Fraser residents brace for possible water-rate increases | SkyHiNews.com

Fraser residents brace for possible water-rate increases

FRASER — Water users could see an increase of $80 in water and sewer rates in the coming year, pending the validation of the 2014 budget by the town council on Wednesday, Dec. 11, with the possibility of a $113 per-tap special assessment being issued to raise money to address augmentation needs. Rate increases Water and sewer rates for all Fraser water users are proposed to be increased by 8 percent, or $10 a quarter for both water and wastewater rates, equating to $80 a year, in an effort to both battle the rising costs associated with operations and maintenance of the systems as well as to increase the reserve funds for the accounts. The rate increases related to water and wastewater funds come after years of the town's trustees electing to keep water and wastewater rates flat due to concerns about ratepayers' financial strength, according to Fraser Town Manager Jeff Durbin. In the past — before the town board elected to keep water rates flat — water rates were increased about 5 percent yearly to keep up with rising operations and maintenance costs and to help pay for capital improvement projects, according to Durbin. Rates were kept flat in past years by supplementing revenues with money from the general fund as well as the use of Plant Investment Fees for operational costs for the systems. "It was with regret that the town board increased customer's water/sewer bill by 8 percent in 2014, but given the challenges our utility faces and the many years of deferred maintenance, rate increases are an unfortunate inevitability," according to the 2014 budget message that was released in association with the proposed budget. The rate increases are meant to fund routine operations and maintenance, capital projects, and address inadequate reserves for the two funds, namely the water fund reserve, which will total $360,000 at the end of 2013 with a carry-over balance estimated to be $438,000. While the wastewater fund's balance is much higher, estimated to have a balance of $2.65 million at the end of the year, the board has discussed utilizing this balance in order to address a number of issues the system faces, including plant expansion and addressing infiltration of groundwater into the collection system. Blue Zone special assessment The special assessment that is proposed for Blue Zone users made up of all of Fraser except for the Grand Park and Rendezvous developments, will be used to raise $100,000 to initiate project planning for the "Fraser Firming Project," to augment the town's water supply. The special assessment would equate to a $28.25 quarterly charge, or $113 a year per-tap, that would show on Blue Zone users' bills in 2014. Due to the Byers Peak Ranch annexation agreement being voted down during this November's election, which would have constructed augmentation ponds for use by the town in exchange for future water-plant investment fees associated with the development, the town must pursue another way of constructing augmentation, according to town documents. Moving forward with the augmentation project is a top priority for the town board in 2014, budget documents read. The project will require substantially more funding than the $100,000 the town hopes to raise through the special assessment, but the money raised will begin the process and allow the town to investigate possible augmentation alternatives. The Fraser Town Board has said it believes money for the project should come from Blue Zone users only, as the Grand Park and Rendezvous developments have already constructed these facilities as was required under their annexation agreements. Because the Fraser Firming Project would benefit only Blue Zone users, the town board does not believe it can validate using money from the water fund or its reserves because residents of Rendezvous and Grand Park also pay into those funds. The money raised by the special assessment would only be used for the Fraser Firming Project and any money not spent from the $100,000 will be used solely for the project, according to budget documents. Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334

Climate change scholars: Change is natural

To the Editor: Two people have responded to my letter on the global warming hoax. Both authors quoted papers for manmade global warming. However, for every one, there are papers that argue against. For example, Climatologist Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama quotes on his blog that "evidence from my group's government-funded research … suggests global warming is mostly natural and the climate system is quite insensitive to humanity's greenhouse gas emissions." This viewpoint by Dr. Spencer fits in nicely with the statement I made that manmade CO2 is in not the prime driver of climate change. In my letter I mentioned that based on the detailed temperature records for the last 113 years there is a very poor correlation with CO2 and temperature increase. The reference for that article is Joseph D'Aleo, executive director of International Climate and Environmental Assessment Project. The best statistical fit for the last 113 years of temperature data is the 30-year ocean cooling cycle. He predicts 20 more years of cooling. The best summary of the debate for me is Fire, Ice and Paradise, by H. Leighton Steward. In his book he gives a geologic perspective to the problem. Based on the 600 million fossil record there is no correlation of CO2 and temperature. The book also documents that there has never been a constant climate. There have been more than 20 glacier cycles in just the last 2 million years. In the last 400,000 years, we have good ice core data that documents four major glacial cycles. In those cycles there is a correlation of CO2 and temperature. However the details of those cycles show that the increase of CO2 lags behind the temperature increase. If CO2 were the cause of these cycles, it would have to increase before the temperature went up. The cycles of the last 400,000 years are widely accepted as being caused by the elliptical shape of the earth's orbit and not by CO2. Steward's book and the 2008 article by David Archibald documents one of the strongest arguments against the global warming theory. Archibald's research shows the effect of CO2 on the atmosphere decreases as the CO2 increases on a logarithmic scale. In simple terms, that means the first 20-ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere has a greater effect than the next 400 ppm. If this is research alone is correct – it's a hoax. Tim Schowalter Granby

Optimism builds for Grand County construction industry

The scars from the 2008 financial crisis still dot the Grand County landscape. The Highland Lumber building in Tabernash sits mostly vacant. The frame of the James Peak Lodge development in Winter Park was torn down, but the remaining dirt lot leaves a gap in the town's commercial strip. A large golf development property in Granby was never built. Diminished property taxes left government agencies, schools, and libraries scrambling to maintain services. But there may be a silver lining. Or at least one on the horizon. "We've been pleasantly surprised with respect to the amount of new projects and future interest in remodels and new construction. It seems like it's been steadily increasing over the last three years, and especially between last year and this year, we've seen a jump," said Scott Munn, founder of Munn Architecture, in Granby. . "I think it has skipped off the bottom. It may not go right to the surface, but it's increasing," he said. According to the January through April building department report for the towns of Winter Park, Fraser, and Granby, there is no clear trend in upcoming building prospects. Total permits issued are slightly down for this year, but the valuation of projects is up. So there are fewer projects to date, but the ones that are being built are worth more, and bring in more revenues in fees. The Grand County Building Department's permit report year-to-date for May, 22, 2014, yields almost identical trends. The number of permits issued is flat, 113 this year to 2013's 112 for the same period. But the valuation of the projects in 2014 is $521,990 greater than the prior year. The report accounts for all types of building projects, not just new construction. The county building department oversees the towns of Hot Sulphur Springs, Kremmling, and Grand Lake, as well as all of unincorporated Grand County. According to the department, the types of projects being built are bigger — more single-family dwellings rather than remodels and smaller repair jobs. Craig Kobe, regional manager for JVA Inc, an engineering firm in Winter Park, has plenty to do. He believes building departments and contractors aren't seeing the extent of the growth yet because many of the projects are still in the planning phases. "We're slammed. We basically went from four to six in the office. And then we added an intern, so we're seven. And we're still understaffed. We're cranking right now through a lot of projects," he said. When asked if it is a trend that will last, Kobe is hopeful. "Honestly, right now, it sure feels like it's here to stay. I can't say for how long. Denver's been hot for about five years now, and we typically follow Denver." But caution at this point is prudent, as plans don't necessarily materialize into projects. "Things are certainly improving," said James Shockey, Winter Park town planner. "Developers are coming back and showing interest in developing property. We have a lot of interest, but we'll see if those discussions turn into permits." Builders start to see signs Les Watkins, president of L.D. Watkins Construction Services Inc in Granby, speaks like a man who has weathered a storm. "It's been rough here. There really hasn't been a lot of work going in Grand County. I am not expecting a great year because there's too much used inventory." The downturn in building jobs after 2008 caused Watkins to get creative. The majority of his recent work has been remodeling and restoration. He was also forced to expand outside of the county about five years ago. But just in the past week, he has seen a sudden improvement. "Our bid load is doubled right now," he said. "It has definitely picked up just recently." Watkins' crew also broke ground on a new home in Grand Lake, the first home he's built in five years. "It's going to be a down year, but compared to the last five years, it's going to be an improvement. We haven't had a home through the recession," he said. RE/MAX Winter Park broker associate Monica D. Anderson believes a lot of that used inventory is disappearing. "We are definitely seeing an increase in buyer activity this year," she said. Anderson explained that much of the inventory on the lower end, such as homes between $150,000 and $300,000, as well as the lower-priced condos are drying up. Carpenter Mike Brannagan decided that the timing is right to start his own company, after years of working for other contractors. Last spring he started Brannagan Builds LLC, specializing in interior trim work. "I was looking for a new challenge and wanted to stay small but also run projects. I always figured I would have my own business," he said. Brannagan sees an upside to the slower growth, because many of the companies that were here to take advantage of the boom have since packed up and left town. "As far as the building rebounding, it may not be as strong. But we're back to that core group of locals who have always built up here and know what it takes to build up here. They do good work," he said.

Grand Lake approves 2016 budget

With 2015 drawing to a close municipalities throughout the state spent the month of December performing a number of perfunctory actions from passing resolutions levying property taxes to ordinances setting fee schedules. The Grand Lake Board of Trustees had their own year-end house cleaning session during their last official meeting of the year. During that meeting the Board approved the town's 2016 budget. Board members and town officials have been developing the budget for some time now and have been conducting budget work sessions for several months. For 2016 Grand Lake's General Fund will begin the year with a leftover fund balance of $1,201,623. The leftover fund balance represents the amount of money remaining in the Town's General Fund at the end of 2015. Grand Lake Town Treasurer Erin Ackerman has budgeted $2,641,747 in revenues for 2016 with the town expected to take in approximately $1,702,900 in General revenue and $938,847 in Capital revenue, or revenue that can be attributed to specific capital expenses. For 2016 Grand Lake is projecting General Fund expenditures totaling $2,873,125. After taking in account both the projected revenues for 2016 and the 2015 General Fund ending fund balance Grand Lake expects to end 2016 with a General Fund balance of $970,244. Budgets for municipalities are developed a year in advance and many of the specific figures within the budget are projections or estimates that can and do change over the course of the year. The projections are based on a number of factors including the future economic outlook and ending tallies from previous years. Grand Lake collects taxes and has expenditures through the end of December every year. Similarly the town has a two-month time frame between the end of any given month and when official figures on revenues and expenditures for that month become available. The budget presented to the Board during the December Trustees' meeting includes projections for 2016 and 2015 year-end totals. The 2015 year-end totals use estimates on expenditures and revenues for November and December. Grand Lake further breaks down their General Fund expenditures by the various departments within town government. The department with the single largest budget is the Grand Lake Public Works Dept. with a total 2016 budget of $577,321. Of the total for the dept. $342,271 is applied to personnel costs while $235,050 is designated for operations. The town's Administrative department has the second highest departmental budget with a total of $553,818, of which $294,709 is for personnel costs while $259,109 is for operational costs. The Public Safety department. had the next highest budget for 2016, though the totals for that department, $193,840, are significantly lower than the totals for both Administration and Public Works. The Parks department. has a 2016 budget total of $119,102 broken down between $48,402 for personnel and $70,700 for operations. The Town has projected a total cost of $90,787 for the Board of Trustees with the entirety of that budget designated as operational costs. The Greenway Committee has a total projected budget of $41,197. The Town's remaining departments; Cemetery Committee, Post Committee and the Planning Commission/BOA, each had projected budgets less than $10,000 with the Post Committee having a projected budget of zero. Grand Lake has projected $130,007 in debt service payments in 2016. The town is projecting $113,961 in debt service payments on Administrative work and $16,046 in debt service for public works projects. The town also sets aside a Tabor Reserve Fund which is set at three percent of the overall General Fund, or $57,566. Grand Lake's 2016 budget is a part of the public record.

Grand Enterprise Initiative helps with 113th new job

The Grand Enterprise Initiative, now in its fifth year in Grand County, has helped set up 53 new businesses and has announced the 113th new job its efforts have helped to create in Grand County. The grass roots economic development effort has added an estimated annual $4.7 million in annual new sales in the county while having served 245 clients since January of 2013, according to Enterprise Facilitator Patrick Brower. Through the initiative, Brower provides free and confidential business management coaching to anyone wanting to start or expand businesses across the county. The program started in the Granby area in 2012 but expanded to a countywide program in 2013. "We're very happy with these numbers and we feel they show how the Grand Enterprise Initiative has been working well to fulfill its mission of building strong communities by nurturing entrepreneurs in all of Grand County," said Merrit Linke, president of the Grand Enterprise Initiative's management board. The initiative is a 501©3 nonprofit and other members of the board include Marise Cipriani, owner of Granby Ranch and Wally Baird of Granby. These numbers show that we are making an impact by working with local residents who want to start new businesses or improve their existing businesses. Brower and his management team have been trained in the principles of Enterprise Facilitation, a business coaching methodology pioneered around the world by Ernesto Sirolli, the founder of the Sirolli Institute. There are enterprise facilitation projects in place in Australia, New Zealand, across the U.S. and in Europe. The Grand Enterprise Initiative is the first and only project in Colorado. "I work with clients in Winter Park, Fraser, Granby, Grand Lake and Kremmling," Brower said. "My goal is to help entrepreneurs with new business ideas or existing businesses understand what it takes to succeed. I facilitate basic business management." Some recent business successes that were aided by Brower and the Initiative include the new Idlewild Spirits Distillery in Winter Park, Main Street Thrift store in Granby, Momma B's Restaurant in Hot Sulphur Springs, PINE Restaurant in Grand Lake, Fraser Electronics in Fraser, O22you (non-prescription oxygen delivery service), Stillwater Garage Doors, Lion Head Coffee, the opening of Never Summer Brewing Company in Granby and the acquisition of High Country Machine and Fabrication in Kremmling. The program is funded by a variety of public and private sources that include Grand County, local municipalities, and private entities such as Freeport-McMoran and Marise Cipriani. It operates under the non-profit umbrella of Kapoks, an institution founded by Cipriani that is dedicated to building strong communities by nurturing entrepreneurs. Anyone in the county with a business idea or with a business that wants to expand or improve can call Brower at 970-531-0632 or contact him by e-mail at patrickbrower@kapoks.org.

Sulphur District finalizes full scale beetle kill management plan

Sulphur District Ranger Craig Magwire signed a decision on Friday for the Willow Creek Salvage and Fuels Reduction Project located on National Forest System lands north of Hot Sulphur Springs and northwest of Granby in response to the mountain pine beetle epidemic. Although, multiple decisions will be issued this first decision will implement the following activities and treatments: – Harvest an estimated 2,319 acres to salvage beetle-killed trees. – Treat hazardous fuels on an estimated 109 acres. ∞ Transportation management actions include decommissioning, re-routing, and changing designated uses, and will affect 113.7 miles of routes (roads, trails, and ways) within the analysis area. The miles of transportation routes open to the public will change from 145.6 to 135.1 miles following implementation. The purpose of the Willow Creek project is to remove dead and dying lodgepole pine and hazardous fuel accumulations as part of the ongoing effort to respond to the Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) epidemic on the Sulphur Ranger District. Vegetation management activities include commercial timber harvesting, non-mechanical fuels reduction treatments, and use of prescribed and natural fire. Travel management actions, designed to preserve or enhance resources while maintaining recreation and management access, are also part of this project. The decision concludes the analysis, which started in 2007 and balanced many considerations, including reducing hazardous fuel accumulations, providing for public and firefighter safety in the event of a wildfire, maintaining healthy watersheds and effective wildlife habitat, and providing for public and administrative access. To see the decision or the analysis documents, please check online at http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/arnf/projects/eaprojects/srd/willowcreek/index.shtml or call Jeff Underhill at 887-4142 for more information.

Letter: Fraser’s special assessment isn’t needed

To the Editor: Fraser residents voted against increasing property taxes in the last election, so the town board decided to raise our water and sewer rates at their last meeting. In addition, they recommended a special assessment, which would unfairly charge water users in the north part of Fraser (Old Town and Ptarmigan) an additional $113 for 2014. In total, that's a nearly $200 increase for most of Fraser water users for 2014. The town staff and town board claim we need the special assessment to provide $100,000 to research augmentation alternatives for the north part of Fraser. They claim they cannot use water fund money because only the north part of Fraser needs additional augmentation and the water fund includes contributions from all of Fraser. They say just the north part of Fraser should pay. We believe this is wrong. With this approach, the north part of Fraser would have to pay a special assessment every time the north system needs something new or needs to be fixed. The Town has accumulated $800,000 in the water fund, about half earmarked for reserves. We have these savings in case annual costs are greater than revenues and for large major projects. This is one of those projects; it shouldn't require a special assessment. Most of the money that has been saved in the water fund is from the north part of Fraser, and most of the future costs will be too. If the town board wants special assessments on water users in the north part of Fraser for projects there, it might be better to start up a separate fund. We should all care about Fraser's welfare, including the north part of Fraser's antiquated and incomplete water system, and be willing to use existing water funds for this project rather than have a special assessment. If you care about fairness in Fraser's finances, if you voted against the property taxes and don't want rate increases, please attend tonight's Town Board meeting, 7 p.m. at the Fraser Town Hall. We have one last chance to object to these increases. Jane Mather Fraser

Timeshare project not good for Grand County

To the Editor: As a homeowner in Winter Park Ranch whose home is extremely close to the proposed timeshare project, I feel I have more than just a passing interest in commenting on the proposed development of The Ridge at Winter Park Condominiums, a timeshare project. Many have accused us of being NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard), but that is far from the truth. We realize that this property will be developed at some point in the future. It is, and has been, zoned multi-family. What we object to is the fact that the developer is trying to put a commercial entity in a residential area. The developer, Silverleaf Resorts, claims it wants to be a good neighbor but it has shown its true colors. Silverleaf has run into legal problems in the past with some of its other projects. (Check out the article at http://bestof.dallasobserver.com/2001-01-25/news/unfair-share/full for an interesting discussion of Silverleaf’s business practices. Or just type “silverleaf resorts + phone fraud” into Google for an eye opening experience.) Some claim that Silverleaf has done everything possible to listen to the property owners’ concerns. They claim that Silverleaf has made changes every where it could to appease us. First, the developer has only done the bare minimum required in discussing this project with the property owners. The only meetings Silverleaf has held have been mandated by the County. The developer did not meet with us of its own accord. The meetings were set at the most inconvenient times so that local homeowners had little or no possibility of attending and second homeowners none. (Two-day notice was given to a limited number of property owners for a meeting to be held in the middle of the afternoon in the middle of a work week.) As for making changes where possible, Silverleaf has again done the bare minimum. Second, the change from having the timeshare “owners” not holding title to having them hold title to 1/52nd of a unit as required by the County changes nothing with respect to the impact to the residents. The fact is this project is not multi-family. Bottom line ” it is Commercial. It has no business in a residential area. The County Commissioners do have a difficult job in balancing the necessary growth with regulation compliance. This project is not zoned correctly for the area in which it is intended. The definition of what a timeshare is was written for this project…so it could fit into multi-family zoning. However, that doesn’t change the fact that it is truly a commercial enterprise. It is much closer to a hotel than it is to a condominium. The Planning and Zoning Commission believes it is commercial. Because it now fits the timeshare definition that was drafted specifically as a result of this project, they must have felt they legally had to approve it. At the original Final Plat hearing, the County Commissioners wrote that the project didn’t fit in with the neighborhood. By coming up with a definition of timeshare, it now “fits” on paper but not on the ground. The definition did nothing to make the development fit the neighborhood. As for the benefit to the community, I believe the community deserves better. Another developer will come along and build on this property. We don’t have to take the first one that comes along. The business owners in the community will not be harmed by denying this project. The property owners of Winter Park Ranch will be harmed by allowing it. I further wonder how the County Commissioners can justify placing even more burden on the infrastructure of Winter Park Ranch when it is already overloaded. The roads in this area are unsafe. Yet they continue to make them even more dangerous. This project is not good for Grand County. When the Commissioners start zoning to meet developers’ needs, the residents (home owners and business owners alike) of our community have lost. Corin Wood Fraser

West Grand wrestling

West Grand wrestling Coach Jeff Matney has six wrestlers this season and his charges have been getting increasingly competitive as the season winds toward the regional tournament in Palisade on Feb. 10-11. The team is led by seniors Landon Schneider (138 pounds), Max Wall (132 pounds) and Michael Lengel (120 pounds). Austin Faeth wrestles at 126 pounds and is joined by fellow sophomore Daniel Terwilliger at 120 pounds. The squad is rounded out by Cole Tracy at 113 pounds. Faeth has had the most consistent results, Coach Matney said, and has placed in every tournament this season. All of the grapplers have gotten better this season and Matney hopes they remain healthy for the last few weeks of the season. The team travels to Center on Saturday, Jan. 28, for a tournament.

Granby Adult Volleyball standings

The Granby Adult Co-ed Volleyball League continued its season with some hard hitting competition. Results of last week’s games were:Sagebrush BBQ & Grill over Trash Company, 3 – 0.Canucks beat Trash Company, 3 – 0.Canucks defeated Drowsy Water Ranch, 2 – 1.Sagebrush BBQ & Grill downed Drowsy Water Ranch, 2 – 1.TeamWLCanucks113Sagebrush BBQ/Grill95Drowsy Water Ranch77The Trash Company113