by Susan Shick
There is evidence of willful disregard of rules and regulations by the Elbert County Commissioners that severely impacts the county's financial bottom line, costing taxpayers services and improvements. Thus, my opinion that the current slate of county commissioners are not fiscal conservatives, as they have misrepresented themselves.
Two lawsuits filed by citizens in late 2018 have cost the taxpayers at least $224,000. One lawsuit (still ongoing) challenges the county's demand for government issued identification to obtain a public record and the county's inconsistent application of their “rule”. The state requires no identification to obtain open government records. There are very few exceptions that place a record in a protected status. The other lawsuit challenged the county's application of land use definitions and their resultant incomplete citizen notification processes. The first case (Frank Sturgell v Elbert County, case number 2018CV00007) rings in between $50-60K so far.
The second case (Meadow Station Homeowners Association v Elbert County Board of County Commissioners; ALF Spring Valley Ranch, LLC, case number 2018CV30071) just wrapped up with an approximate bill to taxpayers of between $165-217K, at least. I say, at least, because county attorney Bart Greer has thus far refused to provide me requested billing documents for 2018. Attorney Greer's workload and/or inexperience regarding land use and zoning regulations and Colorado's open records laws may have necessitated the use of outside legal counsel from Boulder law firm, Berg Hill Greenleaf, Ruscitti. I may be mischaracterizing attorney Greer's level of experience in these matters; ultimately it was the decision of the current elected commissioners to pursue these cases using outside counsel. I urge you to read these court cases before adopting an opinion about the citizens who brought these cases.
The current commissioners have also abandoned conservative principles where revenue gathering is concerned. One only needs to see how they continue to target small businesses with exorbitant impact and building fees, while allowing large businesses and developers to skate. Despite their words that they will require developers to “pay their way”, the evidence argues just the opposite. At the most recent land use hearing on Sep 23, 2020 a small business owner, accompanied by her attorney, argued her case that impact fees totaling approximately $53,000 should be partially waived because she was never notified of these fees. The county could produce no documentation to deny her claim. County Commissioner Grant Thayer berated the citizen. While no final figures were presented at this meeting, the county agreed to eliminate over half of those charges.
Meanwhile, the commissioners are allowing Independence housing developer, Tim Craft, to skate on fees, road work, and security collateral. The commissioners are rebating $5 million in impact fees with a goal of someday improving county roads that are being impacted by the construction of 920 homes along CR158. In lieu of specific required road improvements at the development's entrance (acceleration, deceleration and left turn lanes), as outlined in the legally binding Subdivision Improvement Agreement (SIA), the developer is required to deposit 115% of the construction costs with the county as collateral. Two engineering bids must also be submitted to the county.
On Sep 8 I requested the county provide me with documentation of the two bids and the deposit of the 115% security deposit. The county has not provided me with that documentation. Commissioner Richardson claimed that Mr. Craft has made a “substantial deposit” with the county. I was supplied documentation that Mr. Craft paid the Elbert County Sheriff's Association $195 on Sep 9 for 39 hours of “vehicle usage”. You may have read some of the discussion on social media regarding sheriff's posse members sitting guard in county vehicles recently at the Independence development site. While not documented it has been reported that Mr. Craft has donated money towards the recent purchase of dogs for the sheriff's new canine unit. County billing statements in Aug show a $10,000 payment to VKSWD, Sherwood, AR (Von Klein Stein Working Dogs). One wonders where else Mr. Craft's “donations” might be landing.
Finally, for now, there is the revelation that on June 24, 2020 Commissioner Richardson signed a contract with Raftelis Financial Consultants, Inc. in the amount of $56,260 to basically educate county employees, staff, and commissioners about IMPACT FEES. It reads like the commissioners finally recognize they are being taken to the cleaners by Tim Craft and his attorneys. And, instead of using free services from DOLA (Department of Local Affairs) and CCI (Colorado Counties Inc), and other counties, they have instead decided to hire another contractor.
Oh, and just one more thing. County Manager Sam Albrecht announced at the Sep 23 BOCC meeting that the Justice Center bond will be refinanced, yet again. The tens of thousands in refinancing costs will be rolled into the outstanding bond total. Details to follow. Poor judgement by elected officials costs us better roads, greater security, and transparent governance.
Vote for change. Vote write-in candidate Scott Lampman to replace Chris Richardson and Kathleen Conway to replace Grant Thayer.