By Shari Phiel
Larimer County Commissioner Tom Donnelly met with local residents on Wednesday, April 22 at the second of his regular monthly Town meeting. The meeting was again held at Grandpa’s Café on Welch Avenue with about a dozen people attending.
Donnelly touched briefly on the status of Senate Bill 228, the budget reform bill co-sponsored by Rep. Don Marostica (R-Loveland) and Sen. John Morse (D-Colorado Springs). The commissioner noted that, according to information provided by Myron Hora of the CDOT planning office, the bill could result in a 31.3 percent reduction in CDOT’s revenue, negating any benefits received through the controversial bill.
SB 228 passed the Senate in March and passed on the Appropriations Committee by the House On April 23 with amendments.
The current mountain pine beetle infestation plaguing the mountain and foothill communities has now made its way east of Interstate 25. To fight the spread of infestations, Donnelly stated Larimer County opened a third wood yard for disposal for infested wood. The Peak to Peak Wood Sort Yard opened on April 18 at a cost of $22,000 to the county. For more information about the locations and hours for any of the wood yards, visit www.peaktopeakwood.com.
Just like many organizations in the county, the Northern Colorado Economic Development Council is also facing financial difficulties. Heavily dependent on outside investors, the NCEDC works to bring businesses and employers to the region. Commissioner Donnelly noted that, as of last week, Larimer County is now the “largest contributor” to the organization. “What we did was waive their fees for the year. It was almost $30,000 in fees,” he added.
Donnelly added that because of the NCEDC’s role in the overall economic health of Larimer County it was important now more than ever for the county to continue to provide its support.
Several of those attending the meeting questioned Donnelly about the county’s $1.7 million pre-trial release program. The program’s two primary functions include intake and pre-trial supervision. Although common in larger metropolitan areas like Miami or Los Angeles, pre-trial release programs in communities similar in size to Fort Collins or Loveland are less frequent. Those opposed to the program believe the county has better uses for the funds.
To better answer the questions and concerns expressed at the meeting, Commissioner Donnelly will invite representatives from the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office to next month’s meeting.
Another hot topic at the monthly meeting was the debate over Senate Bill 3, the vehicle emissions testing bill that would extend testing into Weld and Larimer counties. Donnelly agrees that something needs to be done about air quality in the area but doesn’t think emissions testing will be the answer, noting that other controls for the oil and gas industry, which would have a greater effect on air quality, have already been approved but haven’t been put in place.
The bill will also change the definition of a collector’s item for motor vehicle registration and emissions testing. Under the current law, vehicles 25 years or older may be considered a collector’s item and therefore exempt from testing. Under the new bill, only vehicle models from 1975 or older, or registered as a collector’s item as of Sep. 1, 2009 would be eligible, leaving out numerous cars currently eligible for the exemption and special license plates.
The last item of discussion was the county’s recent decision to sell off approximately 150 surplus properties in the Big Thompson Canyon. The county acquired the properties following the 1976 flood that killed 143 people and destroyed hundreds of homes. On hand for the meeting was Gary Buffington, director for the Parks and Open Lands department, who said previous and adjacent property owners will be given first right of refusal for the properties. No buildings or permanent structures will be allowed on any of the parcels and the counties expects most of the parcels will be purchased by are property owners. For more information about the surplus properties, visit the county’s Web site at http://www.co.larimer.co.us/bigthompson/.