Sheriff’s to share back-up system with Routt, standardize sidearms

At Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting, Sheriff Brett Shroetlin presented an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) for the back up of dispatch/public safety answering point services and sharing of enhanced 911 phone system infrastructure between Grand and Routt counties to the commissioners.

Sheriff Shroetlin explained the agreement allows for county to county back-up, in the event that lines go down or evacuation occurs (as happened twice last year). Grand County had recently purchased and installed a Motorola Solutions Call Works E911 system and Routt is in the process of installing the same system which is anticipated to be operational in July 2019. When completed, the compatible systems will be identified as “A Side” for Routt County and “B Side” for Grand County, creating a redundant and geodiverse system for both counties.

The monthly cost of $1,027 will be shared by both counties 50/50, resulting in a cost of $513.50 to the county each month.

Chariman Cimino questioned the additional $6,000 annual cost to the county for the service. Sheriff Shroetlin told the commissioners that the value of having the back-up makes the cost “a steal”.

Sheriff Shroetlin next presented a proposal to standardize Sheriff’s Office sidearms to a Glock Handgun. The department had recently sold a number of unclaimed valuables from previous investigations at an auction on the front range and received over $55,000 from the sale. The sheriff proposed using these funds to pay for a supply of new sidearms, ammunition and supplies. The remaining balance, estimated at about $5,000, would be granted to Grand County Search & Rescue.

The proposal had been presented in a workshop on April 9th. Since then, the Sheriff had gathered more information on long-term costs to the county, which had been a concern expressed at the previous meeting. Sheriff Shroetlin told the commissioners that proper maintenance of the handguns would keep them in service for 20 years or more. A deputy would be issued a sidearm at the time of hire and would turn it in at the time of termination from the department, eliminating the need for replacement. Annual costs for ongoing maintenance would be minimal.

Commissioner Manguso had concerns with accountability of the funds, which had not been deposited into the county general fund as is the normal protocol. She also had concerns with the Sheriff’s Office choosing the deputy’s sidearm, since many have their own preference.

After some discussion, Commissioner Linke motioned to approve that all sworn in deputies would be issued a standard gun. The motion passed 2-1, with Commissioner Manguso casting a dissenting vote.

Clerk’s Office leads the state in Organ Donation

County Clerk Sara Rosene presented the revenue report for the first quarter to the commissioners. “Yes, we are up”, said Rosene. The report showed an increase in revenue of $93,757, up 6% from the same period in 2018.

Rosene told the commissioners that April is Organ and Tissue awareness month. “Grand County, again, is the smallest office in the state with the highest number of participants. We’re one of the highest, percentage-wise, in numbers of organ donors in the state”, she said, adding, “a number of our citizens have also been recipients of organ donation”, thus benefiting from the program. “I am so appreciative of our citizens.”

County Road 1 safety improvements reviewed

Road & Bridge Superintendent Chris Baer presented recommendations for adding a section of guardrail to CR1 at Inspiration Point, the site of a recent tragedy that occurred in January when two young people lost their lives after going over the edge of the road.

“From a Road & Bridge standpoint, this is most of our job. We are very passionate about road safety”, said Baer. He told the commissioners that the department looks at roads regularly to maintain safety on all county roads. He described an example of a recent project that included additional advanced warning signage with reflectivity had been very successful at the intersection of CR 72 and 50S. “At night, it lights it up” illuminating the curve or other road features on approach.

Baer thanked the commissioners for giving him the opportunity to investigate the section of CR 1. “It is beneficial and respectful.”

Part of the review process was conducting a traffic count. A count had been done between February 27 – March 6, 2019 and showed an average of 390 travelled the road each day. He told the commissioners that they will reset the counter after Memorial Day, when the road is utilized by fishermen and rafters to access the upper Colorado river.

He also presented accident data showing the number of accidents that occurred between mile markers 8-11, which includes Inspiration Point. From 2012 to 2017, a total of 15 accidents had occurred in the stretch. The causes of the accidents included excessive speed, inattentive driving, alcohol, improper passing, following too close, wildlife and lane violations.

Baer had received a cost estimate from Ideal Fencing Corp in Erie to install 240 linear feet of guardrail in the section at a cost of $20,610. However, the quote was issued sight unseen.

“There is nothing in stone that says when you do or don’t install a guard rail”, said Baer. Road and Highway design standards references high volume, but there are no guidelines for secondary roads, other than outcome of consequences, to say yes or no. “What is the correct answer? Put up a guardrail or improve advance warning signage? Signage has proven to help.  

I don’t have a direct, definite yes this is what we should do”, said Baer.

As to why there is no guardrail in the section of road, Baer speculated it may be due to the width of the driving surface (22’) and shoulder (12’). Snow removal is another area of concern. Allowing it to pile up could result in unsafe conditions, creating a possible launch site for an out of control vehicle. Baer said he had walked the section and found conditions to be rocky. Drilling for a guardrail could compromise the integrity of the road. Baer told the commissioners he was planning to look in to adding more advanced warning signage. “I am really torn. There are multiple places in the county where, if you leave the road, consequences apply. Are we going to set a standard?”

Commissioner Manguso stated, “For $20,000 to put up a guard rail, it’s worth it”.

Commissioner Linke commented, “I agree with Kris. It’s not the necessary ‘end all’ that nobody will crash”. He added, “there is a question on why the section was skipped”.

“Look at Byers Canyon, it’s very similar”, said Commissioner Manguso. A guard rail runs along the entire 2+ mile stretch of Highway 40.

The commissioners discussed looking at other sections of county roads where consequences were more dire. “Perhaps this is a thing we build over time”, said Chairman Cimino.

CR 1 had once been a state road and commissioner Linke asked Baer “are there any things in the specs to prevent this from becoming a state road again?”. Baer said he’d have to look in to that. Several residents had asked the commissioners about giving the road back to the state. “It is used as an I-70 bypass when the road is closed” – why not have the state maintain the road?

The commissioners directed Baer to solidify costs and a contract, looking at options to add more guardrail at both ends of the section as well, which had been requested by the school district. Baer stated he had another guardrail replacement planned on CR 3 and that he would include the work for both in the proposal. He told the commissioners he had room in the budget, since they had determined the striping on CR 804 could go another year. Depending on the scope, the two projects could cost between $50-100,000.

Short-term Rental (STR) Update

Julie Nessen, STR coordinator, presented an overview of the county’s short-term rental program to the commissioners during a workshop held Tuesday.

At this time, 21 new applications had been received, 8 applications were pending, 454 have been approved and 123 permits will be expiring soon. 205 licenses had expired. “It’s about 750 properties that we are dealing with”, said Nessen, adding, “most are renewals, there is not a whole lot coming on”.

There is no obvious concentration of STR’s in unincorporated Grand County. Columbine Lake seems to have the highest percentage, perhaps as a result of the HOA requiring proof of STR licensing with the county. Average occupancy of the STRs is 8.46, and, so far, in 2019, 3 complaints have been lodged with the county, all parking related.

As for compliance, 27 notice of violations have been issued. 24 are now in compliance and the remaining 3 will soon to be paid a visit by Deputy Rick Liberali.

Nessen told the commissioners that neighboring Summit and Clear Creek County also require adequate water and sanitation prior to issuing STR permits. Homeowners must provide proof that the water and septic can accommodate the maximum occupancy. Nessen provided the commissioners with an outline of each county’s regulations on the requirements, including regular pumping and water quality testing.  

On Occupancy and Safety, Nessen provided the commissioners with recommendations on appropriate calculation of occupancy. For dwellings of 1,500 s.f. or less, occupancy should not exceed 2 occupants per bedroom, plus 2; and, for over 1,500 s.f., one occupant per 200 s.f. Of gross floor area. Currently, the homeowner determines occupancy when submitting the license application. Nessen noted that higher occupancy properties account for the majority of complaints on parking, noise and trash.

In her presentation, Nessen provided an example of a home in the STR program that reasonably exceeds safe occupancy standards. The 2,660 s.f. two bedroom home, per the Assessor’s site, was advertised as a 6 bedroom home that sleeps 18. Per the recommended occupancy calculations, a maximum of 13 occupants would be allowed.

Other safety issues found during a follow-up inspection included smoke and CO detectors that were not operating properly, egress windows blocked by bunk beds, more occupants than the home was designed to hold and safely egress, accelerated maintenance schedules of appliances due to higher use, parking issues with limited emergency access and inadequate snow removal.

Challenges are also presented when the homeowner or property manager are not locally based and Nessen suggested that STR homeowners only use local property management companies. Renters that are unable to reach the responsible party have gone as far a dialing 9-1-1 for assistance with changing a battery in a smoke alarm or CO detector. Grand Fire Chief Brad White told the commissioners his department had responded to a call where the renters had been unable to contact the owner or manager. That call turned out to be positive for Carbon Monoxide presence, forcing evacuation of the renters. Chief White also described homes they had found to be in violation of building codes as well. He asked that some mechanism of inspection take place during the application process, not just when a complaint is lodged.

Overall, the public comments were supportive of the program.

Robert Blay, with Stay Winter Park, manages about 100 STRs located in unincorporated Grand County.  He observed that only 3 complaints this year was good. “It doesn’t sound like there’s a problem”, said Blay. He acknowledged that parking can be an issue in many neighborhoods. “The worse problem is gone in 7 days, and most in 3.” Blay told the commissioners he supported the enforcement efforts of existing regulations, but on the topic of water & sanitation, he asked, “Do we have a known issue we are trying to solve or create a new layer of regulation?”. Blay also stated that his management company would have turned down the rental Nessen highlighted in her presentation. “I support making the property safe for the guests not packing them in like sardines.”

Blay pointed out the difference in available management companies. “There’s professionally managed, and, there’s someone who has decided they’re going to provide a service, but may also run a housekeeping business.” A professional management company should be available 24 hours a day.  

Blay added that his company conducts pre and post inspections on every rental, ensuring the home and equipment (e.g., smoke alarm) are properly functioning. He cautioned that determining occupancy based on square footage could impact many STRs, since many of the units at Meadowridge and Beaver Village fall within 1200-1400 s.f., but can safely sleep more than what Nessen suggested.

East Grand Fire Chief Todd Holzwarth asked whether proof of Insurance (beyond homeowners) be required? And on the topic of wells and septic, he said, “overuse is not good for the neighbors”.

Sue Ellen Kelley, with Resort Management Group told the commissioner they managed about 30 unincorporated Grand County properties. “Our owners are required to hold $500K in liability insurance.”

Nessen told the commissioners the low number of complaints could be due the infancy of the program, which only began in 2017. “Not enough people are aware of how to file a complaint.”

Commissioner Linke stated, “Of the problems, I have heard a lot less, thanks to Julie and Ricky”. He agreed with the need to use professional and local management companies, taking preventive steps for safety and fire prevention, and, on the matter of septic, “when that goes bad, it affects other people”.

Commissioner Manguso observed that the four management companies that had come to the workshop comprised about 225 professionally managed properties of the approximate 750 STRs. “I do believe, more and more will go to professional property management.”

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