OURAY – The Ouray Police Department is once again fully staffed, having welcomed aboard Scott Mills as its fourth officer. The department has been slowly rebuilding its ranks following the resignation of former Police Chief Leo Rasmusson and two officers last spring.
New Police Chief Justin Perry introduced Mills at the Ouray City Council meeting on Monday, Feb. 3. He hails from the Los Alamos Police Department where he was commander of patrol operations, and was the runner-up of four finalists when the City of Ouray hired a new police chief last fall.
“(Mills) is an absolute asset for our police department, bringing incredible knowledge and experience,” Perry said. “We are excited to have him.”
Mills started working for the OPD on Friday, Jan. 24 and will be engaged in training for the next six to eight weeks, accompanying OPD Officer Justin Crandall on his rounds. According to Perry, Mills will be working towards his full Colorado Peace Officers Standards and Training certification, which will require proficiency testing in areas of driving, firearms, defensive tactics, and Colorado statute.
“Now that we have a complete department we are going to be working to schedule a date to do a formalized swearing in of all of our new officers and a community celebration of that,” City Administrator Patrick Rondinelli said.
“With coffee and donuts,” Mayor Pam Larson promised.
ROCKY ROAD – SHOP OURAY WEEKEND PLANNED
Mayor Larson has proclaimed Saturday, Feb. 8, and Sunday, Feb. 9, to be “Rocky Road – Shop Ouray Weekend”, and is urging all citizens to join council “in appreciation and support of businesses in Ouray.”
The proclamation was made at the Ouray City Council meeting on Monday, Feb. 3 in response to the recent rockfall incident on U.S. 550 Red Mountain Pass which resulted in the highway being closed for two and a half weeks. At press time, traffic flow over the pass is still limited to four hours per day. Larson noted that the rockslide has caused financial loss to many businesses in Ouray.
Ouray City Administrator Patrick Rondinelli said that city staff is in the process of conducting research to determine just how extensive the financial impact has been, and whether Ouray may qualify for state-funded low-interest business loans to assist businesses impacted by the highway closure.
Community Development Coordinator Ann Morgenthaler noted in a memo to council that “a comparison of visitation data from the Hot Springs Pool reveals that the pool has
lower numbers of swimmers and soakers during these recent weeks since the rock slide
closed Red Mountain Pass in comparison to the same period in 2013,” and that “conversations with local businesses reveal that many businesses in Ouray are similarly seeing a decrease due to the closure of the pass.”
The City of Ouray and Town of Silverton are jointly planning a celebration when the highway fully opens again, in the hopes of receiving statewide publicity, Rondinelli said.
ELECTRIC VEHICLE CHARGING STATION GRANT GETS GO-AHEAD
After some charged discussion, council gave the go-ahead for Community Development Coordinator Ann Morgenthaler to submit a grant application to the Colorado Energy Office that will fund up to $6,260 of the cost associated with installing a two-unit, 400-volt electric vehicle charging station, which would most likely be built adjacent to the Ouray Hot Springs Pool filtration building.
At first, Councilors Glenn Boyd and Richard Kersen were reluctant to support the grant request.
“We are not ready to go down this route yet,” Boyd said. “I don’t see many electric cars on Main Street right now.”
Kersen concurred, arguing that more research needed to be done. “In five years we might have a different outlook on this but right now, I don’t see it as being a viable product for what we have,” he said. “I think we have other things we need to be focusing on.”
Councilor John Ferguson disagreed. “I think we need to look more progressively,” he argued. “This is a thing of the future; perhaps the reason why we are not seeing (electric cars) is because there is no place for them to be charged. I say, ‘Build it, and they will come.’”
From the audience, Ouray business owners Bruce Gulde and Sara Sharpe concurred, arguing that an electric vehicle charging station would attract new people to Ouray, boost business and garner positive publicity.
In the end, Boyd and Kersen were won over and council unanimously approved going forward with the grant request, which was due on Tuesday.
If the grant is awarded, it would cover the cost of the unit itself, plus installation and construction costs. The city will be responsible for paying for the remainder of the project, including electrical work, signage, site prep, security lights, and complying with ADA requirements, at an additional cost of $4,500.
Funds would come out of the City’s Parks Fund. One of the terms of the grant is that the city must provide electricity for free to users for the first three years after the charging station’s installation.
PLANNING COMMISSION SEEKS APPLICANTS
Council is seeking applicants to fill a vacancy on the Ouray Planning Commission, and will appoint a new planning commissioner at the next regularly scheduled council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 18. Three of the existing planning commissioners have new terms beginning in March – Jeff Skoloda, Lezah Saunders and longtime commission chair Bud Zanett, who has indicated he will step down from the planning commission at the end of his present term. Council must also reappoint Saunders and Skoloda; both have indicated willingness to serve another term.
Meanwhile, the Ouray Planning Commission meets on Feb. 11 to consider an application for a variance to the strict application of Affordable Housing Guidelines for a unit in the Bearcreek PUD, and will also discuss RV regulations.
CITY ADMINISTRATOR PERFORMANCE EVALUATION ‘TO BE CONTINUED’
Council met briefly in executive session at the end of Monday’s meeting to continue discussing City Administrator Patrick Rondinelli’s annual performance evaluation and agreed to continue discussion yet again at its next regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 18.
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