Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Buena Vista Trustee session on April 11 included a work session on the Chaffee 2023 Wildfire Prevention Plan and approval of the community grant process. Trustees spent time discussing whether or not the town should reinstate the youth tobacco ordinance and ended with a motion that directs staff to develop tobacco ordinance language for consideration.

A work session before the regular meeting led by Envision communications coordinator Kim Marquis focused on the county’s 2023 wildfire prevention plan.

“The idea is ‘A fire-ready future,’ said Marquis, as she presented the county’s bang-for-the-buck map. “The goal is to treat 30,000 aces by 2030 to reduce the wildfire risk. Much of it is on private property.”

She noted that the forest council had successfully executed the Trout Creek Burn. “We had a lot of eyes on us – it went good. We held lots of public meetings….. that was 900 acres in the Trout Creek drainage that reduced ground fuels. We’re doing about 6,900 acres/year currently. We’ve been working with fire camp [with a recent award allowing for 25 weeks of a chainsaw crew], ramping the fire program. We’re looking at a 30 percent increase to meet our goal and we hired six more permanent people.

She added that the next mechanical treatment areas are around Railroad Bridge and in the North Cottonwood Trail, but that the last area will be a challenge because “We can’t get the big equipment in there.” Some of the upcoming work will be done by the Southwest Youth Conservation Corps.

“We’ve hardened the assets in Game Trail – the largest subdivision in Chaffee — with 45 land owners offering up their land. Upcoming big projects will include the base of Mt. Princeton Fire Break … we’ve raised $23 million from federal agencies, Marquis explained. “Some 20 percent federal, and 33 percent from state grants. [Governor] Polis put in $14 million and we got $1 million from this valley – that local funding is from Chaffee CommonGround.”

Staff Reports

During staff reports Town Administrator Lisa Parnell-Rowe commented that she had participated in a site walk at the Rodeo Grounds. She noted that the first action in the new development for that area will be the trails. “A 5K [trail] will be in the master plan.”

Graphic courtesy Colorado Springs Business Journal

Public Works Director Shawn Williams gave a report regarding March Water Production and again reported a leak in a water line, with a dig-up coming soon to address the leak. He noted that Public Works is writing a grant application to address the town’s water hydraulics, which has experienced several water line leaks in the past few years.

“The water advisory board and staff have wrapped up a report analyzing treatment methods … Blackwater will be doing the high-level engineering report/treatment systems,” said Williams.

He added that the department will wrap up adding the cemetery block markers by the end of this week, finishing it before the town turns on the sprinklers. “We’ll get that done before we add tree planting clean-up days, then we have things like getting the town banners up for graduation.” He added that Public Works has gotten one bid for the Arizona bridge project (the intersection of Arizona and Marquette North).

Given the number of projects before the Public Works Department, Mayor Fay asked Town Administrator Lisa Parnell-Rowe to prioritize the projects that the Trustees have asked for from Public Works.

CCCF grant Process Reviewed

The Chaffee County Community Foundation (CCCF) Executive Director Betsy Dittenber provided the trustees with an overview of the just-completed community granting process. The town’s community grant funding has been assigned to the CCCF to assess applications and recommend grant awards. The town puts one percent of its sales tax revenue plus some line item budget amounts toward community grants.

“I think this was a respectful process,” said Trustee Sue Cobb who served on the grant review committee. “I learned a lot about the local nonprofits. It made me feel proud that we live here.”

Dittenber said that this year’s grant proposals covered the full range of categories. “It is difficult, going through not just a formula, but a process. We had 47 applications for funding and 31 were allocated funding. There was a total $57,871 in grants.” She explained that the reviewers looked at the percent of the resident population served from each community  — and awarded primarily operating funds

Image courtesy of Yale Medicine.

Town Leadership Discussed Reinstating Tobacco Ordinance

“We want to bring it back,” said Police Chief Dean Roberts of the town’s former tobacco ordinance which was discontinued in 2021. “The issues are for vaping. It’s no big issue with kids selling it to other kids or getting it from family and friends. The issue is when it becomes disruptive at school. It’s a damaging habit.”

The first offense of a student smoking or vaping on school grounds is a warning. “Before 2020 we wrote a summons into municipal court for them to go before the town prosecutor. The punishment is taking a class, a fine, continuing education.”

Roberts noted that a reinstated statute could be to make possession illegal for those under 18. “That means we could seize the items.”

“Our hope is the town would reconsider the ordinance as it currently is,” said Buena Vista School Administrator Lisa Yates. “Officer England did a great job of stepping in – the two of them know our staff really well and we hear that Officer England is very visible [at school]. Anyway, if you can deter them not to bring tobacco into the building it would be good.”

“We hope there will be additional ordinances around possession,” she added. “Three and four years ago I wouldn’t have said that. They could be dabbling in risky behaviors … We are a tobacco and alcohol-free campus, but we are situated in a community that says it’s OK if you are underage to vape or use tobacco or alcohol.”

She said that the school district is left to use suspensions to address the behavior and would like to involve the family… and get family support to address the behavior with consequences such as being ineligible for sports, or prom. “What is happening in our county with truancy is we are taking families to court who aren’t sending their kids to school. Judge Murphy has been extremely good about not punishing the family, but adding things like in-home counseling.”

She added that a Chaffee County High School (CCHS) student who had been taken to court for tobacco use had come to the school board to thank them for what it had taught her.

“It’s clear that we have mixed messages right now – we are saying people shouldn’t be selling it, but its OK for you though have it. We warn, do the suspensions, then – as a school we are on our own trying to reform this behavior,” added Yates.

The trustee’s meeting packets included the language of the former town ordinance. The school and school resource office asked for trustees to consider new language making it illegal for kids under 18 to smoke in the town of BV.

“I’ve never seen a problem like this  – it came at me right out of the gate,” said the new School Resource Officer England. “I had 12 on report in the first semester – even a couple in the middle school. It’s not cigarettes – it’s e-cigarettes and vape pens… these vapes are very easy to conceal, easy to take a puff, and no one would ever know. It leaves no smell, no smoke.”

He noted that when he stops students for vaping, “the majority of them are saying ‘ya, I did it!’ Our big thing is we’re not about punishment but want to teach a little bit…. we have NO TEETH at all for repeat offenders. But talking with the 12 on report, we’ve only had one repeat offender.”

“We don’t want to suspend them – we want them to be in school,” noted Fay.

“If we had an ordinance, we could remove the product, do a warning, on second, put them in front of a judge, address it and educate them,” said England.

Yates said that the students might have school consequences as well for a MIP (Minor in Possession), but added that the district would try to engage the family. She said the school had been surprised to learn that the town’s ordinance was no longer there. “We don’t know if parents know – it hasn’t been that long.”

Town Attorney Jeff Parker said that there are two sections of the municipal code that covers this: a section on use in public parks, and open spaces (applies to all, not just minors):

10-185 — the general prohibition of use in parks and open space

10-257 — the underage sale prohibition

“In 2021 the minimum age went from 18 to 21 to sell it to them — that’s state law,” said Parker. “You could bring back the town ordinance – you have to define what “minor” is – is it 18, is it 21?”

Roberts suggested he could talk with Parker and develop some language for the trustees to consider.

“This could expand on 10-257 – what age is it legal or illegal to possess tobacco products – it’s a one-line addition,” said Parker. “We can only enforce our code – not the school district’s code.”

Trustee Cindi Swisher made the motion to request that the town proceed with creating an ordinance for people under the age of 18 and bring it back to the board for review, which passed unanimously.

It was noted that the Buena Vista Trustees Retreat is scheduled for May 13.