Western Slope Round-Up: Laws, Taxes, Cables and Signs

All the Moffat County Commissioners and Gov. Bill Ritter wanted to do is talk about local issues. But, the county failed to notify its constituents of the meeting — did that conversation violate state law?

And in San Juan County, you can pay your county taxes with skis.

Will a “homeland security-type” special district help protect the citizens of Montezuma County?

Enjoy this colorful list of issues and events on Colorado’s Western Slope….Did Moffat Commissioners and Gov. Ritter Violate State Law?
That’s what the Craig Daily Press asked the Colorado Press Association legal team concerning the meeting between Moffat County Commissioners and Gov. Ritter that county officials failed to publish a public notice 24-hours before a the meeting last Friday.

Here are some of sections of that story from the Craig Daily Press:

A Friday morning meeting among the Moffat County Commission, Gov. Bill Ritter and other county representatives may have violated Colorado state law.

Colorado Press Association legal counsel Chris Beall said the meeting was a clear violation of open meeting law because the county commission did not notify the public of the meeting 24 hours in advance.

However, Moffat County officials and the governor’s office aren’t so sure.

County representatives said they considered the meeting to be either legal, or that the intent of the meeting was not meant to be illegal. Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer also questioned if the meeting fell under the guidelines of open meetings law.

According to state statute, public meetings are “any meeting at which the adoption of any proposed policy, position, resolution, rule, regulation, or formal action occurs, or at which a majority or quorum of the body is in attendance, shall be held only after full and timely notice to the public.”

The timeframe of that public notice shall be “no less than 24 hours prior to the holding of that meaning.”

Bonnie Roesink, the 14th Judicial District Attorney, said she set up the meeting Thursday, and that according to her interpretation of the law, the meeting was not a violation.

“It does not meet the definition of meaning convened to discuss public business,” she said. “I set up the meeting so the governor could get to know our commissioners, and that we would have a better rapport with our governor. … There weren’t any decisions made.”

Beall said the problem with that argument is that the statute isn’t limited to decisions.

“(The fact that they) were there makes it a meeting for which there is a notice requirement,” he said, referring to the second part of the statute.
County Commission chairman Saed Tayyara acknowledged that notice wasn’t put up in the correct timeframe. It was an “honest to God mistake,” he said.

“We didn’t make a decision, (Ritter) didn’t make a decision, I didn’t make a decision,” he said. “… We didn’t make any decisions. We talked about the issues. Period.”

It was the county’s responsibility to make the 24-hour notice; however does Gov. Ritter’s advance team now have to add the question every time the governor meets with a county’s full slate of commissioners?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketSkis Bartered for Taxes
Maybe the IRS will catch on to this idea below. We can all make something of value, right?

The Durango Herald reported:

Scott Robert Carlson, co-owner of Scotty Bob’s Handcrafted Skis in Silverton, owed more than $500 in personal property taxes to the San Juan County treasurer.

So when Treasurer Bev Rich inquired about settling his tab, the crafty Carlson instead offered a deal: I’ll make you a pair of skis to sell.

The 181-centimeter telemark skis are familiar to local skiers for their distinctive shape. If the auction is successful, it should easily cover his $505.28 bill. The handmade skis are worth about $850, Rich said.

“I just didn’t want to pay money,” Carlson said. “That’s basically what it was.”
Rich said she would usually confiscate property in such a situation. But in this case, Carlson gave up something of value voluntarily.

“When personal property taxes become delinquent, since I’m in a small town, I have the luxury of picking up the phone and calling people,” Rich said.

The treasurer’s office is accepting bids for the skis. The minimum bid is $505.28. The silent auction closes Nov. 13.

Mill Levy for Law Enforcement
Montezuma County’s Sheriff Department, down in the Four Corners region of the state, found an innovative way to raise their deputy salaries so they are comparable to other local law enforcement departments and to hire more deputies for the growing county.

Last week, the Montezuma county commissioners voted to form a “Montezuma County Law Enforcement Authority” that would support the sheriff’s department by a special mill levy in the unincorporated areas in the county should its voters approve the proposal in November.

From the Cortez Journal:

Montezuma County Sheriff Gerald Wallace told the commissioners Monday that it was important to give deputies in the county higher wages because it is too difficult to compete with surrounding agencies.

“We wonder why we are losing people to other positions,” Wallace said.

Wallace said he hopes to bring deputies up to $38,000 or $39,000 for starting salary. Deputies currently start at about $31,000 and the post does not provide benefits for deputies’ family members. The mill levy would bring that salary up, but deputies would have to continue to pay benefits for family members, which could cost as much at $7,606 a year.

If passed, the mill levy would raise about $500,000 annually, costing residents in rural Montezuma county, about $11.55 per $100,000 of assessed value and businesses $42.05 per $100,000 of assessed value.

In addition, money will go toward hiring four or five additional patrol deputies to handle increased work load with the increased population, Wallace said.

Some Colorado Towns Still in the Dark Ages
When it comes to fiber-optic cable carrying high-speed internet services, not all areas in Colorado are treated equally. Especially in the southwestern mountains.

Pagosa Springs, the county seat for Archuleta County and the county seat of Silverton in San Juan County do not have fiber-optics lines for high-speed internet and businesses are complaining that it stymies economic growth.

From the Durango Herald:

A fiber-optic cable carrying high-speed Internet service stretches from Albuquerque to Durango and also passes through Aztec, Farmington, Grand Junction, Montrose, Cortez, Ignacio and Bayfield.

But extending the fiber-optic network to Pagosa Springs and Silverton would be prohibitively expensive, Durango-based FastTrack Communications General Manager Steve Dorf said.

“I’m not averse to doing it,” he said. “I just need to do it in a way that’s financially and fiscally responsible.”

Ed Morlan, executive director of Region 9, aggressively questioned Dorf about why Pagosa Springs, with a population of 1,684, did not have the fiber-optic network.

Dorf estimated the cost of extending the network to Pagosa Springs at about $500,000.

Much of the disappointment of leaders in Pagosa Springs and Silverton stems from a contract Qwest won from the state of Colorado to connect every county seat with fiber-optic line. Pagosa Springs and Silverton are both county seats, and town leaders there say Qwest owes them. Silverton and Pagosa Springs both have Internet access through slower transmission methods.

But to the people whose jobs involve worrying about economic development, that isn’t good enough. Morlan said businesses looking to move to the area inquire about telecommunications infrastructure before even water.

No, the Silverthorne Exit is Not an Emergency Truck Ramp
The Colorado Department of Transportation is working with the town of Silverthorne in Summit County to positions signs telling truckers to move into the left lane of westbound I-70 if they have lost their brakes because of the upgrade to Frisco will slow them down. Several accidents choking traffic at the I-70 interchange have occurred when runaway trucks veered off the Silverthorne exit.

Reprinted from the Summit Daily:

CDOT is moving forward with a plan to erect three yellow and black signs between the lower emergency off-ramp and the Silverthorne interchange.

The first sign will warn drivers of steep grades and tell them to use a low gear for the next mile. The next sign will say: “Lost Brakes? Do Not Exit. Stay on I-70” and the third, placed just before the exit, will tell drivers with lost brakes to merge left as there is an upgrade for the next mile to help slow them down.

Many truckers don’t realize that the interstate actually has an ascending grade between Silverthorne and Frisco.

CDOT engineer Saeed Sobhi didn’t have an exact timeframe for when the signs would be put up, but said they are on order and will be installed as soon as possible.

Sobhi said the signs are an attempt to solve an immediate safety concern, and that CDOT plans to commission a comprehensive study this winter to look at all the safety signs for truck drivers from the tunnel to Silverthorne.