OURAY - The Ouray City Council holds a special meeting next Tuesday at 6 p.m. to interview a candidate for the position of interim police chief.
Commander Gene Lillard has been with the Montrose Police Department for 36 years, and is interested in filling in as interim chief at the Ouray Police Department until the position is permanently filled, said City Administrator Patrick Rondinelli at Monday’s Ouray City Council meeting. The OPD has been short-staffed since former police chief Leo Rasmusson and two police officers resigned in May.
Applications for the permanent police chief position are due June 10. The application period to fill the two police officer positions closed on Monday, June 3. Rondinelli reported that eight applicants applied for the open officer positions. “A hiring committee will evaluate the candidates and the interim chief will be a part of that,” he said.
In the meantime, all shifts at the OPD are covered through the month of June with law enforcement officers who have contracted with the city at a rate of $30 per hour from other agencies. Currently, these include four deputies from the Ouray County Sheriff’s Office and one Montrose police officer.
Additionally, the Ridgway Marshal’s Department will help provide law enforcement at the Mountain Air Music Series, which kicks off at Fellin Park this Thursday night.
“We have been reaching out to other jurisdictions, working to make sure we will have the shifts covered,” Rondinelli said.
NOISE ORDINANCE REMAINS IN LIMBO
A proposed amendment to the City of Ouray’s noise ordinance faltered on first reading at Monday’s Ouray City Council meeting, exposing a philosophical rift among councilors regarding how strictly the city should define and regulate noise violations.
Up for consideration was Ordinance No. 5, modifying a section of the city code pertaining to noise regulations so that law enforcement officers would have to determine whether a noise was “unreasonable” at the property line instead of from a set distance from the source of the noise.
The modified ordinance also contains a semantic tweak, changing “plainly audible” to “unreasonably excessive” to accommodate the fact that all manner of noises may be “plainly audible” at a property line – whether or not they are disruptive. However, the ordinance does not provide for an objective means of determining what is “unreasonably excessive,” instead leaving it up to the discretion of law enforcement officers.
The modifications were a compromise of sorts that came out of an April 15 work session at which council grappled with how, or whether, to beef up the city’s existing noise ordinance.
City Administrator Patrick Rondinelli recommended that council not approve Ordinance No. 5 on first reading, stating in a memo to council that he did not believe the proposed changes would effectively alleviate ambiguity in the existing ordinance.
“There is concern about making it too broad,” he said. “Let’s leave the regulations how they are currently and see how this plays out, and maybe come back and visit it again at a later time.”
Councilor Michael Underwood, however, argued in favor of tabling the matter and scheduling another work session to further discuss how to refine the noise ordinance. His motion died for lack of a second.
“I am not in favor of changing the [existing] ordinance,” Councilor John Ferguson countered. “This change is not needed.” Kersen concurred, and moved to deny approval of the modified ordinance as written with Ferguson seconding.
But Underwood and Mayor Bob Risch both opposed that motion, and it failed in a tied vote; Councilman Gary Hansen, the fifth council member who would otherwise have provided the tie-breaking vote, was absent from the meeting.
“I feel we need to do something,” Risch said. However, as the meeting adjourned, it remained unclear what that “something” would be.
A SUCCESSFUL SEASON AT ICE PARK
Ouray Ice Park Inc. board president Mike MacLeod reported the completion of an extremely successful season at Ouray’s popular winter attraction. MacLeod praised the City of Ouray’s Public Works department, City Administrator Patrick Rondinelli and Community Development Coordinator Ann Morgenthaler as being extremely helpful in collaborations between the two entities to help things run smoothly at the park.
“Our goal is to maintain greatest ice climbing venue on earth and that is what we do,” MacLeod said, adding that there is “excitement and passion worldwide” for the ice park.
During the summer months, OIPI will conduct an assessment of rock climbing within the park boundaries.
With visitation levels at the Ice Park experiencing steady growth year after year, Mayor Bob Risch wondered, “Is there a point where you reach saturation?”
MacLeod acknowledged that there are some overcrowding issues in some areas of the park, and added that one of the tasks the OIPI board will undertake this summer is how to manage large unguided groups (from climbing clubs or educational institutions, for example) that don’t fall under the traditional guiding concessionaire model. “We need to do a better job of how to quantify and account for people,” MacLeod acknowledged.
On Martin Luther King weekend, the busiest weekend of the year at the Ice Park, OIPI estimates there were 400-500 people climbing in the park. “It was maxed out to say the least,” he said. “We counted 70 ropes in South Park alone.
One way to handle the overcrowding would be to expand the park terrain, but MacLeod said, “There is only so much canyon and only so much water” with which to make the ice. Additionally, expanding terrain would add more work for the team of “ice farmers” who are already “maxed out.”
MacLeod said there are still some expansion opportunities within the park, “but not like 10-15 years ago like where you could put in 20 new climbs.”