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Trustees hope to get proactive with bear ordinance

By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff

Carbondale's elected leaders decided on Sept. 12 that they need to get a little tougher in enforcing the town's ordinances aimed at requiring local households to have bear-proof containers, though the exact nature of the changes has yet to be decided.
At the very least, it appears that starting next spring the town will be requiring local homeowners to have certified bear-proof trash containers and to closely follow the town's schedule for putting the trash out on the street for pickup.
“I think the key to it is, we send a message this winter that change is coming,” declared Mayor Dan Richardson at this week's Board of Trustees meeting, where the trustees chatted with wildlife ranger John Groves of Colorado Parks & Wildlife and Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling about this year's invasion of Carbondale by hungry bears.
“We're probably teaching a generation or two of bears right now to come into town” and feast on trash left relatively unprotected by careless households, Groves told the trustees.
Groves had estimated earlier in the summer that perhaps a dozen bears were roaming Carbondale's alleys and streets in search of easy meals, as a consequence of a failed crop of berries, nuts and other natural sources of bear fodder in the high country.
And when bears learn to depend on overfull or easily opened trash cans for food, he cautioned the trustees, it is quite possible that the bears involved will have to be killed.
Trustee Marty Silverstein remarked that the town has so far been “reactive on this,” and urged the board and town staff to be “more proactive” — meaning to not wait until next summer before doing something about the problem.
Silverstein said he agreed with Trustee Frosty Merriott, who has been the board's leading proponent of making households obtain bear-proof trash containers and taking other steps as a way of discouraging the feasting bears.
“I hate to see animals pay for human misconduct,” Silverstein said. 
Merriott at one point commented that he feels that perhaps 20-30 percent of local residents either “don't know any better” than to leave their trash under-protected, or they “don't give a damn” about their trash or about the bears.
The board concluded that the trustees and staff will work on the issue over the winter, and hope to have solutions ready for implementation by the spring of 2018.


Other business
In an unrelated item, the trustees authorized staff to move forward with plans to install a micro-hydroelectric generator on a raw-water line at the Nettle Creek town water facility, starting with spending up to $30,000 (half from the town, half from the Colorado Water Resources & Power
Development Authority) feasibility study of the project.
According to Utility Director Mark O'Meara, the town has been thinking about the power generating possibilities of Nettle Creek since 1990 and perhaps longer, and the utility department has put aside enough money to pay for the town's share of the feasibility study.
The study, O'Meara told the trustees, should take six to eight months and show the pros and cons of the proposed project.
A motion to proceed, made by Silverstein with a second from new Trustee Luis Yllanes, passed unanimously.