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Attorney General Coffman Holds Listening Tour Meeting for Prowers County

 

Colorado Atty General, Cynthia Coffman

Colorado Atty General, Cynthia Coffman

 

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman spent the majority of her day, Tuesday, May 23rd at the Prowers County Annex in Lamar, holding a series of listening sessions that began with local, elected officials and continued through the day with such topics as farming/ranching, a sex assault program at Lamar Community College and efforts of a local substance abuse group to curtail drug use in the community.  She was accompanied by several staff members including Laura Chartrand, a water attorney for the state natural resources and environment, Jose Esquibel, Director for the Office of Community Engagement as well as State Senator Larry Crowder from the 35th District and Kimmi Lewis, State Representative for the 64th District of Colorado.

The almost 20 year long battle with the State Department of Revenue and IRS over conservation easements took most of the two hour session set aside for farming and ranching topics. Local farmer, Jillane Hixson, spoke at length, along with another farmer, Linda Groner, about the negative impact the easements have had on over 800 farming and ranching operations in Colorado, including several hundred in the Arkansas Valley.  Hixson opened her comments with the statement that, “Nothing has been more detrimental to this area than the Colorado Department of Revenue’s disallowance of tax credits and a decade of litigation,” she said.

A problem developed for those who took advantage of the offered property tax credits, offered through the easement beginning in 2000, only to have their land later be determined to have either no value or less than they were awarded in credits and many of those who registered had to pay back the assessment on their land. Hixson said she has a 20 year settlement to pay off and the easement is still attached to her property and she is only one of many who are in this situation.  Several other landowners told Coffman and her staff they had spent money in a legal battle that hasn’t been resolved and additional funds have been spent in attempts to secure documents under the Open Records Act, only to find many of them have been redacted.  Hixson told Coffman that as State Attorney General, her office is not representing the landowners, but the agencies they are opposing in their lawsuits.  Hixson asked Coffman to consider suspending the issuance of new easements, a matter that was taken up by State Representative Kimmi Lewis.  She stated that even with the evidence of problems with the program, 62 new easements have been generated and she is now dealing with similar problems from one of her constituents from her district.  Lewis said she has knowledge of over a page of statute violations that have occurred with the way the easements were dealt with.

Coffman asked to have documented information be sent to her office for a review. She acknowledged that with her limited time as Attorney General, she is familiar with the easement issue, but not in as much detail as had been outlined in the listening session.  She said that she comes from a farming and ranching background and is a 5th generation farmer from Missouri and can share the concern expressed by those present.

Lamar City Councilman, Oscar Riley, said the topics covered at the start of the session, held for elected officials, dealt with state regulatory requirements for rural landfills, asbestos abatement procedures, the homeless in rural communities and substance abuse prevention programs. Coffman and her department representatives held a similar session in the Limon/Hugo area the day before.  Prior to the session, she said they are intended as an exchange of ideas and concerns and a means by which her office can connect local officials to various departments that can offer aid, information or connections to other elected officials.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: AgricultureConsumer IssuesCountyEconomyEmploymentEnvironmentFeaturedHealthLaw EnforcementTransportationUtilities

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