OURAY – The City of Ouray has entered into an intergovernmental agreement to engage the services of Commander Gene Lillard of the Montrose Police Department to serve as the part-time interim police chief in Ouray.
City Administrator Patrick Rondinelli said that Lillard’s law enforcement knowledge will be “a huge asset” as the City of Ouray endeavors to hire a new police chief and two new deputies following an exodus from the department last month.
Under the terms of the IGA, Lillard will remain an employee of the City of Montrose; he will split his time between Ouray and Montrose, and the City of Ouray will reimburse the City of Montrose for the time he spends on the job here. Rondinelli estimated Lillard will spend about three days a week in Ouray.
Lillard grew up in Telluride and started his 37-year law enforcement career at the age of 19 in Delta. He has been a supervisor for 32 of those years. Highlights of his distinguished career include being selected to attend a 10-week training at the FBI National Academy in 1993. Only one tenth of one percent of police officers across the nation are invited to attend the training, he said, which focuses on the “ins and outs of police work” and leadership skills.
Lillard places high value on community policing. “I am a people person,” he emphasized. “Integrity and honesty are very important to me.”
Lillard is contemplating running for Montrose County Sheriff in the fall, but hasn’t made a formal announcement yet. “Coming to a mountain town and being interim chief would help me grow and gain experience in all aspects of police work,” he said.
“You are coming into a situation where there are a lot of emotions and divisiveness,” Councilor John Ferguson told Lillard. “Do you have plans to help alleviate some of that?”
“It will be a healing process,” Lillard acknowledged. “Patrick [Rondinelli] knows the ins and outs and he will be my boss. Under his leadership and direction, I will do what he asks.”
Lillard has worked the Bluegrass Festival in Telluride as a side gig for the past 15 years. “I am familiar with the different aspects of mountain people,” he said. “They are a little different than down in the valley.”
PLANNING COMMISSION DENIES VARIANCE REQUEST
Also on Tuesday this week, the Ouray Planning Commission denied a variance request from local welder Eli Doose regarding his industrial-scale welding operation on Highway 550 near Loretta Court. The area where his business has been located for the past two years, in the North Ouray Corridor, is zoned C-2, mixed-use commercial, industrial and residential.
Duce’s operation, which consists of a welding shop and a large yard where he fabricates large-scale materials for the local mining industry, is visible from the highway and the surrounding neighborhood. He requested a variance from aspects of the city’s land use code that require him to fence or screen his property, claiming it would be an insurmountable hurdle for him to comply with the code because of his property’s topography; it is located in a sort of “hole” or natural depression in the landscape, where he argued it would be very expensive and difficult to build a fence that would adequately screen it from the view of residents and motorists.
While the planning commission applauded Doose’s recent expansion of his business (which now employs nine workers including himself), it nevertheless found that Doose’s variance request did not meet all of the conditions outlined in the city’s land use code under which variances may be granted, and that the financial burden of complying with the code is a challenge that other industrial and manufacturing businesses in the C-2 zone also share, and therefore cannot be considered a hardship.
The city code does allow some flexibility for applicants to apply for a so-called “minimum variance”, but the planning commission found that Doose was essentially asking for an exemption from complying with the code, and encouraged him to look at other solutions for screening his property, such as a berm or landscaping.
IMOGENE PASS NOW OPEN
For the second year in a row, a record has been set for the earliest Imogene Pass opening. “Last year was the earliest opening in my career on June 17,” said Ouray County equipment operator Dave Leonardi who is charged with the annual task of clearing snow from 4WD routes in the high country around Ouray.
This year, Leonardi is on track to have the Ouray side of Imogene Pass completely cleared of snow by June 13 or 14, just in time for Father’s Day weekend. The Telluride side of the pass is already cleared of snow.