Commissioners approve annual Fire Operating Plan in preparation for wildfire season

Legislative and litigation updates, Distrainment Auction

By Lynn Volkens

Gilpin County Commissioners Buddy Schmalz, Connie McLain and Gail Watson met the morning of April 23, 2013. They began their meeting in preparation of this year’s wildfire season, and ended it with an executive session related to water issues. Following their meeting, Commissioners met at the Justice Center to have lunch and discussion with the Judges and staff of the County and District Courts.

Annual Fire Plan

  Commissioners approved the Gilpin County Annual Fire Operating Plan. This Intergovernmental Agreement, which is compiled by Gilpin Commissioners and the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, the Gilpin County Sheriff’s Office, and the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest-USDA Forest Service, is revisited annually. Once approved, copies of the Plan are disbursed to all of Gilpin’s fire departments. In the event of a wildfire fire, this document governs issues related to cooperative fire protection. It specifies fire protection areas, jurisdiction, command authority, mutual aid, use of heavy equipment on federal and state lands, wildfire suppression procedures, training requirements, out-of-jurisdiction assignments, aviation procedures, fire prevention and education measures, cost reimbursements, post-incident analysis and various other administrative matters. There will be updates to the document later this year, mainly to address changes in communications procedures. The County Sheriff is the fire warden for Gilpin. Gilpin County participates in Colorado’s Emergency Fire Fund (annual dues: budgeted at $6,500) which may be used to help cover the costs of fighting a wildfire.

Daily forest fire danger ratings can be
accessed online at

Clerk and Recorder’s Report

  Gilpin County Clerk and Recorder Colleen Stewart presented her March report showing revenues for the month of $174,960. Of that, $76,758 was disbursed to the State; $40 to the Domestic Abuse Fund; $6 to the State Health Fund; $24 to Police Officers Standards and Training Fund (POST); $64,160 to the Gilpin County Treasurer;  $1,941 to Central City; and $114 to Black Hawk. The Clerk’s office retained $31,916.  Late fees for motor vehicle registration raised $4,360 and uninsured motorist fees raised $1,324. The Clerk’s Office also received $15,687 in grant funding which is being used to preserve historic documents.

Stewart told Commissioners that she supports House Bill 1303, legislation which, if passed, will streamline ballot tracking by allowing all of the county clerks to access a statewide database and provide mail ballots to more voters. The legislation will also legalize same day voter registration.  The bill was due to be heard in the Colorado Senate on April 26, 2013. Stewart said the majority of the state’s county clerks favor the legislation.

Treasurer’s Reports

Gilpin County Treasurer Alynn Huffman presented her March report showing 33.90% of County taxes had been collected (compared to 35.71% at the same time last year. County coffers contained a grand total of $8,085,304 (compared to $7,575,999 at the same time last year).

Huffman’s First Quarter Report as Gilpin County Public Trustee, showed a starting balance for that office of $59,684; income from sales and releases of $11,008; disbursements (mainly for salary, advertising and fees) of $15,651; and an ending balance of $55,042. There have been seven foreclosure cases opened so far this year.

Five unpaid personal property tax assessments, totaling $107,531 were deemed not collectable. At the Treasurer’s request, Commissioners canceled the taxes for Gregory Gold Producers, Inc.  ($2,965 in 2011 and $1,948 in 2012); and Hunter Bates Corporation ($36,793 in 2010; $34,233 in 2011; and $31,591 in 2012).  A distrainment auction of seized property on April 5, 2013 had drawn three interested parties with two active bidders. George E. Otten, of the Hunter Bates Corporation, had the winning bid at $3,220. Huffman said the mine is currently non-working, but with Otten retaining the personal property, all of the mining equipment will stay intact at the mine. Otten is considering options, Huffman said, and one option is that the mine could again be operational at some point in the future.  This was the first time the County had gone through this particular procedure, Huffman told Commissioners, and she had consulted their attorney to make sure everything was done per statute.

National Forest Service/PILT Funds

  Gilpin received a total of $27,056 in 2012 National Forest Service money from the State of Colorado, approximately $4,300 less than last year when the County received $31,369. These funds are commonly referred to as PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) and are paid to counties with state and federal lands that can’t otherwise be taxed by the counties. Twenty-three Colorado counties receive PILT funding with Gunnison County receiving the largest amount ($1,122,446 for 2012).

Counties are required to distribute a minimum of 25% of their PILT funding to their school districts. At that rate, Gilpin’s minimum disbursement to the two school districts, combined, would have been $6,764; however, per a 2010 Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA), the County retains 34% of the funding for deposit to the Road and Bridge Fund and divides 66% of the funds between the school districts located within Gilpin, based on the number of Gilpin County pupils enrolled.  Coming up with the exact student count, by county and school district, is problematic as some students residing in Gilpin RE-1 attend  not only Nederland schools, but others in Boulder, Jefferson, Clear Creek (and maybe other) counties. It also isn’t clear whether the formula being used for this disbursement credits Gilpin with the students who reside in other county school districts, attending Gilpin RE-1.  Acknowledging that, Commissioners designated payments to Public Works/Road and Bridge of $9,199; Gilpin County School District RE-1, $15,027; and Boulder Valley School District RE-2, $2,830. The IGA governing the percentages of disbursements will be reviewed in 2014.

Paula Avenue Variance

  Chris and Catherine Camp requested a variance to build an addition onto their home at 242 Paula Avenue, Skydale Subdivision. The site proposed puts the addition just one foot from the east property line. County regulations require a setback of 30 feet.  Noting that the adjacent property is U.S. Forest land, not a residential property, a condition in which Commissioners have traditionally been more lenient in granting variances, Commissioners approved the request.

Coyote Circle Variance

  Lawrence Krug, Jr. has requested a variance to build a garage/workshop at his 1147 Coyote Circle, Aspen Springs Subdivision, property. The proposed site is four feet from the east property line. At their previous meeting, Commissioners had requested that the property be surveyed. Krug had sent word that the survey process was delayed by weather and asked for a continuance. Commissioner agreed, setting a continuance of the public hearing to 9:30 a.m. on May 21, 2013.

Departmental Reports

  The Human Resources March report shows 178 people (110 full-time) employed by the County at that time.  One part-timer had been hired in March. Ten people were participating in the Property Tax Work Off Program. Nearly all had completed their work hours. The department has completed the 2013 compensation and public employers surveys through the Mountain States Employers Council.

The Community Development March report shows revenues of $35,263, the bulk of it coming from building fees ($19,823) and Open Space funding ($14,940-which represents 75% of the Open Space funding anticipated for the year and comes from the Frye quarry). Total revenues, year-to-date, are $45,871. The department handled twelve cases in March; nine were related to Individual Sewage Disposal Systems. Caseload, year-to-date, numbers 37 cases.

Limited Gaming Control Commission

  County Manager Roger Baker provided a copy of Gilpin’s annual presentation to the Limited Gaming Control Commission. The Commission will meet on May 16th for annual tax-setting hearings. Baker noted that despite passage of Amendment 50, which allowed 24-hour gaming, Gilpin’s gaming tax allocation has yet to recover to the pre-2007 levels when the County received over $10,300,000. The 2012 gaming tax revenue was just over $9,100,000. Gaming taxes represent approximately half of the County’s total annual revenues. Gilpin’s presentation will support retaining the current tax rate for the gaming industries and points out that the expansion of Black Hawk’s Riviera Casino – the Monarch Gaming Project – suggests the current tax rates are viewed favorably by investors.

Baker’s presentation also references Gilpin County’s current challenge to the formula used to allocate the gaming taxes, on grounds that it is unconstitutional. He also notes recommendations that Gilpin made in the sunset review of the Division of Gaming conducted by the Department of Regulatory Agencies.

911 Board Appointment

  Commissioners appointed Steve Watson, the County’s Emergency Preparedness Director, to serve as Alternate on the 911 Authority’s Board of Directors should Commissioner Schmalz be unable to attend.

Attorney’s Update

  Gilpin County Attorney, Brad Benning, informed Commissioners that the second oral argument for the Brannan Sand and Gravel litigation, regarding Brannan’s standing in the case, had gone well and that he hopes to hear a decision on that issue within the next thirty days. The County’s three water litigations are currently before the Water Referee, Benning said. The County is working on settlement with some of the objectors in those cases. “It’s going well,” he reported.

Executive Session

  Following the business meeting, Commissioners met with Benning in Executive Session to discuss potential water litigation.

Heads Up

  Gilpin County Commissioners meet next on May 7, 2013.

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