Town board hears plea to help prevent youth suicide

By Dan Karpiel

The Surveyor

The Berthoud Board of Trustees held their regularly scheduled meeting at town hall on Tuesday evening and a diverse set of issues came before the group.

During the public comment portion of the evening, Berthoud resident Chad Onthank came before the board to express his view that the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor should be retained as the town’s paper of record. Recently, several members of the board have floated the idea of replacing the Surveyor with Loveland’s Reporter-Herald, despite the Surveyor’s much-wider circulation numbers in the 80513 zip code.

“If Berthoud did not have a regular media source it would make sense to seek a newspaper from a neighboring city to be our newspaper of record, however we do have a local newspaper here whose primary job is to represent the people of Berthoud,” Onthank said in his comments. Onthank made a point of emphasizing a large portion of the Surveyor’s content is available online free of charge while the Reporter-Herald’s online content requires a paid subscription.

The board listened to a presentation directed by Cheryl Mcloch, a mental-health professional, abuse victim, and suicide-attempt survivor who operates the non-profit group CLEAR (Connection-Love-Empowerment-Acceptance-Resilience) Lighthouse. The organization is a youth suicide-prevention and youth-advocacy group.

Mcloch’s presentation outlined suicide is the leading cause of death for persons aged 10-24 in Colorado and the state is in the top-10 in the nation in youth suicide rate. Throughout both her personal life and professional career, she has learned feelings of loneliness and isolation are among the leading causes of suicides and suicide attempts.

Mcloch explained the findings of a recent study from the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) that concluded half of suicide deaths are not a result of mental illness, and prevention efforts should focus on environmental-health factors. Considering this, Mcloch said, the CLEAR Lighthouse organization is seeking to create what the group calls a “Holistic Hub,” which is a mental-health community center focused on providing youth with a safe space.

Mcloch asked the board if they would consider helping her group find space to establish their center in Berthoud. “We don’t mind starting small and working our way up … it would be nice to have one little place,” Mcloch said and stated a space of roughly 1,500 square feet would be ideal and that exclusive use by CLEAR Lighthouse would be preferred, but the group would be willing to share space.

After some discussion the board, at the suggestion of Trustee Brian Laak, agreed to create a sub-committee that would work with Mcloch to attempt to find usable space for her group. “It is incredibly important what you’re doing,” Mayor Will Karspeck said as he wrapped up the discussion.

The board moved on to discussion regarding the proposed dog park that will be located on a parcel of land bordering 10th Street north of Berthoud High School and the Berthoud Parks Department buildings. The board received a lengthy letter from a resident who expressed great dissatisfaction not only regarding the decision to create the dog park, which was done via an intergovernmental agreement with Thompson School District, who owns the land but have no plans for using it, but with how the park will be administered.

In response to the concerns raised in the resident’s letter, Laak expressed a desire to, “dial in the rules of the road for the dog park,” to which Trustee Pete Tomassi replied is not the purview of the board of trustees and that such operational issues are better handled by Town Administrator Chris Kirk and his staff.

“Our job as a board is vision, it’s setting policy, it’s why and what, and it’s really not our job when we start getting into licensing and hours of operation,” Tomassi said. “I have great confidence in Chris and his team. I think they’re going to figure out those details … we don’t need to get into the minutia of that for them.”

In addressing the concerns raised in the letter, Kirk explained he will not allow the dog park to become a problem for the town. “We intend to operate the dog park in a way that is of the least amount of impact to anyone as possible. I think we understand some of the concerns that have been raised,” Kirk said. “I will be the first one to shut it down if it becomes a management problem. If people can’t be responsible and can’t be good neighbors, we shouldn’t waste time and energy providing a facility for them to bother everyone else.” Kirk said if the dog park becomes a management problem for the town he will come to the board and request it be shut down.

The board voted unanimously to appoint Berthoud resident Marisol Rodriguez to the Parks Open space Recreation and Trails (PORT) citizens volunteer committee. Following that vote, the board received a lengthy and detailed presentation from Dwayne Guthrie, Ph.D., of Raftelis Financial Consultants, on the results of a study of impact fees in small towns.

Impact fees are one-time payments imposed on new developments that must be used to fund growth-related capital projects such as roads, parks, open space and public facilities. The presentation of the report constituted a first reading, meaning no decision was made on any matter other than what further information the board wants or may want in the future.

Following the presentation an expanded discussion ensued where trustees discussed and debated everything from establishing a TransFort or Bustang public transportation hub in town to the larger scope of the assessment of fees.

In the discussion of fees and their larger impact on growth and development, Tomassi explained, “I think it’s really important that we keep in mind whatever impact fees we ultimately approve of, that gets passed on to the end user. That’s future homebuyers, and we’re already hearing from a variety of different places that Berthoud is getting to be more and more expensive. We’ve increased the cost for the water tap, we’re going to be increasing our impact fees … we have a fee here and fee here and all of a sudden, things are getting very expensive.”

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