Commissioners Discuss Current Projects

In Salida on March 11, 2013, County Commissioners Dennis Giese, Dave Potts, and Frank Holman updated the League and guests about county issues and answered questions from the audience.

The video was recorded at the meeting. A summary of their comments is provided below.

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Summary by Jan Scar, Secretary
LWV Meeting with Commissioners Giese Holman,
and Potts: March 11, 2013

The following questions were addressed:

1. Geothermal energy in Chaffee County and development of the county 1041 Regulations. Dennis passed out a copy of the development timeline put together by Don Reimer, the Chaffee County Development Director. They reiterated that Barbara Greene, who is working to develop the 1041 rRegulations, is a known expert in this field. Four entities—Chaffee County, San Miguel County, Archuletta County and the City of Pagosa Springs—are jointly funding her work.

2. Planning and Zoning Commission and new code development: The commissioners want the P&Z commission to present them with a code that can be approved with minimal changes. They are hoping to have this in their hands by late March or early April and approved by June. They want a code that can be accepted by everyone—not a cookie-cutter approach. Commissioner Holman emphasized they wanted a quality product and is willing to take as much time as needed to produce that. Commissioner Potts said they had spent most of the past two years on the Nestle project and hadn’t had as much time to develop new P&Z codes.
Kathy McCoy requested an information meeting for the citizen volunteers who had spent so much time developing input for the new codes.

3. The Cleora RR crossing and other RR issues: There is a county transportation plan. Part of this plan is a circular route around Salida that includes the Cleora crossing. This is an alternative, safety route for emergency vehicles, busses, etc. The commissioners are trying to find a representative from the RR who will help them with right of way and crossing issues. There is also an alternative route through the south part of Buena Vista which includes a railroad crossing. No one knows when, or if, the railroad will be abandoned in Chaffee County.
4. Hill Ranch—re-vegetation and water: The commissioners are working with Pueblo West to develop a workable re-vegetation plan. They think the county will do a better job than the city has done. If Pueblo West will pay costs, the county will take over the responsibility for doing it.
The Hill Ranch is an example of what could happen if other major water rights are sold. Conservation easements are important for keeping water on the land. If water is sold, it shouldn’t be moved until re-vegetation has been accomplished.

5. Drought and wild fire suppression: The county provides support to the Forest Service and state agencies. Commissioners are not responsible for actual firefighting decisions.
The biggest drought concern is the effect on the recreation industry if there is a lack of water in the river, lakes, streams, etc. This cannot be predicted ahead of time but the county is interested in promoting alternatives to rafting and other water-dependent recreation.

6. Nestle: The original contract has Nestle leasing water from Aurora. If there are stage II restrictions, Nestle has to find another source.

7. Sustainability in county government: The county has researched using alternative energy sources (esp. solar panels) for county buildings. The commissioners feel the pay-off is too long for this to be financially feasible.

8. Building Department personnel openings: There are currently two openings in the department. Commissioners prefer to hire one replacement who will be in charge of the department and who will be able to bring the county up to date with new technology, streamline the permit process, etc.

9. County airports as drone bases: The state of Colorado is applying to be one of six states chosen where drone test flights are done to study the integration of unmanned flight vehicles into commercial air space. These vehicles will have commercial uses such as viewing wildfires, etc. The FAA will choose these six states by the end of December. If Colorado is picked then the state will choose which counties to include in the test project. Chaffee County has applied to be one of these counties.

10. Cell Phone Service: There should be improved cell phone service in the north end of the county during the next few years.