TELLURIDE BRIEFS | Council Seeks to Discourage Bear Raids Through Steeper Fines
by Samantha Wright
Feb 25, 2013 | 1723 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print

TELLURIDE – Last summer, Telluride was invaded by hungry bears. Bears breaking into homes and garages, bears clawing their way into cars to get at groceries carelessly left inside, and most common of all, bears cruising the alleyways and raiding unsecured garbage cans throughout nearly every neighborhood in town.

Wildlife experts believe spring and early-summer drought conditions negatively affected the bears’ natural food supply of berries, nuts, grasses and insects, so they poured into town looking for an easy meal, and too often, finding one.

With the goal of discouraging another such bruin invasion, the Telluride Town Council agreed on Tuesday, Feb. 19 to increase fines for residents who fail to follow the town’s trash ordinance.

In all, the Telluride Marshal’s Department issued 21 citations last summer to residents who were not following the Town’s already-strict policy mandating that garbage be kept in properly sealed wildlife-resistant receptacles.

“We don’t issue these citations freely,” Chief Marshal Jim Kolar told council Tuesday. “Twenty-one citations equals a lot more contacts and efforts to get compliance before those citations were issued. It’s a significant number.”

In order to prevent a repeat of last summer, when the problem got so bad that one “nuisance” bear was put down, Town Administrator Greg Clifton recommended stepping up the fine schedule for trash ordinance violations to the same level as a 2010 ordinance regarding dogs at large.

Currently, first offense violations to Telluride’s trash ordinance (within a 12-month period) are subject to a $50 fine; second offense violations are subject to a $250 fine, and third offenses are subject to a summons to Municipal Court.

The fine structure for violations related to the dogs at large ordinance calls for offenders to pay a $250 fine on their first offense. The second offense violation is subject to a $500 fine, and the third violation is subject to a civil summons with mandatory fine minimum of $500 not to exceed $1,000. The hefty fines have appeared to cause some reduction in violations.

Noncompliance with the trash ordinance “invites more bear activity, and we saw a lot of that last summer,” Clifton noted. “We think it is time to increase the fine structure and up the ante. This has to happen. We don’t want to have a repeat situation of last summer, where a bear was captured and killed. We are trying like heck for that not to happen again.”

Kolar echoed Clifton’s sentiments. Another winter of lower-than-average snowpack is sure to impact the bears’ natural food supply once again this summer, he warned council. “Communities are target-rich environments when bears are hungry, so we need to limit their opportunities to find free food,” he said. “The best way to handle this is to increase fines.”

Council voiced unanimous support for the proposed new fine schedule. “It was really clear last year, the community doesn’t like the consequences of a troublesome bear having to be killed,” said Councilor Chris Myers. “We need to do our part.”

One community member, however, expressed concern that it is not always possible to know who is at fault when a trash receptacle is not properly secured. She pointed out that some people cruise alleyways looking for trash cans where they can dump their own garbage for free, often leaving the receptacle unsecured.

Public Works Project Manager Karen Guglielmone suggested a simple solution to that problem: residents should put locks on their garbage cans, and only leave them unlocked on trash day.

Guglielmone added that in her work with code enforcement officers last summer, she tended to see the same trash ordinance violators “over and over and over.”

“The code enforcement officers are frustrated,” she said. “How much warning does it take? People get serious when you talk about serious money, unfortunately.”

The new fine schedule will take effect sometime in April – just as the bears are waking up with growling stomachs after their long winter’s nap.



IN THE MONEY

The numbers are in, and they are impressive. In 2012, the Town of Telluride enjoyed a record year of sales tax revenues, with funds totaling almost $4.5 million, a 3 percent increase over 2011. In spite of very little snowfall, December proved to be the most lucrative month of all, earning the town $528,500 worth of ka-ching.

“There has been a concerted effort to get the name of Telluride out, not only regionally but statewide and beyond,” Mayor Stu Fraser reflected of the uptick in revenues. “When you end up getting #1 in Conde Nast, all of that pays off. Word of mouth just keeps building. And when you start having Bluegrass sell out in three and a half hours, or Blues and Brews sell out, and Film Festival, that kind of vibe does not hurt you; it only helps.”

Real Estate Transfer Tax revenues were also on the upswing in 2012, racking up a total of $3.7 million for the town. That is still considerably below the fattest pre-recession years, but shows a 33 percent improvement over RETT revenues just last year.



HISTORIC SURVEY

Mayor Stu Fraser, Town Historic Preservation Architect Bob Mather and Town Manager Greg Clifton participated in a panel discussion in front of the Telluride Area Realtors at a packed house in the Sheridan Opera House last Wednesday regarding pending updates to the Telluride Historic and Architectural Survey – the unique rating system by which structures are sorted into categories according to their contribution to the town’s historic character.

“The presentation was informative and many questions were entertained, as well as some commentary and perspective,” reported Clifton. “In all, it was very good to present to this group and inform them of the process and what lies ahead.”

The town has also initiated a series of open house meetings and Historic and Architectural Review Commission work sessions at which property owners have a chance to outline specific concerns regarding how survey updates have impacted their property. The first series of meetings took place last week, and the next series is scheduled for March 5, 6, and 7.

swright@watchnewspapers.com or Tweet @iamsamwright

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