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Sonic Bloom facing an uphill climb

WALSENBURG — The promoters of the summer concert event Sonic Bloom have an uphill battle in front of them to obtain a temporary use permit from the Huerfano County commissioners. It is thought the four-day event, which will take place around the Summer Solstice, will attract up to 6,000 people and over 1,000 vehicles to the remote ranch site, planned to be located five miles west on Lascar Road, in northern Huerfano County. The scale and the timing of the four-day event has caught county service providers off guard, and they told the commissioners exactly this at a special meeting called on March 30th. Representatives from the Colorado State Patrol, Huerfano Sheriff’s Office, the ambulance service, the hospital’s emergency room, the Huerfano County Fire Department and the county emergency services manager each weighed in, and each had serious concerns as to how their department could handle the equivalent of doubling Huerfano County’s population for four days. Sheriff Bruce Newman stated he had eight deputies for the entire county, and he estimated he’d need at least two of them stationed on site twenty four hours a day. The festival does contract for private security for these festivals, but actual

arrests and transports would have to be done by sheriff’s officers. Also, Newman pointed out the Huerfano County jail is essentially full already. They keep one to two cells open for local n’er-do-wells, but if more than that were incarcerated, they would have to be transported to another county’s lockup, taking both an officer’s time and the expense of doing so. The Colorado State Patrol had two representatives on hand, who weighed in with their concerns. Supervisor Brian Lyons said there was another concert occurring that same time period in Pueblo, which had already worked with the CSP on traffic control, so there would be no extra officers available to help with the huge numbers of cars that would be using Lascar Road, a two-lane(ish) dirt road, which is the only way in or out to the proposed event site. Lyons said the Sonic Bloom organizers had not supplied the CSP with a traffic control plan, and with not having any of their troopers available to help out, Lyons said they probably would not issue Sonic Bloom a special events permit. Fred Partee of the Huerfano County Fire Protection District said the department had concerns about the one way in and out road. If there were a fire at the concert, this road is the primary evacuation route, which would make it difficult for the firefighters to get in. Also, it would take around 45 minutes to bring in extra water tenders to help knock the fire down. Sonic Bloom is planning on hiring their own private firefighting service that would remain on site for such an occurrence, and there would be a strict no open flames policy. Sherry Mann, director of the ambulance service, said she was not comfortable with this at all. This festival has a track record of overdoses in their fan base, which would require treatment and transport out, probably up to Pueblo for treatment. Sonic Bloom is planning on staffing an emergency room tent on site, staffed with paramedics and an E.R. doctor just for such possible problems. They also would have a Flight For Life helicopter on standby during the festival. Sherry Gomez, director of the Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center’s emergency room, noted the chances of a heroin overdose in this scenario was of a higher likelihood, and they would need to order in special counter-acting medicine now to have on hand if this festival moves forward. Diego Bobian, the county emergency services director, reiterated the other department heads’ concerns, and also noted the slipperiness of the mud along Lascar Road, and the plan to keep dust down was to use water trucks to constantly sprinkle the road. The commissioners listened to everyone, and noted the session was to hear possible problems and try and come up with solutions. “I’m really torn on this thing,” Commissioner Max Vezzani said. “This will really have an impact on county service providers.” At Tuesday morning’s regular commissioner’s meeting, the audience area was packed with Sonic Bloom supporters. Sonic Bloom attorney Jess Greis gave the commissioners and the audience a summary of the festival plans, and how they would deal with potential problems, though Greis had not heard all the specific concerns voiced the previous day. When the public comments section of the meeting came around, several nearby neighbors stood up and voiced their opposition to the plan, noting noise, security concerns, traffic concerns, and for one person, mailbox safety. Greis noted they would have security personnel stationed from the highway all the way to the festival site, and offered to pay for a hotel for any neighbors who do not want to be around during the festival. Others stood up and were equally as passionate that Huerfano County needed this festival in order to attract a younger generation to this area. Finn Jorgensen, a local entrepreneur and ranch owner, stated this was an amazing opportunity to create awareness and exposure for the county, and offered that any neighbors who wanted out during the concert, would be welcome at his ranch. Lonnie Brown, representing the county planning and zoning board, noting the short timeframe involved and the multiple concerns, recommended denial of the permit. That went over like a lead balloon in the room. Commissioners Ray Garcia and Vezzani spoke as to they both thought the festival itself was a good idea, and they would like to see it apply for a permit next year, when there would be more preparation time, but all the department heads’ concerns, and P and Z’s recommendation for denial was a real concern. In the end, Vezzani left the door open a tiny sliver, and moved the permit application request be tabled for one week, to give Sonic Bloom time to try and address all the concerns the county has.