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Fremont Sheriff Commendations

Deputies Michael Fetterhoff (left center) and Bailey Sandefur (right center) receive their Deputies of the Year Awards from Undersheriff Ty Martin (far left) and Sheriff Jim Beicker (far right) at the May 2nd Awards Ceremony

Fremont County Sheriff Jim Beicker and Undersheriff Ty Martin spent an evening noting the accomplishments of deputies, employees, and supporters at a May 2nd Awards Ceremony at the Holy Cross Abbey.   Sheriff Beicker expressed appreciation for the work that patrol deputies, detention officers, and investigators perform to assure public safety for the citizens of Fremont County.

Among highlights of the commendations at the program Deputy Bailey Sandefur was honored as the Detention Deputy of the Year and Deputy Michael Fetterhoff was honored as the Patrol Deputy of the Year.    Sheriff Beicker said those awards were voted upon by the officers' peers in the department.

Medals of Merit were presented to Deputy William Ownbey, Lieutenant Brent Parker, and Deputy Peter Rasmussen.   Life Saving Medals were awarded to Deputies Jeremy Amendola, Mike Girten, Clint Wilson, Chris Pape; Sergeants Felix Montoya and Justin Green; and Florence Police Officer Shane Espinoza.

Among many other awards presented during the ceremony Sheriff Beicker gave Special Recognition to the Martin Family at the Gooseberry Patch in Penrose for their support to the department through the years.    Sheriff Beicker also singled out Undersheriff Ty Martin for the hundreds of hours the Undersheriff committed to serve as the county’s project manager to coordinate construction and opening of the FreCom joint dispatch center on the 4th floor of the Fremont County Judicial Building.

Investigator Robbie Dodd (right) is honored by Sheriff Beicker with a 20 year service award to the Sheriff's Department.

Commissioners Reject Penrose MMJ Expansion

Citing a large concentration of medical marijuana businesses in Penrose and impacts upon neighbors next door the Fremont County Commissioner denied a request at their May 10th meeting to expand a medical marijuana cultivation business at the former Bikertown in Penrose.   Leif Wagner of Mile High Green Cross had sought a modification to his medical marijuana license to allow for expansion into an existing empty greenhouse in front of the former Bikertown building along Highway 115 as well as building another new greenhouse.

The resolution adopted by the Board of Commissioners in denying the expansion listed a number of findings including neighborhood impacts of marijuana odor to a pair of nearby restaurants and the fact that the Penrose area has an unusually high concentration of medical marijuana businesses.   Residents have repeatedly complained that more marijuana businesses along Highway 115 have a negative economic impact on their community.

The most controversial issue to emerge from the May 10th meeting was consideration by the commissioners to formally go on record in opposition to Amendment 69 on Colorado’s November ballot.  Amendment 69 would create a government run, single payer health care system paid for with $25 billion in new taxes.   Commission Chairman Ed Norden said he requested the agenda item intending to personally voice opposition to the proposed amendment.   Norden said he felt that signing a letter of opposition by the entire board would send an even louder message about how bad the amendment would be for Fremont County and Colorado.

Norden noted that the $25 billion collected under Amendment 69 would not be subject to Tabor limits and it would take Colorado from one of the lowest income tax rates in the nation to among the top ten states for income taxes.   Norden said the biggest unknown if the amendment were to pass is how many jobs could be lost because businesses would close their doors or avoid doing business in Colorado because of the 10 percent increase in payroll taxes.

Upon learning that the commissioners were considering a statement of opposition to Amendment 69, several supporters of the amendment appeared before the board asking them not take a public position or at least delay the matter for more study.   Pastor Bob Kippley said if the rate of cost increases for premiums, co-insurance and deductible continues on the same trajectory it has the last 20 years, many individuals and companies will find paying for health care impossible.   He said a systemic change is needed because of the suffering that the present health care system is causing the citizens of Fremont County.   Doug Smith said that beyond the issues within the amendment itself he believed the board should not take a position on behalf of the citizens of Fremont County and instead simply let the voters decide.

District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said she doesn’t want to see Colorado be a guinea pig for health care, the way it has for legalizing marijuana.   Bell said “Amendment 69 does not give us that freedom of choice, and I am completely against it."

Commissioner Tim Payne said it concerns him that voters won't have an opportunity to make decisions once a 21 member board is seated, and if the amendment is written into the Constitution, it takes away the ability of legislators to tweak it if there is an issue.

The commissioners voted unanimously to write a letter publicly stating opposition to Amendment 69.

In other business at the May 10th meeting the commissioners:

  • Authorized the chairman to write a letter of support for the Upper Arkansas Area Council of Government’s 30 unit housing project that would be built along Justice Center Road.   The project would be targeted to assist homeless people;
  • Approved a modification to the Cranberry Park Planned Unit Development plan along Steinmeier Avenue to permit front setback changes;
  • Approved a professional services agreement with Reilly-Johnson Architects for design work on renovating the kitchen and laundry areas of the Fremont County Jail.   The design work fee will amount to $215,700;
  • Approved a water service agreement with the City of Florence for purchase of a ¾ inch water tap at the Fremont County Airport.   The water tap will serve new office space for the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention which will be headquartering at the airport.

Commissioners Table Decision on Penrose Marijuana Expansion

After listening to more protests from Penrose area residents over impacts of medical marijuana greenhouse operations the Board of Commissioners tabled a decision on whether to permit expansion of a medical marijuana facility next to Highway 115.   Leif Wagner of Mile High Green Cross is seeking approval of a Modification to Premises to permit him to expand with another two greenhouses for indoor medical marijuana grows at 685 Colorado Highway 115, the former Bikertown facility.

At the April 26th public hearing Wagner told the commissioners that he wanted approval to put up a fence around an existing greenhouse to extend the privileges of his current license.   His plan would include operating in an existing greenhouse that is empty and erecting another one next to it.

The previous owner of the empty greenhouse told the commissioners the greenhouse would be dismantled, but it was not ordered by the board.   Commission Chairman Ed Norden said one of the primary reasons he voted to approve the original license was because the marijuana was being grown inside an enclosed space in the former Bikertown structure.

Several Penrose residents echoed similar concerns saying the odor of marijuana can be detected while sitting on the Coyote Coffee Den’s open patio next door.   Tami Mundy said one of her biggest concerns is the increase in transient and homeless people in the Penrose area.    She also expressed concern that the Mile High Green Cross operation is a stone’s throw away from the Penrose Park which attracts a lot of families and young children.

District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said Penrose is being forced to bear a lot of the burden of marijuana.   Bell said she is discouraged over the fact that the flavor of Penrose is changing and that it’s becoming a mecca for marijuana growers.

The commissioners tabled the modification request until their May 10th regular board meeting at which time they plan to detail their findings and render a decision on Wagner’s request.

Another public hearing at the April 26th meeting saw the Board of Commissioners approve a zone change for Bill Balhiser’s property along the south side of Grandview Avenue and west of the intersection of Steinmeier and Grandview.    Balhiser’s 13 ½ acres were never developed into 28 residential lots as part of the original Canon Creek Ranch development.    The commissioners approved a zone change from low density residential to Ag Rural zone district which would allow for some agricultural uses on no more than two lots which will now be created on the property.

In other business at the April 26th Board meeting the commissioners:

  • Approved a $29,050 bid from Patch Construction for work on a low water crossing on County Road 45 in the Coaldale area;
  • Approved a resolution cancelling unpaid personal property taxes for years 2011, 2012, & 2013 at the Creekside Cinema at the east edge of Cañon City.    The commissioners indicated that cancelling the personal property tax debt would enable the new theatre operators to reopen without a heavy tax burden hanging over them;
  • Adopted a proclamation declaring May as Foster Care Month in Fremont County;
  • Adopted a proclamation declaring May as Older Coloradans Month.

Honorees at Head Start Safety Town

Fremont County Commissioner Ed Norden shows his appreciation to Fremont County Head Start Director Jo Beth Palmer on April 19th at Head Start Safety Town. Palmer said with Norden leaving office at the end of this year the staff wanted to note his support of Head Start over the years as a board member of the Upper Arkansas Area Council of Governments.

Fremont County Head Start staff members honored two individuals at this year’s annual Head Start Safety Town.   The Head Start center in Brookside hosted their 41st annual Safety Town USA which is designed to deliver important safety messages to young children in a fun and entertaining way.   Head Start administrators dedicated the 2016 Safety Town to Gregg Goodland, Fire Prevention Technician with the US Forest Service Office in Cañon City.   Goodland has come to be affectionately known by all the kids at Safety Town as “Ranger Gregg”.   Goodland shared a story of having contacted a family one day on a forest service road and the youngster riding in the truck instantly recognized him as Ranger Gregg from Safety Town.    Goodland said that contact reinforced for him the value and importance of the Safety Town messages to children.

Head Start staff also honored Fremont County Commission Chairman Ed Norden for his long term support of the Head Start program.   Head Start Director Jo Beth Palmer said that over his more than five years of service on the Board of Directors of the Upper Arkansas Area Council of Governments Norden has continually supported Head Start staff, administrators, and parents.   Norden said he’s attended lots of Safety Town events over the years but his service on the COG Board has allowed him to see firsthand the real value of the services Head Start provides to families in Fremont County throughout the entire school year.    Norden added that he has been particularly impressed with the dedication of the Head Start staff and parents.

Subsidized Electronic Recycling a Resounding Success

A budgetary decision by the Fremont County Board of Commissioners last fall to invest some dollars in electronic recycling has paid significant dividends.    After repeatedly hearing stories of illegal dumping of television sets and other computer equipment across Fremont County the commissioners decided last fall to partner with the Upper Arkansas Area Council of Governments (UAACOG) Recycling Program.    UAACOG Recycling Coordinator Beth Lenz told the commissioners that she was scheduling a couple of electronic recycling events in 2016 in Florence and Cañon City.

Because consumers have to pay often steep prices to recycle TV’s and computer equipment, the commissioners decided to budget $7,500 in 2016 to help subsidize the consumer cost of electronic recycling.    Lenz reports the first recycling event in Florence on April 9th showed strong consumer response to get rid of their old electronics.   Lenz said they collected 10,560 pounds of electronic equipment at the Florence event which was by far the most successful event UAACOG has ever held in Fremont County.   Lenz said of that total, over half of it—6,254 pounds were old television sets.

The Florence event utilized $2,500 of the county’s budgeted funds which allowed consumers to pay half the going rate to recycle old TV sets and computers.   Lenz said the other $5,000 in county funds will be used for a similar electronic recycling event in Cañon City next September.

Fremont County Commission Chairman Ed Norden said this is exactly the response the Board of Commissioners was hoping for by investing money from the county’s Recycling Fund that directly benefits consumers and addresses the problem with illegal dumping.   He said often times the county ends up paying the cost anyway when TV sets are dumped along county roads.   Norden also credited Fremont County Manager Sunny Bryant whose efforts in 2015 increased collections of tipping fees from the landfill and transfer station in Fremont County.    Norden said the increased revenue in the Recycling Fund allowed the Board of Commissioners to budget the $7,500 for the electronic recycling subsidy.

Commissioners Adopt Marijuana Cultivation Ordinance

It took three readings and several amendments before the Fremont County Board of Commissioners settled on the language in a county ordinance that will seek to control indoor and outdoor home cultivation of marijuana.    When the ordinance was tabled a second time at the March 22nd meeting the commissioners were concerned that a limit of 99 plants was still too excessive.    District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell had referred to a 36 plant limit imposed in Pueblo County as a guide.   In the end the ordinance adopted in Fremont County places a limit of 36 marijuana plants cultivated outdoors for persons owning ten acres of property or less.    If someone is the owner of 10 acres or more they will be able to grow up to 99 plants.

Commissioner Bell said the board did its best to compromise in recognizing the desires of medical marijuana caregivers as well as neighbors who have to put up with marijuana cultivation.   Bell said the ordinance is not written in stone and if problems present themselves the commissioners can go back and amend it again.   The ordinance went into effect last Sunday, April 17th.   It also requires that medical marijuana caregivers be registered with the county through the Planning and Zoning Department.

It was the licensing of ambulances for agencies in western Fremont County that stirred controversy at the April 12th commissioners’ meeting.    The Deer Mountain Fire District proposed to the Board of Commissioners that they be licensed for Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulance service and be designated as the agency to serve not only the Deer Mountain Fire District but also the Highway 50 corridor from Parkdale to the Chaffee County line.   Arkansas River Ambulance (ARA), previously known as Arkansas Valley Ambulance, has been embroiled in internal controversy amongst board members for the past two years and has been challenged in recent months to maintain service.   A Fremont County District Court ruling was believed to be the final death knell for ARA but board members who are now in charge told the commissioners that they have every intent of reviving the agency and sought a license for ALS services.

County Medical Director Dr. Paul Numsen acknowledged that he believed the animosity between ARA and Deer Mountain has gotten in the way of patient care.   He said he felt like he was constantly putting out fires the last 2 ½ years.   It was Numsen’s recommendation not to relicense Ark River Ambulance.   However, when he was asked if he would continue to serve as medical director for Ark River if the commissioners chose to relicense the agency, Numsen said he would agree to do so.

With the Deer Mountain Fire District arguing to be the sole licensee in order to respond to the Highway 50 corridor, Commission Chairman Ed Norden said it sounded like Deer Mountain was giving the Board of Commissioners an ultimatum that their plan wouldn’t work unless the Board anointed them as the only agency to cover the Highway 50 corridor.   Norden said, “I think this board is very uncomfortable with that ultimatum”.   District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said she was uncomfortable being put into the middle of the fight between ambulance companies saying, “I really have no interest in being a pawn in what I consider a hostile takeover”.

The Board of Commissioners ultimately issued ambulance licenses to both Deer Mountain and Ark River urging them to sort out their differences and prioritize patient care as the primary goal.

In other business at the April 12th commissioners meeting the Board:

  • Presented the 2015 Fremont County Accountability Report as prepared by Commissioner Bell.   The detailed power point report can be reviewed by clicking on the link on Fremont County’s home web page;
  • Reappointed Michael Pullen to another three year term on the Fremont County Planning Commission;
  • Reappointed Tony Adamic to represent Fremont County for another two years on the Fremont G.I.S. Authority Board;
  • Approved a Special Events Liquor Permit for the Cañon City Rodeo Association for the May 6th and 7th Royal Gorge Rodeo;
  • Took no action on a temporary use permit for Singleton Lee who wanted to stage Super Bud Bowl III promoting marijuana businesses on the weekend of April 22nd and 23rd.   Lee withdrew his application telling the commissioners that the Desert Reef Hot Springs off of State Highway 120 east of Florence had withdrawn its offer to lease its property for the event.

Commissioners Visit Western Fremont County Park

The Fremont County Commissioners met on site at the Western Fremont County Park at Howard April 11th. They met with community volunteers to discuss park priorities for park improvements this spring and summer.

As part of a 2016 goal to address maintenance issues in park properties that Fremont County owns the Fremont County Board of Commissioners made a site visit April 11th to Western Fremont County Park at Howard.   The park property is in the Acres of Ireland subdivision that looks down across the Arkansas Valley south of Highway 50.    Howard residents who have volunteered to serve on a local committee to revitalize the park say they want to emphasize the area as a community park for all residents in western Fremont County.

Mowing and minimal maintenance of the park was originally undertaken by a homeowners association but in recent years most of the work was performed by a single volunteer.   Residents told the Board of Commissioners at a pair of town hall meetings this winter that usage of playground equipment, basketball court, and a picnic shelter had declined in recent years because of an infestation of puncture vine.   The residents say they want herbicide control to resume and a county weed crew began work last week to start spraying in the park area.

In addressing the 2016 goal of dealing with parks maintenance the Board of Commissioners is in the process of hiring a maintenance person initially to work 30 hours a week this spring and summer.   That person will deal with maintenance on county property at Pathfinder Regional Park, the B.F. Rockefellow Ecology Park south of Cañon City, the Fremont County Airport War Memorial Park, and Western Fremont County Park.

During the site visit to Howard the commissioners and County Manager Sunny Bryant discussed weed control, excavating around playground equipment, placing new crusher fines on the playground and a park trail, summer mowing, and repairs to picnic tables at the picnic shelter.  Park Committee volunteers Shari Mohr, Linda Pulley, Nancy Hollen, and Fred Kroll met with the commissioners to discuss park improvements.

Electronics Recycling Opportunity this Saturday

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners is cooperating with the Upper Arkansas Area Council of Governments (UAACOG), and the Florence Grassroots and Clean-Up in sponsoring an electronics recycling event this Saturday, April 9th, at Florence City Hall, 600 W. 3rd Street.  During this event, you will be able to recycle your televisions, computers, printers, and other small electronics at a reduced cost.  The electronic recycling reduced prices include: Computer monitors--$10, CPU’s--$5, and desktop printers--$5.  Small electronics, such as stereos, can also be recycled for $5.  Keyboards, cords, cell phones, ink cartridges, mice and other small peripherals will be taken at no charge when you recycle other components.

Televisions can also be recycled at this event at a reduced cost.   The current standard cost of recycling a television is over $2 a diagonal inch, but at this event, the cost will be $1 per diagonal inch, thanks to assistance from Fremont County.  The Board of Commissioners budgeted $7,500 from the county’s Waste Disposal Fund in 2016 to aid in electronics recycling events across Fremont County.   The commissioners recognized that the county and private property owners are already dealing with the cost of illegal dumping of electronics on county road rights of way and private rural properties.

Colorado implemented a landfill ban on electronics in July of 2013.   Waste electronics and computers from residential and non-residential sources cannot be disposed of in solid waste landfills in Colorado. Harmful chemicals can leach out of this waste and contaminate soil and groundwater. Electronics will be recycled by Southern Colorado Recyclers, a Colorado-registered electronics recycler, as required by CDPHE. All electronics will be recycled responsibly and all hard drives will be destroyed.   Hours for the electronics recycling event this Saturday at Florence City Hall are from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

For more information, please contact Beth with UAACOG’s Regional Recycling Program, Upper Arkansas Recycling at 275-1675.

Sugars Retires After Seven Years as County Manager

The Fremont County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution March 22nd honoring George Sugars for his seven years of service as County Manager. During his tenure Sugars led the restructuring of several county departments; updated and streamlined the county budged process; implemented a comprehensive energy conservation program; and oversaw the purchase and renovation of the Garden Park Building for the Public Health Department, Sheriff Investigations Division, Weed Management, and Emergency Management Office.   County Finance and Budget Director Sunny Bryant succeeds Sugars as County Manager on April 1st.

Planning Commission to Consider Zone Change in Four Mile Area

Consideration of a zone change in the Four Mile area southeast of Cañon City is the only item to be taken up by the Fremont County Planning Commission at their April 5th monthly meeting.     Bill Balhiser is the owner of an agricultural piece of property west of the intersection of Grandview and Steinmeier Avenues in the Four Mile area.    Balhiser is requesting a zone change from Low Density Residential Zoning to Agricultural Rural Zone District.

The property was originally part of the Canon Creek Ranch development.   The original plan called for the property to be developed into 28 residential lots with curb, gutter, and sidewalks.   Balhiser wants to revert the property back to more agricultural uses by dividing the property into only two lots with a minimum acreage of 4 ½ acres on each lot.

The Planning Commission meets at 3:00 p.m. Tuesday, April 5th, in the County Commissioners meeting room on the lower level of the County Administration Building.