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2008 in review- third part

Here is the final installment on what made the headlines in Huerfano County over the past year.

August

Pole Canyon wind farm approved

WALSENBURG- In a last-minute decision, the Planning and Zoning Board for Huerfano County approved a recommendation to go ahead with the Pole Canyon Wind Project, with eleven conditions.  According to PCW representative David Hettich, some would be no problem, some needed to be negotiated, and some were unacceptable.

September

Walsenburg loses two more cops

WALSENBURG-  Police Chief Larry Baldonado informed the Walsenburg City Council on Tuesday evening that two more City police officers are leaving the force for better paying jobs in Pueblo.  This leaves the Walsenburg Police Force down by five officers.  “Pay is the issue; the biggest issue,” said Chief Baldonado.

La Veta courted by another carrier

LA VETA- Commnet Wireless has presented a proposal to the La Veta Town Board to place six flat panel antennae on the Town’s second water tank.  A proposal by Alltel Wireless is already being considered by the Town Board for a flat panel on the first water tank.  According to Commnet representative Mike Sharlow, the panels would provide service for AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless.

Walsenburg adopts

comprehensive plan

WALSENBURG- Martin Landers of Plan Tools walked the Council through an hour’s review of the draft Comprehensive Plan, which will help guide Walsenburg for the next 20 years. The Council then adopted the resolution accepting the plan.   The Council also established zoning districts in the newly added Northlands, approved paving a select number of streets, putting the City’s pastures up for lease and approved renewing the liquor license for Kay’s Liquor.

Cell tower opposition rallies

LA VETA- Concerned citizens hosted a rally last Wednesday at Ricky Tims’ Quilt Studio in hopes of educating the public on what the infamous 180 ft. cell phone tower will really mean, not only for La Veta, but also for the county.  Although no County Commissioners attended the meeting, four members of the Planning and Zoning Committee were present.

Huerfano County declared

a disaster area

 WASHINGTON– The following counties in Colorado were designated as primary natural disaster areas because of losses caused by drought that occurred during the period of Jan. 1, 2008, and continuing.  Those counties are: Adams, Arapahoe, Baca, Bent, Cheyenne, Crowley, Douglas, El Paso, Elbert, Huerfano, Kiowa, Kit Carson, Las Animas, Lincoln, Logan, Otero, Park, Prowers, Pueblo, Teller, Washington and Weld.

SPRHC hires new CEO

HUERFANO- The Huerfano County Hospital District Board is pleased to announce the hiring of Todd B. Oberheu as Chief Executive Officer of Spanish Peaks Hospital.

     According to Board President R. David Zehring, M.D., Mr. Oberheu comes to the facility from Covenant Hospital in Plainview, Texas, where he has served in a number of management positions over the past 14 years, including most recently that of Chief Operating Officer.

Residents pledge money

for Cuchara recreation

CUCHARA- The Cuchara Recreational Cooperative met with USDA Forest Service personnel on September 20 to discuss the best course of future action in the Cuchara valley.  According to CRC chair Steve Perkins, the co-op distributed surveys earlier in the year via mail, in flyers handed out over the July 4 weekend, and online at their website:   www.cuchararecreation.org.  Of the 445 surveys returned, eighty-nine percent were favorable to the co-op’s efforts and over three-quarters of those were willing to contribute money – the co-op has $443,000 in pledged commitments.

October

County holds a disaster drill

WALSENBURG- Sherry Duran had a really bad Friday morning last week.  She was hit by a train, trapped in a car with a dead guy, and her first would-be rescuers were all overcome by toxic gas.  No matter how loudly she screamed, nobody else would go near her. 

    At least everything was going according to plan.  Duran was the central actress in a multi-agency drill for Huerfano County’s emergency services.

SIEA hires new GM

Pueblo West- the San Isabel Electric Association, Inc. Board of Directors announced the appointment of Reginal Rudolph as the general manager for the electric cooperative.  Rudolph comes to San Isabel Electric from McLean Electric Cooperative, Inc. / MEC Services Inc. in Garrison, N. D. where he served as general manager.

Ritter appoints Huerfano Judge

WALSENBURG- Colorado Governor Bill Ritter made his choice from the final three candidates for Huerfano County Judgeship and named former La Junta District Attorney Gary Stork to the position.

    He will replace Judge Ellen Haskins Trujillo on Jan. 13, who is not returning to the post.

    Stork recently retired from the third Judicial District, and has served as District Attorney for the 16th Judicial District, which serves Crowley, Bent and Otero Counties. 

Mockmore joins City Council

WALSENBURG-  David Mockmore, former Chairman of the Re-1 School District and veteran of countless boards, was voted in by the Walsenburg City Council on Tuesday night.  He beat Nancy Lave a Walsenburg businesswoman.  As Councilman Lou Taylor cast the last vote, he said, “I think you’re both crazy for wanting to sit up here…”  Mockmore was sworn in by City Clerk John Zgut, and took his seat on the platform.

Congressman Salazar listens to

River Ranch concerns

WALSENBURG- Congressman John Salazar visited Walsenburg on Wed. Oct. 8  to participate in a roundtable discussion on oil and gas production in the Raton Basin.  He praised the people of this region for the western values of ”hard work, integrity, honesty, and love of country.”  Salazar said about problems with coalbed methane (CBM) production in the area, “we’re going to get to the bottom of this and take it to the top … In the West, water is the most important resource we have.”

City water to the rescue

WALSENBURG- Mayor Edi Sheldon placed a resolution before the Walsenburg City Council Tuesday evening that would lift the restriction on buying city water.  Currently, only Walsenburg residents can do so.

    The reason for this is because more and more nearby wells are becoming contaminated by coal bed methane.          To be eligible to purchase City water however, people would have to show that their existing water supply has been contaminated by gas seepage from coal bed methane wells.

Pinon Canyon Big Map exists

KIM- After years of claiming that the Army had plans to expand the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site to encompass all of southeastern Colorado, the opposition group Not 1 More Acre has found the smoking gun:  the “Big Map”, commissioned by the Army in May, 2004, showing the current 238,000 acre base swelling to over 7 million acres and engulfing the entire southeast corner of the state.  Over 17,263 people would be displaced if the plan were carried out.  People from Las Animas, Baca, Bent, Otero and Prowers counties would be moved out.

Gardner gets new foam equipment

Gardner- Upper Huerfano Fire Protection District (HUFPD) now has bragging rights to state of the art fire fighting equipment.  A Compressed Air Foam (CAF) unit was purchased, from funds in the department’s operating account.  The unit has been placed on the former first responder truck.  Chief Sharp was very pleased with this new addition to the department.  He said, “It’s a big leap for the department.  The department’s tactics will increase with this unit.”  The unit will be completely ready for use by Halloween.

November

County elections

HUERFANO-  Scott King managed to beat off two determined challengers  to retain his seat as Huerfano County Commissioner for District 2, while Commissioner Roger Cain romped to an easy victory, defeating former County Commissioner Charles Montoya.  The one percent county tax increase failed to pass, and Sheriff Bruce Newman had his term limits repealed.  In regional elections, Rep. Wes McKinley defeated Ken Torres, and Mark Udall defeated Bob Schaffer for a senate seat.

Waste transfer station coming

WALSENBURG- Residents of Huerfano County should be able to get rid of some bigger trash items locally beginning around March 1st of next year. The Huerfano County Commissioners signed the contract with Genova Construction for nearly $556,000.  The price does not include the compactor that will be used on-site.  The joint project of the County and City of Walsenburg came in higher than the $400,000 projected cost. County Administrator, John Galusha has contacted the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) about expanding their grant monies to help make up for the shortfall of $150,000.

County agencies scramble to sign IGA

LA VETA- With the failure of the one cent sales tax here in Huerfano County, the entities that were relying on it to fund an upgraded emergency dispatch system are scrambling with Plan B.

    Plan B is an Inter-Governmental Agreement, or IGA, signed by all the agencies that use the dispatch system.  To date, only the Town of La Veta and the La Veta Fire Dept. has actually signed off on it, but various fire boards and local governments will be voting on it soon.

Lessar named Coach of the Year

La Veta-  First year Redskins volleyball coach Bree Lessar has been named Coach of the Year by the Southern Peaks League. Shea Brgoch and Jo Beth Willhoite made the Southern Peaks League All Conference team.  Shelby Morgan and Emily Moll also qualified for the second team all conference team. 

Petroglyph meets with landowners

WALSENBURG- On Sat. Nov. 15, representatives from Petrogylph and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and a local geophysicist spoke to interested citizens at the Huerfano County Community Center.  In each of the three talks the focus was on domestic water wells close to the Petroglyph coalbed methane (CBM) production site south of highway 160  which have been contaminated by methane or have gone dry.  There appeared to be  new cooperation and a new tone to the discussion with an emphasis on future solutions to problems.

County to fund two new departments

WALSENBURG-The Huerfano County Commissioners will administer two new departments in 2009. One will be the dispatch system which the City of Walsenburg has handled for many years. The County will take over the operations to provide dispatch for La Veta, Walsenburg, Gardner and rural areas of the Huerfano County. The actual takeover of the dispatch services will likely not occur until spring.

Fundraiser for Dr. Cluff

LA VETA- The citizens of La Veta and the surrounding area convened at Sammie’s Restaurant last Saturday night for an old-fashioned, pot-luck dinner and dance in support of Dr. William Cluff, whose La Veta Clinic is facing serious financial difficulties.

    Dr. Cluff has served as a family-practice physician in Huerfano County for nearly 20 years working through the Spanish Peaks Regional Health and the La Veta Clinic, which he established in 1997.  Crushing malpractice insurance costs of almost $40,000 per year and lagging Medicaid reimbursements have forced Dr. Cluff’s business into near foreclosure.

HazMat scare in Walsenburg

WALSENBURG- On Wednesday, a Pueblo disposal truck came to pick up the trash at one of the dumpsters near Subway.  According to several reports, the truck′s dumpster was giving off a heavy yellow vapor.  Officer Jaramillo, one of the first officers on the scene, realized he had a HazMat situation on his hands.  Acting quickly as he had been trained, he called Emergency Services.     

    Colorado State Patrol was called as well as the HazMat teams.  City employees, police and sheriff’s deputies blocked off the streets. By 4 pm, firemen in Tyvek suits and respirators were blocking off drains and setting up holding pools so that the toxic waste could be safely captured.

December

City water rates go up for 2009

WALSENBURG-  Water rates could increase in 2009 depending on usage.  Current rates are $22.50 for the first 5,000 gallons of water used each month.  In 2009, that threshold will be lowered to 4,000 gallons for $22.50, Councilwoman Edi Flanagin explained, “with an additional charge of $1.25 for each 1,000 gallons used after that.”  For use over 15,000 gallons the rate will be $2.25 per 1,000 gallons.

Fire claims two houses in Walsenburg

WALSENBURG-  A three-alarm fire destroyed two empty houses in Walsenburg Wednesday evening, Nov. 26.  The page out was just after 9 pm, and by the time the first firefighters arrived on scene, it was already out of control. 

    The fire started in 323 W. 6th, which had been abandoned for some time, and was known locally as the wino’s hangout.  High winds gusting as much as 20 miles an hour pushed the fire into the next door house at 321 W. 6th within minutes.  A nearby duplex occupied by two families and their pets was evacuated, and suffered only minimal smoke damage. Both houses were completely engulfed and were lost.

Re-1 approves strategic plan

WALSENBURG- The Re-1 school board approved the Strategic Plan that will be from 2008-2013, which has a committee made up of teachers, administrative staff, business owners, board members and parents.  There are five strategic plan goals to meet.  The plan’s mission states that Huerfano Re-1 is committed to ensuring quality education to all students as well as instilling positive behavior to contribute to an evolving society. 

Former La Veta Mayor Jo Cross dies

TRINIDAD- M. Josephine “Jo” Cross, former La Veta mayor, died Dec. 5, 2008.  She was 93.  She joined the staff of the Huerfano Journal last July.  Jo was born Nov. 25, 1915 in Langdon, Kansas.  She was a lifelong journalist and career educator, teaching English and journalism at the high school level.

Cuchara declares Pinehaven

project finished

CUCHARA- According to Bob Northup’s report during the meeting of the Cucharas Sanitation and Water District (CSWD) on December 12, the Pine Haven project is officially finished.  Northup, General Manager, said the County has signed off on the roads, and the final statements have been received and are ready to pay.

New oil and gas regulations

for Huerfano County

HUERFANO- On December 24,  the moratorium on new permits for oil and gas exploration in Huerfano County expired.  On December 16, the Planning Commission and County Commissioners introduced to the public the next-to-final draft of a new set of regulations for oil and gas generally and for Coalbed Methane (CBM) in particular.  The development  of these regulations has taken just about one year.

Walsenburg Administrator quits

WALSENBURG- Walsenburg City Administrator Eric Pearson abruptly tendered his resignation last Tuesday evening at a City Council special meeting.  He will be taking a similar position as a City Administrator in Williamston, North Carolina. Pearson worked in North Carolina prior to moving to Walsenburg a little over two years ago.  His last day will be Jan. 23, 2009.