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Detention Center Renovations Complete

BEFORE: The kitchen space at the Fremont County Detention Center before renovation.

AFTER: The kitchen space at the Fremont County Detention Center after renovation.

Commercial laundry facilities replaced old, worn-out appliances at the Fremont County Detention Center. Photos courtesy Sarah Mattot, Cañon City Daily Record

New kitchen and laundry facilities at the Fremont County Detention Center have replaced worn-out, 30-year-old appliances, plumbing, and more.

The renovations, at a cost of about $2.5 million, were paid for by the voter-approved sheriff’s sales tax. During the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Feb. 3, Sheriff Jim Beicker specifically thanked the voters for their support.

Undersheriff Ty Martin was instrumental as county project manager in seeing the renovations to completion. Overseen by general contractor Nunn Construction of Colorado Springs, the project included demolition to the dirt and then all new flooring, some new walls, plumbing, refrigeration, new appliances, and commercial laundry facilities. The space was expanded to make room for the processes necessary for the safe and secure operation of the detention center.

Renovations were required because standing water had destroyed much of the flooring and caused mold and rust problems throughout the kitchen. Many of the appliances were worn and unable to keep up with the demand to feed up to 230 inmates three times a day. In addition, thousands of pounds of laundry are cycled through the jail each day.

Sheriff Beicker also thanked the City of Florence, which provided kitchen facilities, and the Colorado Department of Corrections, which provided laundry services during renovations.

The Sheriff and his staff now are making preparations to update the jail security systems including cameras, doors, and control rooms.

Vital Statistics Registrars Receive Five Star Performance Award

From left: Rick Miklich, Fremont County Public and Environmental Health Director, recognizes his team of Registrars, Christina Taylor, Paula Spurlin, and Matthew Kay, office manager. The team received recognition for their exceptional work with the 2016 Vital Statistics Five Star Performance Award from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

For the fourth year in a row, Fremont County Public and Environmental Health brought home a Five Star Performance Award for its outstanding work in Vital Statistics. The honor is given annually by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Director Rick Miklich shared the 2016 award during the Jan. 24 Board of County Commissioners meeting. He introduced the team that earned the honor, Registrars Matthew Kay, office manager; Paula Spurlin, and Christina Taylor.

Miklich said the department must excel in a demanding audit to earn the Five Star rating. He explained that vital statistics records, including birth and death certificates, are issued to qualifying people at the office located at 201 N. 6th St., Cañon City, for any birth or death in Colorado, not just Fremont County. People from across the state travel to Fremont County’s Vital Statistics Office to enjoy the prompt, efficient service the registrars offer, Miklich said.

The Fremont County Commissioners congratulated the honorees and said they particularly enjoy recognizing employees for a job well done.

In other business, the Commissioners:

-       Heard an Arkansas River Roundtable report from Gary Barber, Project Coordinator.  He explained several different fire restoration projects that are ongoing.

-       Appointed Jay Adamic to the Fremont County Weed Advisory Board to fill a vacancy with a term expiring Dec. 31, 2019.

-       Reappointed Dave Boden and Rich Thatcher to the Board of Zoning Adjustment for an additional three-year term ending Feb. 28, 2020.

-       Appointed Craig Mayle to the John C. Fremont Board for a five-year term ending Dec. 31, 2021.

-       Heard a report from County Manager Sunny Bryant on recent activities. She said she met with the Commissioners on Jan. 17 for their annual goal-setting session.

-       Heard positive news from Bryant in her monthly Fremont County Sales and Use Tax Report.

Sheriff's Office Deputy Saves Woman's Life

Fremont County Sheriff's Deputy Jeremy Amendola is credited for saving the life of a Cañon City woman on Jan. 17.

The 18-year-old woman reportedly was in custody and about to be transported to the Fremont County Jail, when Deputy Amendola noticed she was slumped over in the patrol car and appeared unresponsive.

Deputy Amendola immediately removed her from the car and attempted to wake her. Because she was unresponsive and has a history of suspected drug use, Amendola immediately administered Narcan to her, a nasal spray that is a reversal agent for heroin and prescription opioid overdoses. Seconds later, she woke up, advised that she had taken a large amount of heroin minutes before her arrest, and was taken to the hospital. The woman was monitored and later deemed safe by medical staff before being transported to the Fremont County Jail.

Fremont County Sheriff’s Office deputies carry Narcan with them daily.

Board Approves MMJ License Renewals

The Fremont County Commissioners approved three renewals of medical marijuana licenses during a special meeting Tuesday, Jan. 16. Those licenses include Fremont Cannabis at 1505 Elm St., Canon City (Medical Marijuana Center-Pharmacy); Today’s Health Care at 934 C St., Penrose (Optional Premises Cultivation-Commercial Greenhouse); and High Mountain Medz at 3000 County Road 103, Florence (Optional Premises Cultivation-Commercial Greenhouse).

The Board also held a public hearing for a Today’s Health Care modification that requested four new greenhouses and the replacement of another, as well as a new framed building for storing, curing, and processing. Seven Penrose residents testified against the expansion during the hearing, objecting primarily to the odor and lights from the current facility. Natalie Romolt, representative for Today’s Health Care, said the modification would provide better odor and light mitigation as well as security for the company. The Commissioners tabled their decision until the Feb. 14 regularly-scheduled BOCC meeting at 9:30 a.m.

Also on the agenda, the Board adopted a resolution stating formal findings and justification of the Fremont County Board of County Commissioners regarding the 2017 budget request of the District Attorney for the 11th Judicial District. Board Chair Debbie Bell noted similar findings by the county never had been done in conjunction with a budget, but the Commissioners hoped to clarify their decision with the resolution.

Jana Rapetti Named 2016 Weed Coordinator of the Year

Fremont County Noxious Weed Manager Jana Rapetti was named 2016 Weed Manager of the Year by the Colorado Weed Management Association. The award was presented by the Board of County Commissioners. From left are Commissioner Dwayne McFall, Jana Rapetti, Commissioner Debbie Bell, and Commissioner Tim Payne.

Jana Rapetti, Fremont County Noxious Weed Manager, was named 2016 Weed Manager of the Year by the Colorado Weed Management Association. The award was announced Tuesday, Jan. 10, during the Board of County Commissioners meeting.

“This award goes to an individual working in any facet of weed management who has done an outstanding job to further weed management in Colorado,” CWMA said. “The individual selected is one who has best achieved success without regard to obstacles.”

Following the award presentation, Rapetti gave her annual update to the Commissioners. She started by thanking the partners her department works with throughout the year, and said without them, her job would not be possible. She announced her department treated 425 acres of noxious weeds in 2016, slightly above the annual average of 400 acres.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the board took care of annual matters by appointing Brenda Jackson as County Attorney; designating four official depositories for the county, including Sunflower Bank of Cañon City, Surplus Asset Fund Trust, ColoTrust, and Bank of the San Juans/Glacier Bank; continued official meetings at 9:30 a.m. the second and fourth Tuesday of each month; and named the Cañon City Daily Record as primary official newspaper for legal notices and Florence Citizen as secondary.

Official posting places for notice of public meetings is two bulletin boards, one outside Commissioner offices at 615 Macon Ave., Room 105, and the second just outside the main (south) entrance for the building. Board Chair Debbie Bell noted meeting agendas as well as minutes also are posted on the county’s Web site,

In other business, the board:

-          Re-appointed Gardner Fey to the Fremont County Planning Commission for an additional three-year term.

-          Re-appointed Gina Grisenti to the 4-H Sales Committee for an additional three-year term.

-          Re-appointed Paul Garrett and Steve Oswald to the Fremont County Weed Advisory Board for an additional three-year term.

-          Appointed Edward H. Norden to the Fremont County Weed Advisory Board to fill a vacancy for a term ending Dec. 31, 2018.

-          Appointed Matt Koch as County Surveyor for a term ending Jan. 8, 2019, and

-          Approved a resolution terminating Conditional Use Permit 98-3 for Energy Fuels Southfield Mine.

Commissioners Take Oath of Office

Commissioner Dwayne McFall takes his oath of office from Municipal Court Judge Richard Mandel while his wife, Kendra, looks on.

Fremont County Commissioners Tim Payne and Dwayne McFall took official oaths of office Tuesday, Jan. 10, in a special ceremony officiated by Municipal Court Judge Richard Mandel. Families of both men attended the event, which was held in Commissioner Chambers at the County Administration Building.

Commissioner Payne was re-elected to his second term in District 1, the central part of Fremont County including most of Cañon City, in November 2016. At that same time, Commissioner McFall was elected to represent District 3, the western part of the county, following his first campaign for public office. He replaced retiring Commissioner Edward H. Norden, who chose not to seek re-election following three terms and 12 years in office.

Following the official ceremony, both were seated for the first Board of County Commissioners meeting of 2017. Commissioner Debbie Bell was named Chair of the Board for the year, while Commissioner Payne became Chairman Pro Tem.

Commissioner Edward H. Norden Chairs Final Meeting

Commissioner Edward H. Norden, center, accepts accolades at his final official board meeting. Fellow Commissioners Debbie Bell, right, and Tim Payne help give him an emotional standing ovation. (Photo courtesy Cañon City Daily Record)

Business turned personal – and emotional – when Commissioner Chair Edward H. Norden conducted his last regularly-scheduled official Board meeting on Dec. 27.

Norden was recognized by Commissioner Debbie Bell with a gavel plaque and a prepared speech. “It’s difficult to find the right words for a send-off that has been, for Fremont County, 12 years in the making,” she said. “Commissioner Norden has meant so much to so many in this county.”

Having served three terms, or 12 years, Commissioner Norden attended 287 regularly-scheduled board meetings and 39 special board meetings. The single meeting he missed was to present a grant application before the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. That application was successful, and the DOLA funds enabled a collaboration to finally offer regional dispatch service throughout Fremont County. He served as chairman of the board for five years. His final gavel plaque included all five years of his service – 2007, 2010, 2011, 2015, and 2016.

“When Commissioner Norden walks out the door for the last time, he will be taking an incredible amount of institutional knowledge with him,” Bell said. “He also will leave with his own particular brand of leadership, standards, values, and so much more that we will miss.” She said future county commissioners would do well to model work habits and ethics after his for the benefit of the entire county.

Accepting the plaque, Norden said the Bible has guided his path throughout his time in office. In particular, he quoted Psalm 121: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.”

In an emotional final statement, Norden said, “Thank you again for the opportunity to serve.” He received a standing ovation from the entire room.

Norden’s final official day is Jan. 9, 2017. A public reception for his retirement is scheduled Thursday, Jan. 5, 3 to 5 p.m. in the atrium of the Administration Building, 615 Macon Ave., Cañon City.

Commissioners OK Amendment to Dispatch Agreement

In preparation for an application by the Fremont E 9-1-1 Authority to seek an increase in 9-1-1 telephone surcharge fees, the Fremont County Board of Commissioners approved another amendment to the Intergovernmental Agreement which created the new combined dispatch center.    The Fremont County Commissioners eventually plan to seek repayment of $100,000 which the county added to matching monies from all the entities in order to secure a higher grant amount from the state to build the dispatch center.   But so far the cities of Cañon City and Florence, the Cañon City Fire District, and the E 9-1-1 Authority have not agreed on language in the agreement of how the $100,000 should be repaid.

To move beyond that obstacle so an application can proceed to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) the Board of Commissioners approved amended language proposed by the City of Cañon City.   The amendment states that the members acknowledge that Fremont County contributed the $100,000 as matching funds and that the entities are currently in negotiations to reimburse the county.   Once all the partners approve the amendment they can approach the PUC in a unified position to request an increase in the Emergency Service Surcharge.   The E 9-1-1 Authority is seeking an 80 cent increase in the surcharge to help fund day to day operations of the new dispatch center and to begin building reserve funds to pay for future capital equipment replacement.

At their December 13th regular meeting the Board of Commissioners also ratified the Chairman’s signature on a pair of change orders for the kitchen and laundry renovation at the Fremont County Jail.   One change order added a cost of $2,826 for some excavation and different food service equipment while the other change order eliminated the need for some steel fencing which actually cut $5,745 from the cost.

In other business at the December 13th meeting the commissioners:

  • Adopted a proclamation declaring December 15 as Bill of Rights Day;
  • Adopted a proclamation declaring 2017 as a Year of Celebration for the United Presbyterian Church of Cañon City in its’ 150th year of ministry;
  • Reappointed Mark Masar to the Fremont County Planning Commission for another three year term ending January 1, 2020;
  • Reappointed Dennis Wied as the Cañon City representative to the Fremont County Planning Commission for a term ending December 31, 2018;
  • Approved adoption of the Fremont County Evacuation and Re-entry Plan along with a Fremont County Debris Management Plan as developed by Emergency Management Director Steve Morrisey;
  • Approved a consulting agreement with Forest Stewardship Concepts to help develop another Community Wildfire Protection Plan;
  • Approved a subdivision exemption for the Union Pacific Railroad which actually benefits the Arkansas Headwaters State Park.   The exemption allows Colorado Parks and Wildlife to purchase 2.05 acres from the Union Pacific on the northwest corner of the Texas Creek bridge over the Arkansas River thus restoring river access on the property for boaters and anglers.

Annette Ortega Named “Employee of the Year”

County Commissioners Tim Payne, Ed Norden, and Debbie Bell present FCDOT Office Manager Annette Ortega with her Employee of the Year citation on December 13th and a $300 check that accompanied the honor  (Photo Courtesy of CC Daily Record)

The Office Manager for the Fremont County Transportation Department has been honored as the county’s Employee of the Year.   That honor went to Annette Ortega who was nominated by a co-worker and then selected by the county’s elected officials.

Ortega is a ten year employee of Fremont County having first started working in the Planning and Zoning Department.   From there Ortega moved to the County Finance Office.   She has been Office Manager at the Road and Bridge Department for nearly seven years.

In presenting the award the Board of Commissioners particularly noted that Ortega was instrumental in documenting and pursuing reimbursement of over $250,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for damages caused during the summer flooding in 2015.   Much of that flood damage occurred in Phantom Canyon which was closed for several months.

County Commission Chairman Ed Norden also noted that Ortega is on the front line handling phone calls and complaints regarding road conditions and that she does so very graciously.

Ortega said she enjoys her job and noted "When everyone works as a team and do what we're supposed to do, that's important, you care about what you're doing, and at the end of the day, you can look back and see what you've accomplished."

District Attorney Argues for 20% Budget Increase

District Attorney Thom LeDoux charged at the November 22nd public hearing on Fremont County’s 2017 proposed budget that it’s the Board of Commissioners responsibility to adequately fund the prosecutions in his office next year or face the reality that he will have to make cuts to service in the four county 11th Judicial District.

LeDoux laid out details of how the caseload of prosecutions in his office has doubled over the last six years.    He said his office which serves Fremont, Custer, Chaffee, and Park Counties is at a breaking point.   LeDoux asked the Fremont Commissioners to reconsider the county’s commitment of funding for his 2017 budget.   LeDoux has asked for a 20 percent increase while the Fremont Commissioners have budgeted a 10 percent increase.   LeDoux said his budget has increased an average of about 2 percent per year since he took office eight years ago, which includes a 9 percent increase last year.

District Attorney Thom LeDoux lays out his demands for a 20 percent budget increase for his office in 2017 at the Fremont County Commissioners' meeting on November 22nd. LeDoux said without the increase his office faces severe budget cuts.  (Photo Courtesy Canon City Daily Record)

The Fremont County level of funding takes into consideration the intent to replace $100,000 LeDoux says his office will lose in revenue in 2017 from providing copies to other agencies along with a 4.45 percent increase.   Of the four counties, Fremont County picks up 55 percent of the total cost of funding the District Attorney’s Office.

LeDoux said Fremont County is obligated to go along with a 20 percent increase in 2017 because the other three counties have agreed to that level of an increase.    Commission Chairman Ed Norden said it was his understanding that the Custer County Commissioners have since changed their mind and agreed to budget a 10 percent increase the same as Fremont.   Norden noted that while the four counties have informally respected a role of one county-one vote to fund the DA over the years, Colorado law is silent about how multiple counties actually arrive at an agreement.   He said giving 10 percent is still going above and beyond what any other department in the county is going to receive in 2017.

LeDoux also took the Fremont Board of Commissioners to task over the one percent increase in sales tax the voters approved three years ago for the Fremont County Sheriff.   LeDoux said "If you increase the funding for the Fremont County Sheriff's Office, then that results in increased case submissions to my office, I have to have additional resources to adequately prosecute those cases.”    But Sheriff Jim Beicker countered that argument saying that the hiring of additional road deputies which might prompt an increase in the Sheriff’s cases for prosecution is just now beginning.    Beicker said he’s spent the first several years of additional funding addressing jail staffing, patrol cars, and the $5 million renovation in the jail’s kitchen and laundry.

LeDoux said the Commissioners have an obligation to take some of the $3.9 million that the Sheriff continues to get from the county’s General Fund and adequately fund his office.   District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said the Board of Commissioners pledged to the voters and the Sheriff in the election three years ago that if the sales tax was approved, the $3.9 million in General Fund dollars would not be shifted to other uses.   The Board of Commissioners said if any of that money is shifted now it would have to come as a recommendation from the Sheriff.

LeDoux added, “I'm telling you, without the proposed budget, it will not last. It has come to a breaking point, just like the sheriff was at the breaking point in 2013. The district attorney's office is at a severe breaking point, and we will be making cuts to services."

Aside from consternation over the District Attorney’s budget, the 2017 budget hearing also brought a question from Cañon City Recreation and Park District Director Jim Hoar about the county’s reserves in the Conservation Trust Fund.   Fremont County’s Conservation Trust Funds, which come from State Lottery proceeds and have restricted uses, shows reserves totaling $527,000 in 2017.   Hoar wanted to know if the county has a multi-year plan for use of those dollars.

Commissioner Bell said the county does indeed have a plan for that money after having spent $80,000 to complete a designed concept plan for development of fairground facilities at Pathfinder Regional Park.    Commissioner Norden added that the county’s intention with that money under the concept plan would be to first construct a multi-use events center followed by a large livestock barn.   Norden said that money would hopefully be used to leverage other grant funds so actual construction could get underway in the coming years.    Hoar remarked that with development of more trails taking place around eastern Fremont County he would hope some of those dollars might be used to support trail efforts.

In other business at the November 22nd meeting the commissioners:

  • Adopted a new set of by-laws for the Fremont County Heritage Commission broadening the requirements for membership on the commission;
  • Approved an agreement between the county and the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience on 8-mile hill providing the new tourist attraction with multiple years of personal property tax credits based upon visitor numbers generated at the attraction;
  • Adopted a resolution designating a number of roads and trails in Fremont County as part of the Pike Trail across southern Colorado where Zebulon Pike traversed over 200 years ago;
  • Approved several change orders for the kitchen and laundry renovation at the Fremont County Jail;
  • Approved a two lot minor subdivision for Collette Divine on 2.8 acres on the northeast corner of Grand and Willow in Lincoln Park;
  • Approved a major modification for the Optional Premises medical marijuana cultivation permit for Maggie’s Farm LLC south of Rockvale.   Maggie’s Farm needed approval to allow the use of 12 metal storage containers for secure drying areas for the marijuana.