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Gilpin Commissioners debate tax increases and ballot issues

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$7.7 million needed to run the Sheriff’s Office and Rec Center

By Randy Beaudette

On August 25, 2020 Gilpin Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) held a long and disorganized online regular meeting that discussed topics such as an update on the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, a discussion concerning the Sheriff’s Office and Parks and Recreation Capital Expenditures, and a discussion on possible November Ballot questions.

Board-Chair Gail Watson opened up the meeting at 8:58 am along with Commissioner Ron Engels. Commissioner Linda Isenhart was absent. Also online was County Manager Abel Montoya, County Attorney Brad Benning, Deputy Clerk Sharon Cate, members from the Senior Leadership Team, and approximately 50 folks from the community.

COVID-19 Update

Emergency Operations Center (EOC) update provided by Gilpin County Emergency Operations Manager Nathan Whittington informed the online audience that the entire inventory of Personal Protective Equipment has been inventoried, documented, and relocated into a warehouse scenario rather than being stored at the Emergency Operations Center.

Gilpin County EOC and the Sheriff’s Office have been awarded a $36,000 grant to complete the County’s hazard mitigation plan. Black Hawk, Timberline, and Central City Fire all submitted Letters of Agreement to participate in this initiative.

Gilpin County Health Coordinator Bonnie Albrecht announced that so far the total number of positive COVID -19 cases remain at seventeen with only one test scheduled to be administered on Tuesday (8/25).

Board of Health – Protect our Neighbors

Gilpin County Health Coordinator Bonnie Albrecht also introduced the application that will allow Gilpin to participate in the Protect Our Neighbors Program which will provide support for counties and regions to continue to strengthen their public health and health care infrastructure. The State is making additional Federal CARES Act funding available to Public Health agencies that can apply for a Planning Grant of up to $50,000. These funds can be used to engage consultants, community partners, and finance communities impacted by and at an increased risk of COVID-19 (COVID-19colorado.gov). Gilpin County Commissioners approved the application request 2-0.

The Board of Health was adjourned and the Board resumed as the Board of County Commissioners.

Land Use Comprehensive Plan Update

Gilpin County Senior Planner Stephen Strohminger along with DTJ Design’s Director of Urban Planning Francois De Kock, provided an update on the Land Use Comprehensive Plan that is currently in development. Comprehensive planning is a process that determines the County’s goals and aspirations in terms of community development. This update highlighted land use, transportation, and integrated growth management proposals that will be a part of the Comprehensive Plan. During this stage of the plan, the staff at DTJ, the Commissioners, and the residents all have to be fully involved in order to achieve sound decisions by which the County may adjust zoning requirements to meet the usefulness and sustainability standards of a sound comprehensive plan that will shape the future of Gilpin County. The Comprehensive Plan satisfies the need for a roadmap that includes protective measures for all levels of growth while protecting the values of the community. Goals of the plan include economic diversification, environmental awareness, maintaining a sustainable use of resources and infrastructure, and managing growth to protect community values. Whether development takes place in five or twenty years or never, a strategic plan has been implemented that is environmentally and economically sustainable. With a comprehensive plan or without, intelligent growth ultimately resides on the decisions of the community and business leaders along with the residents of the County. Residents are encouraged to provide input whenever possible to the development of this Comprehensive Plan and monitor the results. Comments in support or opposition to what future growth should look like are always welcome. Visit www.co.gilpin.co.us/ and select the Comprehensive Plan option.

Board of Adjustment – Set-back Variance Request

Gilpin Planner Tami Archer presented a Setback Variance Request (BOA-20-01) on behalf of the applicants located at 147 Athena Road. The applicants are requesting a variance that will permit the construction of a 1,165 square foot addition located 22.5 feet from their eastern property line. Gilpin County zoning requires buildings be located a minimum of 30 feet from any property line. There were no comments in support or opposition to this request. Gilpin County Board of Adjustments passed BOA 20-01 unanimously

Parks and Recreation Operating and Capital Expenditure Discussion

  Gilpin County Manager Abel Montoya led the discussion stating that the annual operating cost for the Community Center is $1.496 million dollars. This number includes the staffing, utilities, and County supported services. Not included on the cost sheet is the $200,000 in revenue that Parks and Recreation Department generates annually. For discussion sake, a one mil increase in property taxes will result in $440,000 in revenue thus the reason for the 3.4 mils operating and 1 mill for capital expense request that will appear on the November ballot.

The Parks and Recreation Capital Expenditure plan includes a laundry list of needs and wants requested by the staff that includes new water heaters, roof and flooring replacement, and repairs to the parking lot. Total capital expenditures for necessary repairs/ maintenance could easily exceed $1.5 million dollars.

Sheriff’s Office Capital Operating Expenditure Discussion

Gilpin County Manager Abel Montoya also led the discussion informing the online audience that annual operating costs for the Sheriff’s Department is approximately $6.2 million which equates to a 2.27 mils ongoing for operating costs and an additional 1.8 mils for 20 years for Capital Improvements.

Sheriff Kevin Armstrong presented the Sheriff’s Office Capital Expenditure plan which also includes an expansion of the jail kitchen, replacing the key fob system, and adding a security wall between the Sheriff’s Office common space and the secured court area in the first floor. The ongoing issue of the Justice Center roof replacement is also on the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). As Sheriff Armstrong explains, “Trash cans with hoses are strategically placed to capture the water from the results of a leaky roof. One of the Division Chief’s offices has water running down the wall and has ruined bulletin boards and such. This roof needs to be replaced.” Additional space needed by the Sheriff’s Office will be available after Human Services moves to the remodeled Human Services/ Public Health building. The remodeling of this area is also on the CIP. Other expenditures include capital equipment that has been statutorily mandated by the Department of Justice and the State of Colorado.

Potential Ballot Questions

County Attorney Brad Benning led the discussion and presented several ballot questions that will be presented in November General Election. As reported previously, the County is proposing a 4.5 mil levy or .025% property tax increase to generate up to $2 million dollars to the Community Center, a 4.5 mill levy or .025% property tax increase to generate up to $2 million dollars to the Sheriff’s Department, and a .9 mil property tax increase for the Library. Also included is a ballot issue to remove the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) from the county’s tax code also known as De-Brucing. These funds have proven insufficient to provide stability of revenues to the County TABOR and the Gallagher Amendment adopted in 1982 by the voters of the State of Colorado. It was designed to limit property tax revenue. TABOR is a concept advocated by conservative and free-market libertarian groups, primarily in Colorado as a way of limiting the growth of government. It is not a charter right, but a provision requiring that increases in overall tax revenue be tied to inflation and population increases unless larger increases are approved by the voters. The overall concept of the TABOR law and the Gallagher Amendment is to force governments to be fiscally responsible and not spend beyond their revenue income.

Election Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA)

Gilpin County Clerk and Recorder Sahari McCormick presented several Inter-Governmental Agreements concerning the ballot issues for the upcoming General Election. The IGA between the Clerk and Recorder’s Office and Central City, Black Hawk, Gilpin RE-1, and the Gilpin County Library Board of Trustees will allow the various location-dependent ballot issues to appear on the November Ballot. Gilpin County Commissioners approve all the IGAs unanimously.

Treasurer’s Report 

Gilpin County Treasurer Mary Lorenz presented the second quarter and the July Report to the Commissioners. Year to date taxes collected stand at 97.1 % with an ending balance of $14.7 million dollars. There was no further discussion concerning the reports, so the Commissioners accepted the reports unanimously.

CSU Extension Office Update

Colorado State University Extension agent Jennifer Cook moderated a presentation that highlighted the activities of the Extension office. The Extension Office was recently awarded the Tony Graham Youth Services Grant for the Excelling in Great Leadership Every Day (EAGLE) program which focuses on teen resiliency, leadership, mental health, and positive adult mentors. After-school activities will be developed through a full-time leader that will be hired in the future with funds from the grant. There is no cost to the County. Grant funding will be for three years with the potential to be renewed. 4-H activities have not resumed since the shutdown, but plans are being implemented to get those activities underway with COVID guidelines in place to protect those involved.

The Community garden continues to produce fresh veggies for the Food Bank. Last week the gardeners donated 233 pounds of fresh produce all grown in the small space across the street from the Community Center. Other exciting activities are currently taking place for more information visit https://gilpin.extension.colostate.edu/

Public Comments

Resident Donna Okray-Parman commented that, “I am very concerned about what is happening with the planner and all the things he has put forward. All-ya-all are working hard, but I think you are so deep in the weeds that you have lost sight of what is happening. We are a broke County. We don’t have the money to be adding on anything that is not absolutely falling down essential. No salary increases when citizens are not getting raises. When you tighten the budget to pay your basic expenses at home, you don’t improve anything that is not falling down. I’m glad to see our Commissioners are being clear about tightening the budget, but remember this COVID situation is only temporary. Let’s look at what is important. The health and fitness of our citizens is what is really important. We should open those areas of our rec center now and bring the areas for improvement up later when the money comes in. This community will not pass a 3.5 mil levy increase. I have not had a single discussion where the people agreed to any tax increase that doesn’t have a two-year limit. Just enough to get us through this emergency. A twenty-year sunset is not gonna go and then you’ll be putting this important decision up for another year when it fails on the November ballot then we’ll be stuck with nothing again.”

Commissioner Engels responded that for over a year and a half the Commissioners have been researching justification for a mil levy increase. In reality the County’s revenue does not keep up with the expenses. We know that there is a huge backlog of differed maintenance. We didn’t know whether to ask for a General Fund mil levy increase or implement a County sales tax, but something was coming. Since we have this emergency, the time for an increase has to come right now. This request is addressing the immediate needs of this fiscal crash that we are experiencing from COVID, but it is more than that. It is asking for funding for the County to be able to maintain adequate services throughout Gilpin for the foreseeable future.

Stay Up-to Date

To stay informed in this very dynamic environment, go to http://www.co.gilpin.co.us.

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