Weld elected officials update residents, answer questions at forum | MyWindsorNow.com
Trevor Reid
treid@greeleytribune.com

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Weld elected officials update residents, answer questions at forum

Catch the next forum

Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway announced a series of forums through which Weld’s elected officials will speak with residents and answer their questions.

The first forum included free breakfast and packed tables, with more than 50 residents in attendance. The next forum will be 8-10 a.m. May 20 at the Fort Lupton Recreation Center, 203 S. Harrison Ave.

Other breakfasts are being planned for Greeley, Windsor, Johnstown and Eaton in the coming months, according to a release from Conway.

— In the first of a series of informal forums, Weld elected officials Saturday updated more than 50 residents about their county departments and took questions from the audience.

County Commissioner Sean Conway organized the forums after a couple of residents suggested it. He said the turnout Saturday morning at Pepper's Fireside Grille, 8274 Colorado Blvd., blew away his expectations.

"There is a hunger out here. There is a desire for people to come and interact with their local elected officials, ask their questions in a very informal setting," he said. "I think it was a smashing success."

Weld County Sheriff

Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams began the forum talking about the increase in crime, stating the legalization of marijuana made law enforcement a more difficult job. While Reams admitted he's no supporter of legalization, he said the sheriff's office is working to find a balance that enforces laws while accepting the will of the voters.

Reams said the increase in crime has caused the county jail to be about 95 percent full each day. He said officials are looking into adding another wing to the jail to expand the 800-bed facility to a 1,100- or 1,200-bed facility starting next year.

"If you build a jail, just like a ball field, people will come," he said.

District Attorney

Following on Reams' report of more crime, Weld District Attorney Michael Rourke said his office has seen the same increases. In 2016, the District Attorney's office filed almost 2,700 felony cases in the county, already a significant increase from previous years.

This year, they're on track to file more than 3,000 felony cases.

Rourke said he is developing an electronic delivery system, through which police agencies can easily remit reports to his office. Typically, officers throughout Weld County would have to drive all the way to Greeley to drop off reports.

"Instead, they can be out doing patrol work, interdiction work and the investigations that you all expect from your police officers," he said.

He said the system should be up and running in Frederick next week and in Firestone in two weeks.

Weld County Clerk and Recorder

"As all of you know — we see it — you guys are growing rapidly down here. With that, there is a statutory limit that I can only have no more than 2,000 registered voters in a precinct," County Clerk and Recorder Carly Koppes began.

This year, she explained, county officials will have to split precincts to meet the requirements, just as they did in 2015. Koppes said her office already is working with the geographical information systems team to get the most accurate data about just how much growth has occurred in Weld.

Koppes added that technology has made her office much more effective, including the installation of a cable that has cut down transmission times for daily reports. What once froze up the office for about 45 minutes now takes just two minutes.

Weld County Assessor

Trying to stamp out his reputation as "the guy who raised everybody's property taxes," Weld County Assessor Chris Woodruff explained the strict laws that dictate how assessors are supposed to make valuations.

When Firestone Trustee George Heath told him the valuations were not affordable for seniors, Woodruff's answer was simple.

"We are not looking at people when we value property; we're looking at property," he said.

Woodruff explained that the state constitution has a strict system for property tax appraisals and that the way it's done means those valuations aren't always right. He explained how residents can protest their valuations, by appointment in person, mail, fax, email or online.

If residents want to see the system changed, he explained, they'll have to amend the state constitution.

Legislature

Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, gave a residents a quick legislative wrap-up, talking about not only his work on the judiciary committee, but also some of the bills he sponsored this past legislative session.

Cooke mentioned his bill State Highway System Funding And Financing, which died in the Senate in the closing days of the session. Using specific ownership taxes and transportation revenue anticipation notes, as well as transferring money from the state's general fund, Senate Bill 303 would have given the state more money to fix highways.

Cooke made the breakfast after Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, canceled because she was booked for an event with the Marine Corps League.