karen Hunter, who previously took exception to opening meetings with Christian prayers, accused the board of discrimination.   Hunter argued that the county does not comply with the establishment clause of the constitution saying that her research showed that only Christian clergy ever offered a prayer at commissioners’ meetings.

When the board reinstated the invocation following Hunter’s complaints several months ago the Board said any clergy of any denomination is welcome to offer the opening prayer and that the county does not discriminate against any particular religion.    Hunter disagreed in her remarks at the meeting saying further that she has been discriminated against as a non-Christian, as a medical marijuana provider, and as a woman.  Hunter finished her remarks saying “I demand that you cease and desist with your prayer and any idea that discrimination is appropriate in your ordinance writing”.

The Board of Commissioners also approved six change orders for the renovation work underway by Nunn Construction in the Fremont County Jail kitchen and laundry areas.   Three change orders added $16,812 to the cost of the project but two other change orders actually reduced the renovation cost by $23,127.    The net of the six change orders was actually a reduction in cost of $6,315.

In other business at the brief meeting the Board of Commissioners:

  • Reappointed Leonard Mino and Tom Schilf to three year terms on the Fremont County Airport Advisory Committee;
  • Approved a lease agreement for a helibase office space on a lot at the Fremont County Airport with the Colorado Department of Public Use where a modular unit will be set to house the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control;
  • Approved a new hotel-restaurant liquor license for My Sister’s Place restaurant at the corner of US Highway 50 and County Road 3A at the turnoff to the Royal Gorge;
  • Appointed Blaine Heckart to fill a vacancy on the Fremont County Tourism Council;
  • Approved the Moose Point minor subdivision creating two lots on a three acre area on the east side of Locust Street just north of the junction of Highway 115 in the Lincoln Park area.

Planning Commission to Consider Quarry Amendment

The Fremont County Planning Commission will deal with one item of business at their monthly meeting on October 4th.    The Planning Commission will hear a request to modify a Conditional Use Permit held by KrauthCo, a local landscaping company, which operates a stone quarry north of Cañon City.   The modification is for a 115 acre piece of property located one mile north of the junction of Red Canyon Road and Field Avenue.   KrauthCo currently excavates large landscaping rock from the quarry.

The Planning Commission meets at 3:00 p.m. Thursday, October 4th, in the commissioners meeting room on the lower level of the Fremont County Administration Building.

Assessor’s Property Values in Compliance

An annual property assessment study of values and procedures used in the Fremont County Assessor’s Office has resulted in another report showing that Fremont County is in compliance with Colorado law in analyzing property values.   The report issued by the auditing firm of Wildrose Appraisal determined that Fremont County Assessor Stacey Seifert and her staff met the standards of both a procedural and statistical analysis.

The property assessment study covered the 18 month assessment period from January of 2013 through June of 2014.    The study examined procedures the Assessor’s Office used in classifying and valuing commercial property, residential property, agricultural land, vacant land, personal property, and natural resources.   In all categories the audit report found the Fremont County Assessor’s Office to be substantially compliant.    The audit report found compliance in analyzing values of the 784 qualified residential properties sold during that 18 month period, the 35 commercial and industrial sales, and the 117 qualified sales of vacant land.

The assessment study said that Fremont County was tested for the equal treatment of sold and unsold properties to ensure that “sales chasing” had not occurred.    After the auditor used three methods to test those values the report concluded that Fremont County is reasonably treating its’ sold and unsold properties in the same manner.

Fremont County Commission Chairman Ed Norden said it’s important that the citizens of Fremont County recognize that not only does the audit report reflect the fact that Seifert’s Office is complying with state law, but is applying equal and fair treatment to their property values across the county.

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