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Our Indomitable Spirit

We are fortunate to have a great group of local ministers and clergy who start each of our formal Fremont County Board of Commissioners meetings with a brief prayer.

Tuesday’s prayer from Tom Kilgore of the Connect Church especially hit home for me.

He started by praying, “Thank you for the indomitable spirit of the citizens of Fremont County, as we end one year and look forward to another. Success is surrounding us and is on the horizon, as well.”

The New Year is the perfect time to ponder what that means, and how it reflects on all of us. Because the people of our shared community truly are incredible.

We come together in a crisis. Rather than meekly folding inward and choosing sorrow, we bravely look outside of ourselves to offer what help we can. We step up. We love each other well.

Fremont County citizens come together in a crisis. We have had more than our share of catastrophes over the past few years; floods, fires, extreme drought, blizzards, and more. I used to joke that all we needed was a good plague to check all the Biblical boxes for disasters, but almost two years ago we also were hit with that particular strike of lightning.

I didn’t realize how close I came to inviting disaster. It wasn’t funny, and I’ll never say that again.

But the COVID-19 crisis did open my eyes to just how invincible and steadfast we are as a community. Together, we’ve got this.

Throughout the recent health crisis, I’ve seen folks step up to help others in ways I’ve never imagined. We support each other in every way possible.

We eat out more to keep our local restaurants open, even placing to-go orders when we couldn’t dine in.

We shop local to keep our stores afloat, finding gems we never imagined were hidden here in our own backyard.

We find ourselves shopping for groceries to deliver to our more frail neighbors who are afraid to venture out on their own.

We originate new social media sites devoted to helping each other through the rough times.

But the fact is, our spirit far surpasses our response to the pandemic.

This strength of character doesn’t end! In every harmful, sad or negative situation, someone is there to lend a helping hand.

Most recently, the fierce winds that shook all of Colorado didn’t shake the Fremont County spirit. Neighbors were chasing trash cans and trampolines down the street; strangers were offering to fix downed fences to hold in pets and livestock; others were offering cold storage or food preparation when the power was out.

Like Mr. Rogers said, scary things happen. He said when he was a child, his mother told him, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

That’s Fremont County in a nutshell. And it’s only one reason I love my home community so very much.

To all of you helpers, thank you. Thank you for your indomitable spirit, your optimistic attitude, your eager willingness to help. You do not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

You make us all proud.

Debbie Bell is the District 2 Fremont County Commissioner.

Post-Election Blues

This week marked another election day come and gone. And now the post-election blues start settling in. Some of your candidates won. Some of your candidates lost. The ballot issue you feverishly toiled over may have gone down in flames or the one that nobody gave a chance may have shocked everybody and passed. But in any case, the hype and excitement seem to have vanished into the void.

Of course your attention may have been on larger events in Virginia or New Jersey and not so much on the local fare. You may be reacquainting yourself with the current nuanced terminology of the political prognosticators such as bellwether, harbinger, and precursor - terms that lay claim to a knowledge of the political future that none actually have that use them.

But the real question for each of us after November 2 is: Now what?

Regardless if you were pleased with the results, disappointed, or had mixed feelings the real question is where do we go from here. For those who won their council races, school board races, etc. the answer is generally pretty clear. Govern.

Do the job your constituents tasked you to do. Seems simple enough, right? Let’s talk in a few months on that and see how easy you think it is then. None of you has an easy job. You will never please everybody. In fact, if you try you will only achieve the opposite. You have a vision. Work for it.

For those of you who came up on the short end of the results do not be discouraged. Stay involved. There are people out there who gave you something very sacred on Tuesday: their vote. They trusted you and believed in you and your cause. Stay in the game. They need you. We need you.

For those who lost on ballot issues it’s time to step back, assess, analyze, and reassess what happened and where to go from here. How do you reframe the issue, find alternative methods of funding, or make a better case that the voters can relate to and adopt as something they need? For those who prevailed it is time to implement and realize the dream for which you have striven and campaigned.

Whatever side you may have come down on in this election remember that campaigns are over and the real work begins.

And take solace in the fact that another election has come and gone without revolution, the democratic process still works, our republican form of government is still in operation, and we all still have the privilege of living in the greatest nation on the face of the earth.


Kevin Grantham, Commissioner District 1

Transportation Bait and Switch

Last month Commissioner Bell wrote an excellent summary on several of the key pieces of legislation from the 2021 General Assembly that will negatively impact our pocketbooks.

One of those was the so-called Transportation Bill, Senate Bill 260. This bill is a $3.8 billion boondoggle of fee/tax increases in addition to more than $1.4 billion of general fund transfers over the next 10 years. Only a third of the new fees are scheduled to actually go to the State Highway Fund.

Make no mistake, these new fees/taxes will be coming from your pockets without your permission as required in our Constitution. They will be called Retail Delivery Fees, Per Ride Fees, EV Registration Fees, Equalization Fees, Commercial EV fees, Road Usage Fees, Rental Car Fees, and Bridge and Tunnel Impact Fees. These “fees” will then fund four new enterprises which are created in order to do a cute little end run around the intent of the voters who passed Proposition 117 in 2020.

In addition to these new taxes, the bill repeals SB17-267 and thereby increases the TABOR Revenue Cap by nearly $225 million. SB17-267 lowered the cap (tax decrease) and 21-260 repeals that (tax increase). And again, all without the consent of you, the voter.

SB17-267, along with SB18-001, were meaningful bipartisan solutions which made long term investments in our roads and bridges. Both were repealed in SB260. Additionally, SB17-267 would have generated $2 billion explicitly for road projects in only four years with no new taxes.

In only two years, SB18-001 sent $501 million to the State Highway Fund outright, and with passage of a ballot measure that should have gone to the voters in 2019, the bipartisan bill could have generated $1.3 billion in transportation bonds, and transferred $79.5 million annually to the SHF. Even if voters had rejected the ballot measure, $50 million would still have been transferred to the SHF annually. It would have been your choice.

All of that was without a fee or tax increase and would have asked for taxpayer permission for bonding. But the legislature delayed the ballot measure in 2019, again in 2020, and then fully repealed it in 2021, passed the fee increases, and took away the ability of the taxpayer to weigh in on the matter.

And those measures they repealed were bipartisan pieces of legislation accomplished in a split legislature. And many of the legislators who voted for these bipartisan bills in 2017 and 2018, and campaigned on those votes for reelection in 2018, also later voted to repeal them with their yes vote on 21-260.

And that is the bait and switch. Bipartisan solutions without tax increases thrown aside in favor of unconstitutional “fee” increases which by a two-to-one margin fund pet projects, green initiatives, and multimodal/transit projects. None of these repair any roads, build any new lane miles, relieve any congestion, or benefit Fremont County and rural Colorado in any way.

The third of the projected revenue that is set aside for the State Highway Fund is ultimately less money than what was potentially available thru 17-267 and 18-001. Additionally, the new legislation allows the State Highway Fund to be used for multimodal projects, thereby reallocating even more money that would otherwise go to our roads.

When Coloradans realize that they are paying more for less and that they were not even allowed to vote on it as is their right, I sincerely hope they express their displeasure at the ballot box. I will.


By Kevin Grantham, Commissioner District 1


An important part of having a functional representative government is having on open, transparent, and responsive government. While none of us can be perfect at that, all of us at the county strive toward that goal. We’ve recently made some positive changes to be more transparent and to help keep you better informed of the decisions we make at the county.

One of the things I noticed after taking office was the public’s lack of online access to the many documents that I and my fellow commissioners use to base our decisions on for our bi-monthly meetings. All of this documentation has always been available to the public by request here at the County building but was not readily available online.

That has now changed. As we set our agenda for upcoming meetings the documentation will become available online so that you can review the very same things we look at and that we vote on before we vote on them.

If you want to see the detailed list of the bills we approve to be paid with your tax dollars, you now have online access. If you want to see the language of a proposed resolution, you can. If you want to see the documentation for a public hearing we have scheduled, you can also see that. Virtually everything that we see you can now peruse from the comfort of your own home.

To access this information on our website go to, navigate to the Commissioners page and then select the “Meeting Agendas and Minutes” link. This page will show a list of the Commissioner meetings, the agenda, minutes, and all the additional files available for review. Surf and enjoy this new element of transparency between you and your government.

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

By Kevin Grantham, Commissioner District 1

We Want to Hear From You

Fremont County has $9.3 million to spend, and we want your input on how it can best be utilized for our entire community.

Although your three Fremont County Commissioners continue to question the wisdom of the $1.9 trillion stimulus package known as the American Rescue Plan Act, it did bring a windfall to not only Fremont County but to our local cities and towns, as well.

These funds have been described repeatedly as “transformational” and “once-in-a-generation.” With help from our entire community, we can pull together a plan to create a legacy that our children and grandchildren will enjoy for decades to come.

Intended to speed up recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing recession, ARPA funding must be utilized according to the multitude of restrictions laid out by the federal government.

Primarily, the funding should boost recovery from the pandemic, address its ongoing economic fallout, and lay the foundation for a strong recovery. It also is intended to address systemic public health and economic challenges.

The funds provide substantial flexibility for each government to meet local needs. They also can be used to make necessary infrastructure improvements in water, sewer, and broadband.

While the county does have until the end of 2024 to commit the funding, the countdown has begun and the clock is ticking. We have legitimate needs in many county offices and departments, including the Sheriff’s Office and Public Health and Environment to name just two, but we also are making strides toward bringing broadband to unserved or underserved places in Fremont County.

We think that’s exciting, but we also know there is much more work to be done.

Since we are looking to piece together the strongest plans and projects for these funds, we want to hear from you. Big ideas or small, we want to hear them all!

County staff has created a special input page on our web site to gather ideas and feedback on how you want to see this funding spent. Please remember we do have limits – for example, no road repairs or projects qualify. Remember the above guidelines when suggesting ideas.

We continue to familiarize ourselves with the rules, which have yet to be finalized. Anyone interested in the 151-page interim final rules can check them out here Interim Final Rule (

Completing and filing the input form is easy – answer a few questions and click “Submit.”

A link to the input form is found on the home page of Although no final date has been set to accept public input, please remember we do have a time limit and plan to start making decisions soon.

We hope to hear from you soon!

Debbie Bell is the District 2 Fremont County Commissioner.

NACO Conference

Two Fremont County Commissioners just returned from the National Association of Counties Annual Conference following discussion and action on a wide range of topics with other leaders from throughout the country.

County leaders as well as officials from the White House and Congress attended the conference at Prince George’s County, Maryland.

“We are working on issues with other Commissioners from all over the country to become a powerful voice to make our county better,” said Commissioner Dwayne McFall, current board chair. "It is an amazing feeling to know we are making a difference.”

McFall and Commissioner Debbie Bell joined sessions with speakers including U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, and U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

In addition to serving as voting members on different steering committees, the local two officials attended many workshops focused on the American Rescue Plans Act funding. Those funds are directed to solve problems created by COVID-19 as well as infrastructure and other local issues. Fremont County will receive a total of about $9.4 million, and the county is considering broadband and other projects.

Bell serves on the NACo Agriculture and Rural Affairs Policy Steering Committee. She discussed additional broadband issues as well as bio-based products in manufacturing and road materials.

“Allowing us time to delve into a variety of subjects means we bring diverse information back home,” Bell said. “Our time at NACo allows us to dive more deeply into national politics and look at broader issues that affect us all.”

McFall is a part of the NACo Public Lands Policy Steering Committee, which focused on efforts to better manage natural resources, reduce the threat of wildfire, and improve economies in public lands counties like Fremont. He also has been involved with a NACo Broadband Task Force representing both Fremont County and all of Colorado.

“Monday we released a report to push Congress to make high speed broadband available to all at an affordable cost,” McFall said. “High speed broadband is no longer a luxury. It is now an essential.”

Fremont County Commissioners already work through Colorado Counties, Inc. to prioritize issues and lobby state legislators on issues important to all counties throughout the state. Currently serving as CCI President, Bell accepted an Achievement Award for Summit County on its groundbreaking preschool program.

Also a member of Women of NACO’s Leadership Network, Bell was elected to the position of Historian for 2021-22.

“It is truly an honor to be in the same room with so many amazing women leaders,” Bell said. “The power in the room was palpable. I’m excited to serve this group in this way.”

The 2022 NACo Annual Conference is coming to Colorado. Adams County won the bid and will host the event July 21-24 next year. It is expected to bring an economic impact of more than $70 million to Colorado. For more information visit

Vaccination Data Inaccuracy Press Release

Inaccuracy Within Fremont County Vaccine Data

FREMONT COUNTY- According to the Colorado COVID-19 Vaccination Data dashboard, only 37.5% of the eligible population in Fremont County has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Fremont County Department of Public Health and Environment (FCDPHE) and the local Board of Health disagree vehemently with these numbers, and are working tirelessly to advocate the state to have them corrected.

Offenders in the 6 Department of Corrections and 4 Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities are counted in the county’s base population. However, inmate vaccine data is not being reported in Fremont County’s vaccination rates. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), offenders have been required to report their home address when vaccinated instead of the local facility address where they are currently residing. This means offenders living in Fremont County correctional facilities who are vaccinated are not counted in Fremont County’s vaccination rate. Approximately 7,400 offenders currently are housed in Fremont County correctional facilities.

As of June 9th 2021, the Federal Correctional Complex in Florence reported that 62% of offenders, 1,444 individuals, have received at least one dose of vaccine. Unfortunately, even though requested repeatedly, vaccine data for offenders in the Colorado Department of Corrections facilities in Fremont County has not been provided to FCDPHE.

Fremont County officials have repeatedly asked the state to correct these inaccuracies by including the vaccinated offenders who reside in Fremont County in our vaccination rate, or by taking the offender population out of our base eligible population rate.

“Fremont County consistently hovers at the lowest levels of vaccination rates,” said Kayla Marler, FCDPHE Director. “Those numbers are wrong. They are not scientific. They must be corrected, but we continue to hit a wall when we ask for resolution. This shouldn’t be that difficult.”

“Our residents need to know we are doing much, much better than the state’s numbers indicate,” Marler said. “Our citizens have done an excellent job with the vaccination, and we thank you all for your diligent efforts.”

Prepare to Pay

When the Colorado State Legislature adjourned a couple of weeks ago, it allowed your Fremont County Commissioners and many others to finally breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Over many months, we spent countless hours, often full days, working with other counties through Colorado Counties, Inc., to figure out how certain bills might affect our taxpayers and citizens. We then lobbied long and hard – sometimes successfully, sometimes not – asking our legislators to cast their votes according to the good or harm each bill might cause.

Overall, CCI took a position on 126 bills of the 623 introduced by state lawmakers in 2021. Of those 126, Commissioners statewide voted to either support, oppose, or amend 81, leaving the other 45 as a “neutral position” or monitor only. Of those 81 where we took a position of action, 74 landed where we wanted them to. That means CCI found a success rate of 91 percent in 2021, of either helping pass the bill or helping kill it.

Of the 623 bills introduced this legislative session, a total of 503 were passed and sent to the Governor for his signature. That number is fairly high, but not unusual in a year with a single party ruling both the Colorado Senate and Colorado House.

Because rural Colorado, including Fremont County, is highly conservative but our state legislature is fairly liberal, there were many, many ideas we fought against this year. Here are only a few that your local Commissioners battled long and hard, unsuccessfully.

SB21-260, Sustainability of the Transportation System, is a $5.3 billion package that found creative ways to levy new fees in an effort to dedicate funding to the statewide transportation system. The bill itself has lots of nice language about a sustainable system and expanding infrastructure and clean fleets, as well as environmental impacts and health impacts.

Prepare to pay, folks.

Many of us, including your three Fremont County Commissioners, opposed this bill from the start. Voters have repeatedly said “NO” to various ballot measure to fund transportation, as is our privilege through the Taxpayers Bill of Rights. However, this particular legislature decided they know better than the voters do, and felt it necessary to bypass our votes to fulfill their dream vision of a futuristic transportation system for all.

Instead of calling the funding mechanisms the taxes that they are, they decided to call them “fees,” meaning the voters no longer have a say. Instead, we all have to pay.

It will begin with an increase of 2 cents per gallon on fuel, with gasoline taxes eventually rising to an additional 8 cents per gallon. CCI was a major player in stopping diesel increases at 2 cents rather than the original proposal of the 8 cents per gallon, which would have effectively killed the entire agricultural industry throughout Colorado.

It will continue with new “registration fees” to be collected at the county level through license plates. You’ll be paying these “fees” every year with your plate renewal for years to come. Oh, and don’t forget the new retail delivery fees, higher car rental fees, and more. These “fees” now are tied to inflationary indexes, to adjust automatically as prices go up.

There were a couple of other terrible bills you also should be aware of.

SB21-256, Local Regulation of Firearms, now allows all local governments to enact their own laws governing or prohibiting the sale, purchase, transfer, or possession of a firearm. Local governments include not just municipalities and counties, but all Special Districts, such as Fire Districts, Recreation Districts, and Library Districts.

Imagine driving across Fremont County to learn the gun you were legally carrying in one space suddenly was illegal as you crossed an imaginary line into a special district. Now, imagine multiplying that confusion by as many special districts and other government agencies that exist across the entire State of Colorado. Sound complicated? It will be.

HB21-1286, Energy Performance for Buildings, now requires existing buildings of more than 50,000-square-foot, or any building with a construction or renovation cost in excess of half a million dollars, to demonstrate compliance with energy performance standards. Those new standards don’t even exist yet, but will be developed by 2023. Owners of those buildings are required to submit annual energy usage reports to the state’s Energy Office, and those deemed to be out of compliance with the new standards will be hit with financial penalties.

One of our main concerns with this particular piece of legislation is its exemption of penalties for all publicly-owned buildings. This exempts not only county buildings, but all state buildings, as well. And the government owns some of the biggest buildings in the state – think about the size of Colorado Department of Corrections prisons.

This is yet another burden placed on the backs of business owners, while your government gets to look the other way. What’s good enough for our businesses should be good enough for our governments. This is another business-killing piece of legislation.

The last bad measure I’ll mention here is SB21-249, the Keep Colorado Wild Annual Pass. This measure requires every County Clerk across the state to collect fees for an annual state parks pass on every single licensed vehicle, whether the owner wants the pass or not. Yes, there is an opt-out consideration, but how many folks will know that and understand it?

We don’t all use the state parks system. We don’t all want annual passes, but now they are being forced upon us for all the funding this will generate for the state. And just imagine, a business that owns 25 vehicles now will be the proud owner of 25 identical parks passes… bought and paid for, even if they don’t want them… unless they remember to opt out.

Although counties are authorized to retain a portion of the new revenues to cover its collection costs, the remainder of this new fee will be remitted to the Colorado Department of Revenue at least monthly.

Personal choice is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Remember these few examples when you cast your ballot in statewide elections next year.

Your County Commissioners will continue fighting for you at every turn. But sometimes, sadly, it’s just not enough.

Debbie Bell is the District 2 Fremont County Commissioner. She also serves as the 2021 CCI President.


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.