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Deputy on school duty issue dominates informal Commissioner’s Coffee & Conversation

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Not enough time for all the other issues

By Lynn Volkens

  Gilpin County Commissioners held their first “Coffee & Conversation” public discussion of 2013 at the Community Center on February 28th. The informal evening get-togethers are the latest version of the similar “Fireside Chat” begun several years ago by then County Commissioner Jeanne Nicholson. Although no decisions or formal action can be taken at these meetings, the venue provides Gilpinites with an after-work opportunity to let Commissioners know what’s on their minds. Approximately forty people attended. There were six issues brought forward at last Thursday’s meeting.

Deputy at the School

  About half of the group, many of them employed or associated with either Gilpin County RE-1 School or the Gilpin County Sheriff’s Office, showed up to talk about putting a deputy on duty, full-time, at the school. The Sheriff’s Office has been providing a deputy to the school since the December attack on the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, CN. Only three people in the group raised their hands when asked if they would not support having a deputy dedicated to the school. One of them said that Denver had just eliminated the police presence in their schools because a number of students had ended up in the justice system that could have been handled through school discipline. “What is simple school discipline and what is the sheriff’s part?” she asked, stating that those roles needed to be very clear. Commissioner Schmalz pointed out the benefits of building a relationship between law enforcement officers and the students to prevent bullying or having students feel comfortable coming to officers about other issues, “A meth lab situation, for example; that’s more realistic than a shooting and is probably going on right now in Gilpin,” he stated.

Who pays for the deputy is the issue, going forward. If a deputy continues to work at the school, who should fund the labor cost of $73,602 per year? A parent said she didn’t care where the money comes from, “We need to find a way to fund it. Maybe the parents pay; do it half and half; or fund-raise for it,” she suggested. Commissioner Watson pointed out that there are two school districts serving Gilpin County and that if Commissioners decide to help fund this for Gilpin RE-1 District, they must be fair to Boulder Valley School District, too. In the end, the decision on whether to hire a deputy full-time for school duty belongs with the Gilpin RE-1 Board of Education. Watson stressed that the school does have a “robust safety plan,” and Sheriff Hartman confirmed that his office and school administrators meet quarterly to assess that plan and improve it.

Emergency Preparedness

  After spending nearly half of the one hour meeting time on the school safety issue, a man asked if Commissioners could move on to Emergency Preparedness, specifically implementation of the Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP). Implementation of the plan was approved in 2009, however lack of funding and leadership have delayed it. Of concern for several citizens is the availability and public knowledge of evacuation routes, including use of private roads, from the various subdivisions. Also that some of the roads are in poor condition and difficult to drive. Some citizens seemed unaware that the County has a CWPP which addresses evacuation routes and that is has been a work in progress for several years. (That plan can be reviewed on the County’s website, www.co.gilpin.co.us.) Sheriff Hartman said he is working on evacuation route signage, but having to comply with the sign requirements set up by the Colorado Department of Transportation has caused delays.

Related to firefighting, Commissioners were asked to make sure that the County was not creating one group of volunteers that get paid while others don’t. Last month, Commissioners changed County policy to allow County employees who are volunteer firefighters to continue earning their County pay while responding to certain emergency calls. Commissioner Watson said she is currently working on establishing the Local Emergency Planning Commission with representatives from emergency response agencies. That commission is required by law. An Emergency Preparedness Workshop for the public has been scheduled at the Community Center on April 27th, hosted by CSU Extension Agent, Irene Shonle.

Slash Site Availability

  “We can’t use the slash pile in winter and there’s a burn ban in the summer – could we pay to use the slash site maybe one weekend per month?” asked a woman who said she was trying to mitigate fire risk at her property. Commissioners said they would talk to the Public Works director and see what could be done.

Broadband/Cell Service

  Commissioners spent just a couple of minutes talking about the new radio tower that will be built at the Justice Center and how it will link to the tower that will be built on Gilpin Road and could help improve internet and cell phone service…IF a service provider such as AT&T or Verizon can be enticed to come on board. Commissioners were asked if they’d consider supporting potential legislation that could allow the County to provide service to users, at the rate it costs the County. “We’ll look at anything to get it out there,” Commissioner Schmalz said.

Shooting Range

  With time running out, Commissioners had even fewer minutes to spend talking about their goal of getting a shooting range in Gilpin County that will serve both law enforcement and the public. Several men who are associated with a members-only type of range in Clear Creek County, advised Commissioners that, “You really don’t want a public one.” Commissioner McLain disagreed.

Easements and BLE’s

  Not enough time was left for a clear discussion of one man’s concerns and objections to the County’s process of relating rights-of-way concerning Boundary Line Eliminations.

A couple of people indicated after the meeting that they had wanted to bring up additional issues, but there was no time left for them. It was suggested that Commissioners begin the next “Coffee & Conversation” session half an hour earlier, at 6:30 rather than 7:00 p.m. Commissioners said they would be continuing the meetings. The dates and times will be published on the website and in the Weekly Register-Call.

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