Week in Summit: County pays Forest Service $1.75M for land | SummitDaily.com

Week in Summit: County pays Forest Service $1.75M for land

Summit Daily staff report
news@summitdaily.com

Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, foreground, and former U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, (D-Colorado) in 2014 when they visited the Lake Hill property that the county is now in the process of buying from the U.S. Forest Service for workforce housing development.

Last Tuesday, Dec. 8, the Summit County Board of Commissioners approved the purchase of the 45-acre Lake Hill property. The land, located between Dillon Dam Road and Interstate 70, is being purchased for $1.75 million from the U.S. Forest Service.

The planning process for the future workforce housing stretches back to 2010.

"It's amazing," said Commissioner Dan Gibbs. "It's unbelievable to think that here we are just inches away from actually purchasing this land," he said.

Acquiring the property from the Forest Service has been fraught with red-tape and delays. Due to budget cuts, the Forest Service Facility Realignment and Enhancement Act, or FSFREA was passed in 2005 to allow the Forest Service to sell land parcels, up to 40-acres in size.

This July President Obama signed the Lake Hill Administrative Site Affordable Housing Act into law which cleared the way for the land sale.

"I can't tell you how many phone calls and memos and meetings and handwringing sessions we've had over the hope for purchase of this property," said Gary Martinez, Summit County manager. "To have it now be a reality is, in my mind, just an absolutely great milestone for the county."

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Child porn case developments

More twists and turns this week in the Kenneth Scott Casey felony child pornography case.

The defense was dealt a setback when a Summit County District Court judge denied a motion to join the felony child pornography case with two related misdemeanors.

Casey, 59, faces one class-four felony charge of possession of sexually exploitative material, which will not be considered concurrently with two previous cases.

The motion was filed by the defense in November. Their argument was that all the charges linked to one narrative involving the defendant and a witness.

"The common thread is a similar conduct by the defendant, a common scheme or plan, something to that effect," Fifth Judicial District Judge Mark Thompson said. "It's not appropriate for the defendant to motion for a joinder because it's concerned with the defendant's conduct."

Defense attorney Sommer Spector had argued in an earlier hearing that by combining the separate testimonies, inconsistencies may become apparent.

On June 20 Frisco Police received a home computer and flash drive that reportedly belonged to Casey and contained pornographic material involving children from a female witness. The woman also turned in another flash drive, with a similar storyline, two weeks later.

The woman had been residing with Casey for three months, living in Amarillo, Texas, Colorado Springs, Fairplay and, most recently, the Baymont Inn in Frisco.

He was arrested on July 7 after a U.S. Department of Homeland Security agent conducted a forensic exam of the computer tower, finding more than 500 "notable" photos and 19 videos related to child pornography.

Summit County approves nearly $27 million 2016 budget

The Summit County Commissioners on Tuesday also approved a $26.9 million budget for 2016. Projections forecast a $2.4 million increase in revenues next year.

According to Marty Ferris, county finance director, the county recorded an 11 percent increase in overall property tax evaluations the previous year. Despite this positive news, due to TABOR rules, the county is limited in what it can recoup. The county also saw sales tax revenues increase by $275,000 to 7.5 percent.

"For county government, the biggest revenue sources we have are property tax and sales tax," he said.

The two biggest components of the general fund are property taxes, about one third, and sales tax, about 17 percent. Another area of growth for the county was transit tax revenue, which grew by 9.3 percent.

"Our property tax revenues are recovering, but because of TABOR restrictions, it will take four two-year revaluation processes to return to pre-recession revenue levels, assuming property values continue to rise," Summit County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said in a statement. "Rising sales tax revenues are helping to relieve some of this pressure, though."

Ferris noted that a two-percent sales tax increase was budgeted for next year.