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2011 in Review- January through June


New Walsenburg City council take their seats

WALSENBURG- The new Walsenburg City Council was sworn in on Tuesday evening, with one seat from Ward 2 left vacant, and it will remain so for the forseeable future.

    The seat had been held by Larry Patrick for four years, but no one ran to fill it last election, and no one has come forward to fill it since- until Patrick said he would serve again, if he was approved by Council.

    He wasn’t.

    Patrick was nominated to re-fill his seat by James Moore, who described Patrick as the best (only) candidate for the seat, and having established a strong track record, with a great deal of experience and information.  The motion was seconded by Councilwoman Silvana Lind.

    Led by Mayor Bruce Quintana, Erin Jerant and James England, Patrick’s motives and commitment were called into question, with Quintana particularly saying Patrick was against poor people.  Quintana also alleged that the City’s financial woes were Patrick’s fault.  Patrick denied all of this, particularly noting that if there was fault to be laid for the City’s finances, it should be on the entire council.

Quest Enterprises sold to Danish Company

WALSENBURG- Quest Enterprises, owned and operated by Jerry and JoVonne Fitzgerald was bought by the Danish company Viking Life-Saving Equipment A/S on January 1, 2010.  Quest Enterprises, Inc., founded in 1985, is one of only a handful of manufacturing facilities in Huerfano County.  The 25 Quest employees make, sell, and distribute high quality hand-crafted fire fighting garments (aka turn out gear) for the North American market.  The Fitzgeralds have been planning to sell their company for several years but had important criteria to meet before selling.  They wanted to ensure that any buyer would continue the Quest commitment to quality, the protection of local jobs, and protection of their current clients.  Viking Equipment met all these guidelines and brings a new facet to Walsenburg ‘s economy.

No annexation proposal submitted to Town

LA VETA- Perhaps one of the most surprising bits of information from Saturday’s community meeting with the La Veta Town Board was that no annexation proposal has been submitted to the Town by the Grandote subdivision developer for the portion that is outside Town limits.

    Well over a hundred people crowded the Community Center to express their concern over the closure of Grandote Peaks Golf Course and the loss of jobs, and many were hopeful that the Town Board could “do something” to ensure that it reopens.

    On the section of the subdivision that is within Town limits, there are home sites already platted with water taps available.  Mayor Pro Tem Dawn Blanken told the crowd, “The Town fully expected that, by this time, 80-90 homes would have been built on that platted land, paying taxes and contributing to the Town.” One audience member said that Dr. Charles R. “Randy” Briggs, who purchased the entire property at an IRS tax auction, still owns 63 of those lots.

Tonight’s the Night of Champions

WALSENBURG- The Huerfano Journal is pleased to sponsor A Night of Champions where the seven former John Mall State Wrestling Champions will be honored with an invitation-only banquet followed by the unveiling of a four-by-eight foot banner listing their accomplishments.  The banner will be displayed for the first time at the John Mall versus Trinidad wrestling dual meet beginning at 7 pm tonight.

Rick Jennings fills final City Council seat

WALSENBURG- The Walsenburg City Council avoided a costly election Tuesday evening by rounding up Ward Two resident Rick Jennings to fill Larry Patrick’s vacant seat.  Jennings, 46, is a lifelong Walsenburger, and currently works in La Veta in construction.  Jennings said he had been approached by several councilmen and urged to run, and he felt he should do something for the community.

    Former City Councilwoman Cathy Pineda had also submitted a letter of intent for the seat, but withdrew at the last moment at the advice of the Colorado Secretary of State, citing the Colorado Constitution, which bars councilmembers from serving three terms without a four-year break in between.

Papa Joes and Gunny’s to close

GARDNER-     Papa Joe′s Market and its little brother, Gunny′s Grill, will be closing on January 22.  Diana Cupps said that the big reason for shutting the doors was the economy.  The little reason was the mild winter which encouraged the locals to make more frequent trips to Walsenburg and Pueblo.

Prison closing a blow to County

WALSENBURG– Walsenburg and Huerfano County could face an economic loss of up to 20 million dollars in the next year if CCA closes its prison in April. With 90 employees from Huerfano County facing job losses, Huerfano County Administrator, John Galusha says the loss in wages alone would amount to 2.7 million dollars based on an average of $30,000 per local employee of CCA. A dollar goes through a community up to 7 times, benefiting businesses and individuals. That would amount to around 20 million dollars. That doesn’t tell the entire financial story.

    The news last week that Arizona was transferring all of their 700 prisoners from the CCA prison in Walsenburg back to Arizona was devastating news for the Huerfano County area. Arizona had just made a deal last year to transfer those prisoners to Walsenburg and pay more to house them than Colorado would for the prisoners that were here. The economy played a major part in the decision by Arizona officials to take their prisoners back. It could also leave a gaping hole in the local economy if CCA is unable to garner another contract to house prisoners in Walsenburg.

Foreclosures up in County

WALSENBURG- Foreclosures were up slightly for 2009 compared to the previous year. That is according to Debbie Reynolds of the Huerfano County Treasurer’s Office. Reynolds told the Huerfano County Commissioners that there were 55 foreclosures last year compared to 52 in 2008. That brings the 2 year total to 107. The sale of foreclosed properties have helped some local real estate companies but those people wanting to sell their properties in the county find themselves unable to compete with many of the foreclosed prices.


Ditching Walsenburg Police “off the table”

WALSENBURG- After flirting with the idea of combining the Walsenburg Police Department with the County Sheriff’s Office for months, the Walsenburg City Council definitively closed the door on that option Tuesday night. 

Two Rivers Water Company acquires majority interest in Huerfano-Cucharas Irrigation Company

HUERFANO- Two Rivers Water Company, through its 50% owned joint venture HCIC Holdings LLC, has completed the purchase of 55% of the outstanding shares of the Huerfano-Cucharas Irrigation Company (HCIC), in Southern Colorado.  Additionally, the company has entered into separate agreements to purchase an additional 35% interest, to bring its total ownership of HCIC to 90% by April 2010.

Walsenburg in “dire economic straights”

WALSENBURG- Finance Committee Chairman James England put a somber mood to the beginning of Tuesday night’s City Council by announcing that Walsenburg is almost $400,000 in the hole, with $200k to $300k of that coming from lost revenues with the prison closing.  Walsenburg’s scaling back of the police department will no longer be enough to staunch the losses, and layoffs will have to begin (See related story below).

     ”Walsenburg is in dire financial straights,” England intoned, “and we need to right our financial ship.”  England said the City will begin shifting its bookkeeping from the modified accrual system to a municipal cash basis system, so the City would have a more accurate idea of how much cash they had on hand on any given day.

More layoffs in store for City

WALSENBURG- The City of Walsenburg will implement more layoffs to try and offset the additional losses in revenue brought about by the closing of the CCA prison.

Eight Panthers qualify for state tournament in wrestling

CENTER– The John Mall Panthers will send eight wrestlers to Denver for the 2010 State Wrestling Tournament which begins today.  The Panthers garnered 152 points to finish in second place,

Huerfano County low in health rankings

WALSENBURG- Huerfano County is ranked 55th in the state in health criteria. The new study released this week will show several factors including how people look at health issues and what they do about them.


Huerfano Journal takes over the World

WALSENBURG- Brian and Gretchen Orr, publishers of the Huerfano Journal, have purchased the Huerfano County World newspaper from its most recent owner, Dale Bean.  The Orrs have combined the two newspapers into one, and are calling it, appropriately enough, the Huerfano World Journal.

    The Orrs are proud to carry on the 126-year history that the World represents, and pledge to remain fair and open to Huerfanos from all walks of life and beliefs.

City Council keeps raise

WALSENBURG- The Walsenburg City Council had very little on their agenda Tuesday night but one item was to clarify and ratify, through an ordinance, the raise the last city council gave to the incoming city council.

Town government election hotly contested

LA VETA- The La Veta election for Mayor and Board of Trustees has attracted a lot of interest this year, fueled primarily by economic uncertainty, which has found its scapegoat in Town government. 

    Mayor Mickey Schmidt will seek re-election, while Trustee Don Keairns is challenging him for the position. 

    The positions of Trustees Dale Davis, Tracy Webb and Jesse Yarbrough are expiring, and all three incumbents are seeking re-election.  Six others have declared their candidacy for the three open Trustee seats: Don Lowell, Ken Fulfs, Roger Brunelli, James McAnnally, Laurie Erwin and Larry Klinke.

Walsenburg Police Chief laid off

WALSENBURG– Walsenburg Police Chief Larry Baldonado was laid off on Monday in what Walsenburg City Administrator Alan Hein called a “cost saving measure.”  Hein stated the move is a temporary situation until the City is in better financial shape, but did not put a timetable on filling the police chief position.  Another police officer will be let go next week.

    Hein said the police department would be run in-house for now, with the two lieutenants, Kurt Liebchen and John Rodriguez reporting to him.

Chamberlain named interim police chief

WALSENBURG- The Walsenburg Police Department got down to ten officers last week as part of the round of layoffs that were to see two officers released. As reported last week in the Huerfano World Journal, Police Chief Larry Baldonado was laid off in a move to save the City of Walsenburg money. Prior to his being laid off, Baldonado was recommending that Officer John Wiggins be one of the officers laid off.

Coffer dam, take two

Work on the Martin Lake valve replacement project is proceeding quickly while the weather is nice and the mud not too deep.  The newly repositioned coffer dam is now strong enough to support the heavy earth-moving equipment needed to excavate the old valve out and dig a trench for the new line.

    Meanwhile, the Walsenburg Golf course has been without water now for six weeks, when they were never scheduled to lose their water at all during this project.


Northlands Project could recieve a boost

WALSENBURG- The Huerfano County Commissioners have offered the city of Walsenburg a boost in getting the Northlands project moving forward. The city has been stymied in raising funds for the project because their cash reserves are too low to handle matching grants or get loans.

   The county expects to receive a 35-acre plot of land to be donated by Faris Land and Cattle. The land would be used for development of a light industrial park on Hwy 69 west of the Budget Host Motel. To be used as an industrial park, the land must have water, sewer and electricity available. In order to get the water and sewer to the site, Faris Land and Cattle has agreed to grant an easement to the City across two other lots they own in return for the right to tap into the water and sewer lines for a reduced fee.

Walsenburg cop shoots, kills man

WALSENBURG– One person is dead following a police involved shooting this past weekend where authorities have alleged domestic violence as a cause in the incident.

    A press release from the Walsenburg Police Department stated that police officers were dispatched in response to a domestic violence call around 9:25 pm Sunday evening, April 4.  When officers arrived at the scene on Stacey Drive they observed several children attempting to exit the residence though a window at the front of the house.

    One officer went to assist the children while the second officer, Lyle Petkof, went to the back of the house.

    The officer at the back of the house is reported to have observed a male, later identified as 29 year old Armando Gallegos, with what appeared to be a knife, attacking a female.  The officer opened fire with his service weapon, striking Gallegos twice in the stomach.

Don Keairns elected mayor of La Veta

LA VETA- La Veta’s new mayor is Don Keairns.  Keairns received 230 votes to Mickey Schmidt’s 145 votes.  Trustee Dale Davis, with 149 votes, will be returning to the Board.  Larry Klinke got 175 votes to put him on the Board as a trustee, and Laurie Irwin, with 160 votes, will fill the other vacant seat.  The vote totals for the other candidates were as follows: Tracy Webb, 146; Jesse Yarbrough, 129; Don Lowell, 127; Roger Brunelli, 125; Mac McAnally, 76.

John Mall Seniors busted for drinking on college trip

WALSENBURG- A school-sanctioned trip to CSU Ft. Collins took a wrong turn last week, when 15 of the students were caught drinking and were removed from the campus.

    According to RE-1 Superintendent Michael Doyle, a final decision on the action against the students has yet to be made, but it is certainly possible that the students might not attend prom, or possibly even not be allowed to attend graduation.

Tracy Webb appointed to LV Board

LA VETA- The first order of business at the April 20 La Veta Town Board meeting was the appointment of a new Trustee to the Board’s vacant seat.  Trustee Dale Davis made a motion that, as the trustee candidate with the next highest number of votes in the recent election, Tracy Webb be appointed.

Plug pulled on Pool

WALSENBURG- On a 6-3 vote Tuesday night, the Walsenburg City Council voted not to open the Walsenburg Wild Waters this summer. 

    The finance and parks and recreation committees, each made up of all 9 city council members, had met Monday night to hammer out  whether to open the Walsenburg Wild Waters this season.

    Emotions went back & forth with various council members expressing optimism or doubt and then seeing the others sway back & forth on the issue.  The water park has been leaking lots of money the past two years.  With the City’s serious financial problems, arguments ranged from whether the City could withstand any losses from the water park this year or whether they could open for 4 days per week to hold losses down to a minimum.

Walsenburg Care Center looking to move

WALSENBURG– A deal in the works between the City of Walsenburg and the Walsenburg Care Center could result in more land for development downtown and a new care facility that will be located next to the Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center.

Attempted murder charges

HUERFANO- Boyd Gross, 44, is in jail pending an attempted murder charge against his wife, Donna Boyd.

    Gross was arrested March 30 over the shooting, when he allegedly shot Mrs. Boyd in the head, then took her into the shower to clean her up.  Mr. Boyd’s bail has been set at $150,000.  Mrs. Boyd lost an eye and has cranial damage, but is recuperating.

Troubled Seniors get to walk- conditionally

WALSENBURG- The RE-1 school board met in special session this week to decide on the consequences for the senior class students involved in misconduct on the Senior Seminar trip.  Maria de la Cruz and the entire senior class worked to hammer out eight specific items that were presented to the board.  At this meeting, no parents came to hear the decision of the board.  One student attended.

    Maria de le Cruz presented the plan to the board for discussion.  After lengthy discussion, it was agreed that this incident was a learning experience for all involved.  The vote was 3 against and 4 for the measure.  The measure passed with minor changes in wording.

Pool will open after all

WALSENBURG- Last week the Walsenburg City Council voted 6-3 to close Walsenburg Wild Waters in summer 2010.  Operating Wild Waters has led to financial losses during the last two years; the vote for closure in 2010 was an attempt to avoid  financial losses at a time when the city is facing a budget deficit.

    At a special meeting on Monday night, April 26,  City Council voted 7-2 to reverse their earlier decision and open the water park in 2010.  Stipulations in the GoCo grant require the city to operate the park for 25 years and it was argued that there could be serious repercussions if Walsenburg did not meet this obligation to GoCo, repercussions which could impact the county’s reputation among granting agencies and impact grant applications for other projects in Huerfano County.

New policy for controlled burns

WALSENBURG– The Huerfano County Fire Protection District has put together a suggested policy change that should make controlled agricultural burn notification simpler but the road bump facing the change is to get other jurisdictions and groups to go along with it.

    There are three fire protection districts in Huerfano County along with the Farm Bureau and the Cattleman’s Association that need to adapt the new policy before it can work as envisioned.

    “Right now the Huerfano County Fire Department and the Gardner Fire Protection District are in agreement with the new policy,” said Max Vezzani of the Huerfano County Fire Protection District Board.


Eight deer killed in La Veta

LA VETA- According to a La Veta Deputy Marshal, eight deer were killed in and near La Veta the night of May 3.  The Division of Wildlife is offering a reward of $1200 for information on who committed the crime, and two local residents are adding $200 to the pot.  The Deputy said the killings are a federal offense, and the perpetrators are facing serious fines.  Six of the deer were found in Town, and two more were found about ½ mile out of Town on Valley Road.  A homeowner who found two of the deer in front of her home said they were shot in the head.  She said someone probably walked right up to the animals, which are used to being around people, and shot them at close range.  “They’re just like pets,” she said.  

Grandote’s a Go

LA VETA-  To the surprise of many this past Friday, an announcement came from La Veta that Grandote Peaks Golf Course would reopen on Memorial Day, May 30.

    The exciting news came from Dr. Charles R. “Randy” Briggs, owner of the golf course and the person also responsible for announcing Grandote Peaks’ closure this past December.  Those familiar with the local scene are well aware of the legal issues that have complicated the relationship between  the golf course and the town these past few months.

Gardner Water & Sanitation District rebuilding

GARDNER- The Gardner Water & Sanitation District is down to two Board members, after the May 4 Special District election saw the terms of three directors expire and no new directors elected.  Manuel Archuleta and Susan Wallick remain on the Board, and Archuleta told the World Journal, “We are trying to get some people in.  We have three people interested, and we have someone to take the test [to get certified] for water testing.” He added, “We are paying a fine, but we haven’t heard anything else from the State.”   Former Board member Steve Wachterman, whose term expired May 4, said of the District, “It seems to be heading in the right direction. 

Redskins honored at athletic banquet

LA VETA- On Tuesday night, the La Veta Redskin sports program acknowledged their athletes with letters and certificates of participation for their dedication to making the Redskin sports programs successful in the 2009-2010 season.

City approves $5.2 million funding for waste water treatment plant

WALSENBURG– The $5.2 million waste water treatment plant the city of Walsenburg is looking to build took another step forward on Tuesday, May 18, with the City Council voting 8-1 in favor of funding the plan. 

    Walsenburg has been under a cease and desist order from the Colorado Supreme Court for the past two years.  The order seeks to force the city to build a plant that will alleviate the use of lagoons in the Northlands to treat the area’s sewage.

RE-1 Superintendent Doyle resigns

GARDNER- The regular RE-1 board meeting was held at Gardner School in concert with the Academic Fair.  In an addition to the agenda, Superintendent Doyle tendered his resignation. He is retiring at the end of June.  Doyle stated that he changed his plans as the district is facing a major upheaval in the next year.  The district is working to comply with a course of action suggested by the Colorado Department of Education, CDE.  The board, teachers and CDE have been meeting regularly to discuss district issues.

Officer cleared in Gallegos shooting

WALSENBURG- The long-awaited Colorado Bureau of Investigations report on the April 4 shooting of Armando Gallegos by Walsenburg Police Officer Kyle Petkoff was released May 13 to the Walsenburg Chief of Police and the District Attorney.

    Both interim Police Chief James Chamberlain and District Attorney Frank Ruybalid declined to return repeated calls about the report, but sources close to the investigation stated the report finds no negligence on Petkoff’s part, and the matter has been turned over to the district attorney, in case he has additional concerns.

Sig Sporleder “Graduates”

HUERFANO- Charles Siegfried Sporleder Jr., 88, passed away May 12, 2010 surrounded by his family.  The term, “graduate” is a gentle family joke, that a loved one has completed all their studies in this life, and has graduated on to heaven. It is significant that May 12 was his beloved wife’s birthday to whom he remained devoted in the 22 years since her death.

Gardner water district mired in neglect

WALSENBURG- On May 19, the Board of County Commissioners replaced the Gardner Water District Board.  Efforts have begun to determine the degree of neglect and the actual customer base in the water and sewer system. A physical inventory has been made of the number of meters located in the district’s area and County Commissioners made a motion this week to determine how many customers there are.

    The inventory has located about 60 water meters in the district indicating a possible customer base of around 200 to 300.

The second half of 2010 will be in next week’s paper.