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Election forum draws crowd of Gilpin residents

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Local candidates ask for your vote

by Patty Unruh

At least 100 Gilpin County voters turned out at the Gilpin Community Center last Saturday morning, October 13, for an election forum. The audience heard the qualifications and positions of 11 candidates for the following Gilpin County offices: Board of County Commissioners, Sheriff, Assessor, Clerk and Recorder, and Treasurer. Refreshments were served, and each candidate had literature available.

Moderators were Aaron Storms, publisher and editor of the Weekly Register-Call, and John Scarffe, reporter covering government issues for The Mountain Ear.

Just prior to the start of the forum, a citizen asked, “Why were the Democrats the only ones allowed to review and choose questions for today?”

The two moderators explained that questions were solicited from the public. They got 18 responses, and only three questions would be asked of each candidate. The questions were reviewed by Storms and Scarffe and the chairs of the Democrat and Republican parties.

“Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and everybody else were allowed to submit questions,” Storms advised. He encouraged folks to put party lines aside and vote for the best candidate.

Before the candidates spoke, Rick Wenzel of Timberline Fire Protection District (TFPD) addressed the group about Ballot Issue A to protect funding for TFPD. For this issue, residents will receive a separate ballot in the mail that they can fill out and return by mail or hand deliver to TFPD Station 7 by the Justice Center.

Wenzel said that due to the Gallagher Amendment, residential assessment rates have gone down in the past several years, and the amount that special districts such as TFPD get has decreased. (Gallagher is an amendment to the Colorado Constitution enacted in 1982 setting forth the guidelines for determining the actual value of property and its valuation for assessment.)

“From 2017 to 2018, the decrease in revenues received by Timberline was $60,000,” Wenzel said, and large amounts of additional revenues will be lost in the coming years.

If the state legislature adjusts the residential assessment rate upward, this will just make up from the loss in the previous year’s budget, Wenzel advised. More than 60 fire districts across Colorado will have similar ballot issues.

Wenzel cited several improvements TFPD has made over the last several years, including upgrading stations, decreasing response times, and adding volunteers.

Each of the candidates received three minutes to give opening statements with their background and qualifications. They were also asked three questions and got three minutes for a closing talk. Citizens were asked to avoid speaking because of the tight timeline but had opportunity afterwards to approach the candidates directly.

Commissioner

County Commissioner candidates for District 2 are Republican Bruce Hartman, Democrat Linda Isenhart, and Independent Jerry Yocom. They were asked about expanding the county jail, managing county growth, and contributing Gilpin solutions to the worldwide climate crisis.

JAIL EXPANSION:

Hartman, present Gilpin County Sheriff, suggested housing some of Gilpin’s inmates in Jefferson County to relieve overcrowding. Paying for an expansion could include a bond issue or a vote for an increase in the mill levy.

“I don’t like to spend more in taxes, but something must be done. I’d feel bad if we violated somebody’s rights and used your half million to pay them.”

Isenhart, the current Commissioner from District 2, said the county is spending a good deal of money on a study with RJA Architects. There were 61 people in the jail in September, and 86 could be housed if they double bunk. Other solutions she suggested, without increasing taxes, were prisoner exchanges with other counties, sentence reductions for trustees’ good behavior, or relocating the Human Services Department to open up space in the Justice Center.

Yocom, an adjunct professor with Regis University and former Black Hawk police chief, noted that many counties have lawsuits related to overcrowding and that some inmates are in jail because they can’t afford to post bond.

COUNTY GROWTH:

Isenhart said growth includes housing, businesses, and roads. Gilpin’s area is 156 square miles, with about 6,000 people.

“We still have the boundary line elimination program and can make more buildable lots. We need to sustain our water and take care of roads.”

Yocom hopes to maintain Gilpin’s unique rural character but believes that growth is good for the health of the county to some degree. He mentioned the possibility of clustering residential areas.

Hartman said the Commissioners have hired an excellent community development director who is looking at these issues and believed in planning ahead ten to 20 years.

CLIMATE CRISIS:

Yocom had asked his daughter, a senior at Gilpin High School, for ideas, since she and several other students had represented the school with respect to an energy audit.

“We have to start here in our county buildings. We could provide incentives for renewable energy, such as solar and wind use.”

Hartman noted that there is conflicting data on this issue and that a Gilpin plan would be most effective if the county collaborated with other organizations.

Isenhart mentioned a recycling process that Commissioner Watson had created and added that the county considers using hybrids for county vehicles.

Sheriff

Sheriff candidates are Republic Kevin Armstrong, whose choice for undersheriff is Tonia Kapke; and Independent Joel Anderle, whose undersheriff selection is Jake Adler. All are currently deputies at the Gilpin County Sheriff’s Office. They were asked about noise from motorcycles and barking dogs, what their top three goals are, and what they feel is their greatest success.

MOTORCYCLE AND DOG NOISE:

Regarding motorcycle noise, Armstrong advised that Colorado does not currently have a statute that regulates noise decibel levels. He suggested developing a county ordinance on decibel levels.

“It’s both a noise issue and a safety issue. Motorcyclists speed and pass on double yellows and on the right side of the road. Decibel levels increase as speed increases. We need to have strict enforcement.”

Anderle suggested deputies keep writing citations and recalled that a couple of years ago it was effective to have deputies pull their patrol cars in front of motorcyclists and escort them to the county line.

As to barking dogs, Armstrong said that deputies don’t always hear the barking and asked that citizens sign complaints that can be taken to court. Otherwise, deputies don’t have probable cause to give a summons.

Anderle concurred, adding that people could do a video recording for evidence in court.

GOALS:

Armstrong: (1) to address jail overcrowding; (2) to save money in the sheriff’s office by consolidating dispatch operations with Black Hawk; (3) recruitment and retention of employees.

He said the sheriff’s office currently has a maintenance contract with Motorola that costs $80,000 per year. The present BHF system puts more onus on the sheriff’s office to maintain that contract. Armstrong has started the process to get on an 800 system, which he said would save money over the Motorola contract.

Anderle: (1) to get deputies out in the community to know the citizens and become more approachable; (2) to retain quality employees; (3) to upgrade the radio system.

“800 waves don’t like to go down in valleys,” Anderle said. “Communicating with dispatchers is frustrating, because we can’t always hear them and they can’t hear us. It costs money to get this fixed, but we need to so officers and citizens are safe.”

SUCCESS:

Anderle cited his promotion to sergeant ten years ago. He is also a firearms trainer and has been instrumental in getting continuous training for all the officers.

Armstrong took over the emergency management position two years ago and developed an emergency preparedness guide for all citizens. He has ensured that policies meet FEMA guidelines in case of disaster and has obtained a grant for an operations center for emergencies. United Power is partnering with the Sheriff’s Office to get a generator at Gilpin County School on a full-time basis.

Assessor

Assessor candidates are Republican Daurice McMillan and Democrat Anne Schafer. They were asked who their biggest supporters are, what their position is on the Gallagher Amendment, and what their top three goals are.

SUPPORTERS:

Schafer, the incumbent Assessor, said her biggest supporter is the Democrat party and is proud to have supporters from all three parties.

McMillan, formerly the Chief Deputy Assessor and currently with the Treasurer’s Office, says her supporters are her family and friends and the employees in the Assessor’s Office who have encouraged her to run.

GALLAGHER:

McMillan said, “Gallagher drives the assessment rate. Non-residential is frozen at 29 percent, and the residential rate can change. As residential rates increase, this creates a hardship in government programs and schools.”

Schafer responded that Gallagher and TABOR create little to no way to levy increased taxes. When the assessment rate goes down, residents pay less in taxes, but the county and school gets far less in revenues, she said.

GOALS:

Schafer said, “Many of you live in the RE-2 Boulder Valley School District. We could create one district with Coal Creek, Clear Creek, Grant County, and Nederland, with one superintendent.”

She also wants to keep up with technology and to have greater transparency, including videotaping Commissioner’s meetings for availability on the Commissioner’s website.

McMillan: (1) to be a true working assessor; (2) to look at potential ways to share employees between offices to help distribute the work load; (3) to update old property records.

Clerk and Recorder

Democrat Sahari McCormick and Republican Gail Maxwell are the Clerk and Recorder candidates. They were asked: Is the voting process fair? What are your top three goals? What do you feel is your greatest success?

VOTING PROCESS:

Maxwell is the current Chief Deputy Clerk and the current Director of Elections. She is a State of Colorado certified election official. She said she was asked to step down as part of the elections, because being a certified election official is part of the process.

Maxwell explained Gilpin’s election system, which is a stand-alone Dominion Voting System not connected to the Internet. Supervisors from both parties train with the judges. The ballots are counted about six times with tally machines and hand counts. By law, everything must be secured and monitored; Maxwell advised there is a camera in the Clerk’s office.

McCormick, whose background is as department manager in radio traffic, has taken training with the FBI regarding cybersecurity and will work with IT to make sure there are no security issues. She plans to work with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office to make sure laws are followed.

GOALS:

McCormick: (1) customer service; (2) engage and encourage more young people to vote; (3) digitize documents and use new innovations and technology.

Maxwell: (1) digitize records; (2) a new drop-off box on Highway 72, on which she has begun working with Jefferson County; (3) motor vehicle kiosk locations where citizens can pay for tags and receive registrations.

SUCCESS:

Maxwell has implemented a training program for clerks on how to do property records, was invited to Washington, DC with election activists to represent small counties, and is a member of Homeland Security.

McCormick has successfully trained many radio traffic staff members. Her previous experience in psychiatric rehab enabled her to manage stressful situations.

Treasurer

Republican Mary Lorenz and Democrat Susan Berumen are the Treasurer candidates. They were asked what policy they would have for residents at risk of foreclosure, what their top three goals are, and what their greatest success has been.

Berumen currently works in the Central City Finance Office. She said that although there is no forewarning that a resident is going into foreclosure, when the Treasurer’s staff becomes aware there might be a problem, they can give a resident information about their options.

Lorenz, Chief Deputy in the Treasurer’s Office and Deputy Public Trustee, has handled all foreclosures for the past three years. She confirmed that the only way they know if a resident is at risk is if the resident contacts them, and then the Treasurer’s Office can provide informative resources.

GOALS:

Lorenz would keep the office up to date with changing technology as much as the budget would allow, keep office policies and procedures current, and work with the Commissioners and the Finance Department to keep the Treasurer’s Office fiscally sound.

Berumen would have the county run tax lien pools online and have a greater pool of investors. She would have the Treasurer’s Office help other county offices in handling money and would work closely with the Commissioners to make sure the bank the county works with provides the best return and service.

SUCCESS:

Lorenz advised, “I have been in the Treasurer’s Office for 16 years and do the job well because of the great teaching I received from Alynne [present Treasurer Huffman].”

Berumen referred to her experience handling water billing for Central City, when she had never before handled utilities. She was able to overcome problems with an incomplete system and provide residents with information on water use amounts.

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