Blue Mountain Ranch has been operated by three generations of the Bill Allen family since 1947.
Susie Allen Graf, the Allens’ daughter, now owns the camp. She manages the camp with her two sons, who also provide maintenance of the camp.
Park County commissioners designated Blue Mountain Ranch camp as a Park County Historical Landmark Nov. 21.
Bill Allen purchased the 80-acre homestead and potato farm in 1946 to develop a summer football training camp. He was the athletic director and coached football at a Texas high school.
He bought an old school bus to transport the youth from the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Wichita Falls and Amarillo, Texas, to Blue Mountain for two weeks of football training.
In 1947, he and the football players built the Beaver Lodge. It contained sleeping quarters, a kitchen and a dining area.
Also built that year were an outdoor basketball court, athletic field, a picnic area and a bathhouse.
By 1951, three boys’ cabins and a reservoir on Fish Creek were built.
In 1953, Allen purchased 160 acres of an old dairy ranch. It is seven miles southwest of the camp. The camp used the property for horse pastures and wilderness camping.
By 1954, the mess hall, nurse’s cabin and a shooting range were added to the camp facilities.
Several other youth camps were built in Park County as the state, and nation, ushered in an era of tourism and recreation in the early 20th century.
The railroads, and later the automobile, facilitated the growth of tourism and youth camps.
The first known youth camp in Colorado, E.M. Byers Home for Boys, was established between Shawnee and Grant in 1920 by Elizabeth Byer. She facilitated youth camping trips to the area as early as 1896.
A youth camp at Insmont was also built in 1920, and Camp Santa Maria, one mile east of Grant, was built in 1930.
In the Lake George and Florissant area, camps didn’t spring up until after World War II. Then three, with Blue Mountain being one, were established in the same general area south of Lake George from 1946 to 1948.
Camps in other areas of the county were also established after the war. IdRaHaJe, north of Bailey, was established in 1948.
Blue Mountain Ranch camp is the oldest in Park County that has been continuously operated by the same family and is one of the oldest youth camps in the state.
As Blue Mountain camp grew, more buildings were constructed and activities were added.
Activities included horseback riding, fishing, tennis, basketball, swimming, boating, rifle shooting, a ropes course and rock climbing.
Another growth period in the 1970s occurred after a nearby girls’ camp closed.
Three girls’ cabins, a second fire pit, arts and crafts building, tennis courts, a recreation hall and amphitheater were added. Three additional boys’ cabins were built. A second recreation hall was built in 1998.
In 1985, the Graf’s built a new house and garage. A total of 65 structures are on the two camp properties, with 39 contributing to the historical designation.
2020 proposed county budget
Assistant County Manager Cindy Gharst gave a presentation of the 2020 budget, but no total revenue or expenditures were given.
Dollar amounts are rounded by The Flume.
Gharst said three laws limit yearly revenue by different amounts and the county is required to use the most restrictive.
First, the Gallagher Amendment limits revenue growth to 5.5 percent each year. Using that, the mill levy would be 23.6 or $11.3 million in property tax.
Second, the mill levy of the county when Taxpayer Bill of Rights was approved by voters in 1992. That was 24.06 or $11.5 million.
Park County citizens voted to exempt some revenue, such as sales tax, grants, state and federal revenue from TABOR in the late 1990s.
Revenues not exempt are property tax, fees, permits and fines.
TABOR limits revenue to last year’s revenue base plus growth and inflation.
The 2020 TABOR limit calculations include $10.6 million base, 0.88 percent local growth and 2 percent Consumer Price Index (inflation). This limits TABOR revenue to 19.93 mills and $9.58 million in property taxes.
Most of the increase, $8.59 million, is allocated to the general fund. Public works, human services and retirement funds also receive a little of the increase.
Gharst covered the four major funds in the presentation.
Revenue and expenses for the general fund were calculated using two scenarios.
The first was based on departments’ submitted budgets of $15.2 million in revenue and $16.1 in expenses.
This would leave a $3 million fund balance at the end of 2020, which is 19.9 percent ratio fund balance to expenses.
The county usually has a fund balance of around 25 percent to keep the government running the first three months of the next year until property taxes start coming in.
The submitted 2020 general fund revenue was listed as $8.59 million in property tax, $2.2 million in permits, fees and fines, $1.7 million in federal payment in lieu of taxes, $1.7 in other taxes, about $500,000 in jail and intergovernmental revenue and $500,000 in other revenue.
The second scenario has the same revenue except jail income. The slide is listed as “with modification to jail operational expense.”
Revenue is listed as $15.09 million with expenses of $15.3 million.
This leaves a fund balance of $3.7 million or 25.7 percent ratio fund balance to expenses.
Sheriff Tom McGraw talked during public comment on the budget at the Nov. 14 presentation and again on Nov. 21.
His main point is that after much needed salary increases and replacing vehicles with high mileage in 2019, now he was being told to cut $1 million from the 2020 budget.
Salaries went from $3.12 million to $4.94 million for all Sheriff’s office budgets. They include patrol, jail, animal control and victim advocate.
Those numbers are just salaries and overtime, not withholding or holiday and special duty pay.
The commissioners suggested the cuts come from the jail budget and told him to think out of the box.
The main problem with revenue at the jail, which ran about $1 million in the past, has to do with not receiving prisoners from other jurisdictions.
Due to new laws with more on the horizon in 2020, fewer offenders are going to prison and the state doesn’t have prisoners to send to Park County.
McGraw said he decided not to take prisoners with high-dollar health issues or violent and other behavior problems as inmates.
His reason was to reduce health-related expenses and injuries from violent inmates.
This would also increase safety at the jail and reduce the number of lawsuits filed against the jail.
Elsner said the commissioners’ goal is to stop taking other jurisdictions’ prisoners and build a smaller, more cost-effective jail only for Park County violators, which average between 10 and 14 prisoners at a time. It would be located next to the courthouse.
At times the discussion was heated between the commissioners and McGraw.
McGraw said he had cut the jail budget everywhere that he could without risking the safety of jail employees and had also cut the other parts of his budget as much as possible.
McGraw offered four budget options, with his preference being 18 sworn personnel.
“Whether I have five or fifty inmates, I need a minimum of 18 sworn staff and four auxiliary staff,” he said at both commissioner meetings.
That will cover two twelve-hour shifts seven days a week. It includes two nurses, a case worker and an administration officer plus two sworn staff on the floor and one in the camera room.
The second option was six sworn staff with one on the floor at all times. This would save about a million dollars, but was a huge liability issue for possible serious injuries, and also left no one to transport prisoners when needed.
Elsner said he could always call in a patrol deputy if more than one was needed to control a violent inmate.
McGraw said it takes 75 seconds to kill someone and no patrol deputy could get to the jail that fast.
He gave examples of incidents this year that would have ended differently if only one person had been on the floor at a time.
The third option was to not use the jail but transport to other jails. This would still require three sworn personnel: two to process inmates and one to transport. He said this option would only save about $250,000.
The fourth option was to have 13 sworn staff and fill in with certified deputies when needed. It would save about $130,000.
McGraw said all four options’ costs didn’t include overtime, vacation or sick leave.
He said the only way to get $1 million more in revenue was to have 40 to 50 prisoners, but that option is not reality in today’s world.
In checking with other Sheriffs, McGraw said the jail is running at the low end of expenditures and with a smaller ratio of personnel to inmates than surrounding counties.
Commissioner Dick Elsner said several times at both meetings that the citizens had voted no to increasing the sheriff’s budget when they turned down the one half percent sales tax.
McGraw said he thought a large number of the no votes were from voters who vote no on any tax increase and didn’t consider it a mandate against the Sheriff’s office.
Nov. 21, he said the only other cuts he could make would be cut the school resource officers for $140,000, animal control personnel for $50,000 and the court safety officer.
He said the court safety officer cut would mean a deputy would have to cover the court house when in session and overtime would result in no salary savings from the cut.
In the end Nov. 21, both the commissioners and Sheriff said they would continue looking for ways to reduce the deficiency until December, when a new budget is adopted.
Elsner said they will also take another look in July when the county learns how much PILT it will receive, new state laws that are passed and if any other funding can be found.
Public works budget
At the end of 2019 the public works fund balance is projected to increase by almost $700,000 to $5.14 million.
The 2020 budget is projected at $6 million in income and $7.5 million in expense. This will drive the fund balance down to $3.7 million.
Expenses for public works were listed as $3.6 million for personnel, capital expenditures at $1.2 million, $300,000 for debt, administration at $279,000 and road maintenance and new projects for $2.1