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Paonia steps up to code enforcement

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Photo by Tamie Meck Paonia town manager Jane Berry addresses trustees and town staff Saturday at a budget planning retreat at Paonia Town Hall. The retreat was open to the public and designed to bring ideas to the table that can benefit the town in the co

Paonia resident Kathy Greer came before Paonia trustees on Aug. 11 to complain about a neighbor's "junkyard." Greer, who lives on Box Elder Avenue in the Lee's Park Subdivision, said six vehicles, some of which are leaking oil, and three of which aren't running, along with other unsightly objects are making the property an eyesore.

"I have complained and complained and complained," said Greer.

Town manager Jane Berry responded that, if it's the property she's thinking of, Officer Neil Ferguson and the police department are aware of the problem, and the town code enforcement officer is in communication with the owners. The property, said Berry, will see improvements in the near future.

Greer also complained that Lee's Park, which is owned by the town, hasn't been watered this summer, and asked why the subdivision lacks a fire hydrant.

Berry explained that irrigation water is not used on Lee's Park. Due to the fact that the town's one-million-gallon storage tank has been out of operation all summer, the town made the decision not to use treated water on its properties.

As for the lack of a hydrant, public works director Travis Loberg explained that it's an infrastructure issue -- two-inch water lines carry water into the subdivision, while a hydrant requires six-inch lines.

Code enforcement is becoming more of a priority with the town, which recently set up a radar speed device on Fourth Street, and increased patrol, resulting in several speeding warnings and citations. Everyone cited last month opted to pay the fine rather than appear in court, said Officer Neil Ferguson, making July the eighth month without a town court session.

Berry said that at any given time, six to 10 citations are awaiting payment. "I hate to say this," said Berry, "but in some ways it's a very pleasurable experience to be writing out the receipt for the payment of those citations."

People are slowing down, said Berry. "That's significant and says that our police department is working hard to protect the community.... That's what it's really about."

The department is also dealing with complaints of neighbors growing cannabis. When checking on complaints, they are finding that many grow areas are not in compliance with state laws, which require four walls, the ability to be locked, and for plants to be covered, which is where most people are out of compliance, said Ferguson. The department is allowing 10 days to comply with the laws before issuing citations. "We're trying to make sure that everybody's compliant with that and have a lock, for their own safety as well as town safety," said Ferguson.

There were also two complaints of smoking at the Aug. 13 Pickin' in the Park concert, but by the time officers arrived, no one was found to be smoking.

In other business, trustees will hold a special meeting at 3 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27, to allow the accounting firm of RubinBrown to present its report on the 2014 financial audit. That discussion will be limited to accounting and town representatives.

According to Berry, the public will have an opportunity to comment on the audit at the Sept. 8 trustee meeting. Unless there are issues to clean up or clarify, trustees may vote to approve the audit at that meeting, said Berry.

The town is also in negotiation with RubinBrown for a possible additional cost of $10,000 for the audit, "given the extensive work and research that was done," said Berry. The town entered a three-year renewable contract with Rubin Brown, at an annual cost of $28,500.

At the upcoming Aug. 25 trustee meeting, representatives from Delta-Montrose Electric Association are expected to come before the board to give a presentation on efforts to bring broadband access to the area. The town is considering bringing a ballot measure to opt out of Senate Bill 05-152, commonly known as the open access bill, before voters for the November general election. Trustees are considering a vote on the ballot issue at the Aug. 25 meeting.

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