Headline Roundup: News from the Plains

The sleepy rural towns on Colorado’s Eastern Plains are generally better known for the relentless heat and wind that blanches the terrain. It’s not hard to imagine a bygone sepia-toned era of lonesome cowboys and dusty streets in communities that have changed little over the last 100 years.

In particular, one hard-scrabble trait of the Old West is still in abundance: defending individual rights.

In this round-up of Eastern Plains stories, it looks like local governments have their hands full with residents who aren’t taking the town news laying down. An editorial by Bill Hollard in the Fort Morgan Times takes  city council to task over its on-going war with Mayor Jack Darnell.

[Councilwoman Alberta] Simmons went on to explain she was also referring to a split in the council in which some members contended Mayor Jack Darnell had violated the Council’s Rules of Procedure and the dispute between Darnell and former City Attorney Eric Jorgenson who asked each other for their resignations during the council’s Nov. 7, 2006 meeting.

Now I’m confused. Simmons admitted during a Nov. 21, 2006, council meeting that “she” was the council member who contacted Jorgenson for advice and then instigated the failed and found-to-be-illegal actions on her part and that of council members Jim Powers, Anita Baltazar and Ron Shaver when they attempted to censure and humiliate Darnell because they didn’t like the way he was managing the city – management privileges he, not council members, is granted as CEO of the city by the existing charter.

Lucky for council that disputes are no longer resolved with guns drawn in the street. Prior to becoming mayor, Darnell was a trooper with the Colorado State Patrol for 28 years.

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In neighboring Fort Lupton, the situation is getting ugly. Lying is second only to stealing water in a personal affront scale that  folks won’t soon forget.

The Brighton Standard Blade reports there’s some fuzzy math behind a proposed relocation of a Union Pacific rail facility from Denver to southwestern Weld County.

…the region stands to gain up to $8.1 billion in both direct and indirect economic benefits, and over 8,800 jobs. Or does it?

Rife with apparent errors, a press release detailing the study, authored by Patty Silverstein of Research Development Partners, quotes facts and figures making little sense without corroboration.

The consultants refused to give Brighton Blade reporter Gene Sears a copy of the project study.

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Deer Trail resident Dutch Venter urged residents to “take a stand against government” in reaction to a new town nuisance ordinance designed to force property owners to clean up weeds and trash on their land.

Robert Byg got caught in the crossfire as the first resident to petition the town council for relief after ignoring repeated requests to clean up his yard by the newly appointed code enforcement officer.

After no action was taken, the town sent an official notice of violation letter via certified mail in early May. Photos of Byg’s lot, which were taken by town clerk Patti Owens and shared at the meeting, revealed multiple inoperable vehicles, as well as weeds, rubbish and junk as defined in the ordinance.

Byg said in his appeal letter, “I believe that the Town of Deer Trail is in violation of this ordinance itself,” citing a dangerous building on First Street. The building has now been demolished, but Byg also questioned Stewart’s qualifications as a code enforcement officer in the letter, and said the process of cleaning up his lot would be “very time consuming and costly.

“I feel I’m part of a witch hunt that is coming to a head tonight,” Byg said, contending that he is being targeted because of his location near Town Hall.

The conversation became heated, and one audience member accused the board of using the ordinance to “gang up” on citizens.

Byg faces a fine of up to $500 per violation of the ordinance for every day the property is not in compliance. Byg will plead his case to a municipal judge at hearing scheduled on July 3.

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Wendy Norris

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