2012 in Gilpin government

Lynn Hirshman
Gilpin County


The first meeting of the year of the Gilpin County Commissioners on Jan. 10 began with the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Chair Forrest Whitman. “We’ve been asked to begin the first meeting of every month with the pledge,” he announced, “even though the [Centennial] flag here has only 38 stars.”
The rather large group in attendance had mostly come to participate in the Public Hearing regarding the proposed Revision to Section 2.8 of the Gilpin County Zoning Code regarding Animal Regulations. The proposed Revision addressed concerns on the part of County residents regarding irresponsible owners of livestock and other animals.
This Revision would allow unlimited numbers of animals on all lots, but would require “an impact mitigation plan to apply to RS-zoned lots when complaints of adverse impact are found to be valid by a mediation board.” After lengthy discussion, the Public Hearing was continued until 10 a.m. on Jan. 24, when Community Development Director Tony Petersen brought to the Board a newly tweaked version of the controversial proposed regulations. After 45 minutes of lively discussion, the Board passed the new regulations as most recently adapted by Community Development.
With the new year came new Board assignments, including the selection of a new chair. Commissioner Whitman passed the gavel to the 2012 chair, Commissioner Connie McLain.
In Black Hawk, on Jan. 11, Council approved a lease agreement with Peter Dionne, Jr., and Jessica Dionne, for the premises at 135 Clear Creek Street occupied by Mountain Mocha. The lease is for three years.
In Central City on Jan. 17, Mayor Engels, on behalf of the Council, Staff, and citizens of Central City, expressed a heartfelt thanks to Judge Fred Rodgers, and presented him with a plaque and check for his 32 years of service to Central City from September 1980 to December 2011.
Judge Rodgers entertained all present by playing his guitar and singing “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Cowboys Grow up To Be Judges.”


Susie Allen, director of Human Resources for the County, presented a chart indicating the average age of the County workforce. Of the 110 people who work for the County, a surprising 44 percent are over 50, and 33 percent are between 36 and 50, 14 percent are between 25 and 35 and only 9 percent are under 25. With a separation rate just under 12 percent, this would indicate problems arising in the fairly near future as older, long-term employees begin to reach retirement age.
Gilpin’s award-winning Library received more recognition from the American Library Association. Library Director Larry Grieco reported that the ALA’s Public Programs Office (ALA PPO) invited him to participate in a research project. Also, the president of the ALA offered Grieco a seat on the ALA PPO Public and Cultural Programs Advisory Committee, beginning on July 1. Grieco has accepted.
The Commissioners approved the final version on By-Laws for the new Livestock Mediation Board. It was agreed that the Board would not meet until a situation arose calling for its services.
The Central City Promise Program was initiated by City Council to encourage high school graduates and GED recipients of Central City to make post-secondary education a priority. The 2012 Budget has $10,000 allocated for the Promise Program. Council awarded Megan Spellman $5,000.
Council settled a complaint filed by Ruby Elaine Culpepper in Federal District Court against the City and Colorado Coach Transportation that alleged that the City and CCT violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing a wheelchair-accessible shuttle on two separate occasions. The settlement provides for payment of $2,000 directly to Culpepper, along with reimbursement of attorneys’ fees in the negotiated amount of $17,302.
Black Hawk Aldermen voted for Black Hawk supplying maintenance services for the Gilpin Ambulance Authority’s ambulances. They also approved a license agreement with Verizon to install conduit in the Miners’ Mesa Road right of way. This will allow Verizon to upgrade its 4G service through the tower on Miners’ Mesa Road.


Gilpin Commissioners approved a change in the allocation formula for funding the Gilpin Ambulance Authority. Retroactive to Jan. 1, 2012, Gilpin County pays 33 percent of the Net Funds required for the Authority; Black Hawk pays 5 percent and Central City also pays 5 percent. The remaining 57 percent is allocated among the three entities based on call volume from the year preceding the budget year in question.
The Commissioners approved a resolution, ably written by County Manager Roger Baker honoring the Lady Eagles’ Basketball Team in their remarkable achievement at the State Finals. Commissioner Buddy Schmalz praised Baker’s document, saying that he had “outdone” his usual excellent writing.
Clerk and Recorder Colleen Stewart asked the County Commissioners for support for the grant proposal she was writing to preserve the old property records kept in the vault at the Old Courthouse in Central City. The leather-bound books begin with a deed dated Dec. 9, 1861. The last book in the vault is dated Nov. 17, 1966. These books contain every property transaction during that time.
The books, which are consulted and copied regularly, are used to research property in the County for numerous reasons. They hold the deeds to every historic house and every mining claim, including the patents. This grant would allow for digitizing these books so that the public will be able to access the information without causing further deterioration of the precious books themselves.
Also in March, Black Hawk passed the same approval of Ambulance Funding allocation. The City purchased the Maryland Mountain Claims (Bonanza Tunnel Group) from Bonanza Land LLC for $3.9 million. In addition, the City granted to the seller five permanent designated parking spots in the City parking lot across from the property, The Bonanza at 241 Gregory Street.
Council also approved a letter of support for Stewart’s grant proposal. The Central City Council approved the Amendment to the contract with Gilpin Ambulance providing for the formula for revenue collection from the participating jurisdictions.
Staff and the Arts Association thought that utilizing the second floor of the Visitors’ Center to display and sell art would be a great way to add another year-round attraction and support the Art Association as well. The City will be investing about $2,800 in some lighting upgrades on the second-\floor of the building. This will allow for a better display area for art as well as any other future uses for the space.

At the April 10 meeting of the County Commissioners, a fire ban for the County was approved. County Public Trustee Alynn Huffman indicated in her report that foreclosures were down in Gilpin County: 10 so far this year; while in 2011 there had been 23 at this point in the year.
Public Health Nurse Ann Marie Bailey was awarded the Community Health Action-Motivated Person (CHAMP) Award, granted to “a full-time public health employee who is not in a high level management position.” The award is based on “his or her helpful, courteous and professional service in working with the public and fellow employees and whose outstanding service brings credibility and respect to the public health agency.”
At the April 24 meeting, the Commissioners approved the construction of a Colorado Department of Transportation communications utility building on CDOT’s right-of-way at the abandoned north approach to Tunnel Number 4, just off Highway 119. It would support infrastructure including 4G cell service on Highway U.S. 6 from Golden and Clear Creek County and up Highway 119 to within three miles of Black Hawk.
Central City approved modification to Central City Opera House Association’s liquor license for this Opera season to include serving in the Opera garden as well as the Teller House garden without patrons stepping out on the public sidewalk.
Council voted to remove the privacy fence on the Parkway that screens the road from the view of City residents entirely as soon as Public Worls could arrange to do so. This will enable visitors to have a stunning view of the City as they come down the Parkway.
Joe Behm of the Business Improvement District presented the BID’s recommendation that the businesses along Main Street be permitted to broadcast “a pleasant level of background music” from speakers to be placed on rooftops. This would require that Council rescind an ordinance prohibiting amplified music in the area. Council delayed decision.
The Black Hawk City Council recognized Alderman Tom Kerr’s 18 years of service to the City. The Bonanza land deal was finalized.
On April 25, the Black Hawk City Council began with the swearing in of the newly elected Mayor, and Aldermen. David Spellman was re-elected Mayor. Also re-elected were Aldermen Paul Bennett and Greg Moates. Benito Torres was sworn in as a new Alderman.


On May 8 the two Gilpin County Commissioners present — Forrest Whitman was not present — voted to eliminate short-term disability from next year’s insurance for County employees. This action saved the County less than $15,000 for the year.
Prioritizing applications for the Colorado Department of Local Affairs Gaming Impact Grant Fund, the Commissioners ranked Mountain Family Health Center as the number one priority with Jefferson Center for Mental Health, hoping to fund school-based counseling, in second place; and Eagles’ Nest in third.
County Manager Roger Baker presented a document from the United States Board on Geographic Names, which had changed the name of Negro Hill northwest of Central City to Aunt Clara Brown Hill. Aunt Clara Brown was the former slave who settled in Central City, where she “operated a laundry, helped found churches, grubstaked young miners, cared for the sick and invested in real estate,” according to the official document.
The Black Hawk Aldermen approved a contract with Norman’s Memorials to restore the 36 headstones at the Dory Hill Cemetery that need repair or cleaning. The contract amount was not to exceed $8,000.
The May 1 meeting of the City Council of Central City began with comments from members of the public regarding the removal of the fence along the parkway. Alderman Shirley Voorhies agreed that the view is impressive.


The moratorium on new medical marijuana facilities in the County was extended by the Commissioners from its July 1 expiration date for another six months. This has no effect on currently compliant MMJ businesses.
The Commissioners approved a resolution imposing Stage II fire restrictions. This essentially prohibits all outdoor fires and required that those using chainsaws must have a fire extinguisher and shovel at hand while operating the chainsaw. Most importantly, no smoking is permitted out of doors.
Central City passed an ordinance that creates an entertainment district in which common consumption areas are allowed to be designated for customers to carry and consume their drinks. One common consumption area could be Main Street, for example. Along with this was an ordinance that permits amplified music in the Historic Downtown and Gregory Gulch Gaming Zones between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.
David Gloss was appointed municipal judge for Central City, a position in which he has served on occasion. He said: “I am happy to be here. I love this City.”
Black Hawk City Manager Jack Lewis shared with Council on June 13 an e-mail he had received from an irate resident that stated the Credit Union “put the blame on the City.” for the closure of the Credit Union. “Why,” it continued, “would you make it so hard for a non-casino to operate?”
Lewis’ response was direct: “I am quite disturbed that the Union is telling its customers that it was the City that caused it to leave. Since the facility was opened there has been no rent charged to the business in order to have a financial institution in Black Hawk.”
Given the current terrible fire conditions, City Manager Jack Lewis announced that Fire Chief Donald Taylor was preparing a document listing the conditions under which fireworks would be permissible. He added that the State may preempt any local decisions by issuing a statewide ban. Ultimately, July 4 fireworks were postponed.


County Events Coordinator Vickie Nemec and Dispatch Supervisor Steve Watson reported on the results of the July 12 test of the Code Red system. Of the original test of 4,583 calls, 3,400, or 74.19 percent, were reached. This is better than the 50 percent national average for the receipt of such calls, according to Watson.
County Manager Baker circulated an article from the Denver Post announcing that “historic Central City buildings,” part of the Bill Russell estate, were to be auctioned on July 27. This block of buildings included the Miller & Koch Building, the Seavey Building, the Hawley Warehouse and the original freight depot for the Colorado and Southern Railway, which had been used until recently for the offices of the Register-Call Building.
Central City Council re-executed the Agreement regarding the use of the Wannamaker Augmentation Station. In 2009, following the sale of Coors to Molson-Coors, Coors asked all parties using the facilities to execute new agreements reflecting the change in ownership; however, the Wannamaker Agreement has been misplaced and Coors has requested the City re-execute it on the same terms to provide proper documentation.
Black Hawk Aldermen moved to permit the City manager to impose a temporary burn ban.


County Recreation Coordinator Kathi Lambert presented a well-argued proposal requesting reorganization of Gilpin County Community Center staff in such a way as to replace a full-time office assistant with two assistant coordinators and one part-time office assistant. The Commissioners approved the changes. They also adopted a resolution ending temporary fire restrictions, as of Aug. 7.
Rollinsville resident Steven Roszell presented a letter to the Board informing them that he was intending to sue the County because “our neighbors and our rights are being recklessly ignored by the County.”
He was referring to the actions of the Lincoln Hills Fly Fishing Club, which had received County approval for a Special Use Permit. This development, to be built on what had been a Conservation Easement along South Boulder Creek and Pactolus Road, had received serious criticism from local residents in December 2010 for overreaching its limits.
Clerk and Recorder Stewart reported that the contract with Colorado Historic Preservation had been signed, and the next stage of preservation of her department’s precious historic documents was moving forward.
The public hearing on the proposed cell tower at the Timberline Fire Station Number 2 on Pine Drive did not take place. AT&T had dropped its application for that site and planned to begin again with another, less contentious site in view at 201 Gilpin Road.
Black Hawk Aldermen discussed applying to the Grant Program and for Historical Landmark designation for work on the old school now housing the Police Department and the old church that is now the City Hall Annex.
Central City changed its Municipal Code to indicate that no yard hydrants will be allowed on any premises. Property owners with existing yard hydrants have the option to replace the hydrant with a sanitary yard hydrant that conforms to certain requirements. The property owner has 30 days from the City notification to accomplish this, or their existing yard hydrant will be disconnected from the water system.
A report from Community Development Director Greg Thompson outlined the architect’s report on the ADA issues at the Visitors’ Center building. According to the architect, “as an existing function, the Visitors’ Center does not generate any required changes to the building for ADA purposes.”


The Sept. 4 meeting of the County Commissioners was dominated by the variance request for property that had been illegally built on before it came into the hands of the current owner. With the owner now trying to sell, the variance was being challenged by one non-resident property owner. No agreement was reached, even after the representatives of the two parties spent an hour outside negotiating.
The bulk of the Sept. 4 meeting of the City Council of Central City was taken up by an item not on the agenda, though it was added once the crowd waiting to speak became obvious.
The issue was a letter from Public Works sent to City residents who have legacy yard hydrants, requiring them to replace, abandon, or remove them within 30 days. Most of the comments related to the “highhanded” way the City made these demands and how expensive it would be to comply. It was moved and passed to suspend any enforcement of these changes while staff works on the issue.
Central City received the Governor’s Award for Downtown Excellence for the Main Street Project. Mayor Ron Engels thanked all staff and residents for their work on the project.
Close to the end of a routine meeting of the Black Hawk City Council, the Aldermen quickly approved an amendment to the current City budget, adding $8,837,200 to expenditures in 2012.
The bulk of these new expenditures have to do with purchasing water rights at $5.3 million and purchasing Maryland Mountain at $2.65 million. Also, $550,000 was budgeted for the Bonanza parking lot and $80,000 for a new plow truck.
The Sept. 26 meeting of the Black Hawk City Council followed a work session dealing with the remodeling of the City Hall Annex, which is progressing beautifully. Slides were shown documenting the progress to date.
At City Manager Jack Lewis’ request, Council added a full-time information technology employee. Concerned that IT Director Jeffrey Young, the sole member of the IT staff for the City, “can only stretch so far,” he recommended adding an IT support technician to the City’s staff. This would, he said, provide backup and give Young time to work on big projects.


Gilpin Commissioners continued the contentious hearing regarding the variance request of the previous month. Development was approved for the Elk Meadows area east of Highway 119.
Commissioners approved an intergovernmental agreement with Clear Creek County to create a regional SWAT team.
Staff from US Imaging worked around the clock to scan the books in the clerk and Recorder’s vault. Shortly, all of these will be available to the public on computers in the clerk’s office.
According to Central City Opera House Association Director of Operations Rita
Sommers, the 2012 Festival brought a total of 16,901 people to the City, a 14 percent increase in the number of tickets sold over 2011. Central City Days saw an increase of 30 percent over last year.
In a classic case of “fireman rescues cat,” on September 25, Public Works employees and Central City Fire Department members rescued a cat on top of a pole on the Casey.
The City and the CCBID added a marketing device fee of $5 for 2013.
Black Hawk City Clerk Jeanie Magno presented the aldermen with a contract with Silverpoint Art Conservation to stabilize, restore, and preserve the lithographs and newspapers from the 1863 Time Capsule. Council approved the contract, to a maximum amount of $,2000.
City Manager Jack Lewis celebrated his one-year anniversary with the City.


Commissioner Buddy Schmalz was re-elected as Commissioner for District 1. Gail Watson was elected to the District 3 seat, replacing term-limited Forrest Whitman.
Gilpin County approved solar photovoltaic systems of up to 10 kilowatts, up from the previously approved five KW. The Commissioners also renewed their contract with Jefferson County Public Health to provide community and environmental health services.
Black Hawk City Council approved a bid from PLM Asphalt and Concrete, Inc., to remove and replace damaged concrete sidewalks, stairs, curbs and gutters in Mountain City. The contract is for a total of $63,291.20.
Great plans seemed to be in the works as Linda Buckley addressed the City Council of Central City at its meeting on Nov. 6. She stated she was one of those who helped bring gaming to Colorado, as well as having worked for the completion of the Parkway. She discussed her plans to extend a rail line to Central City and build the largest casino in Colorado.


Gilpin Commissioners promise a raise for staff in 2013. They reluctantly said goodbye to two-term Commissioner Forrest Whitman.
Central City funds Geotech investigation work for a proposed Hillside Parking Garage in the amount of $51,500. They also approved a $500 bonus for City staff, with an additional $2,000 to City Manager Lanning.