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Budget approved, administrator named

by Eric Mullens
WALSENBURG — The city of Walsenburg has a 2013 budget and for the first time in quite some time, has a full-time city administrator without the ‘acting’, or ‘interim’ disclaimer before the title; but neither of these minor municipal milestones were the reason over two dozen citizen-ratepayers attended the city council meeting Tuesday night.
Nearly 30 citizens attended the city council meeting, not to witness the passing of the budget, but to continue to voice displeasure at the water/ sewer rate increase that was passed two weeks ago.
Four spoke in the public forum segment of the meeting, David Fogler, Christopher Daniels, Laura Mulvey and Sherry Dolce, all saying in one way or another, the rate hikes are too high. Daniels said he had a petition that had garnered over 220 signatures in the 48 hours preceding the meeting that demanded the city take another look at the rate increase. Daniels also requested placement on the next city council agenda. Dolce asked whether it was legal the city made the rate increase retroactive to the Oct./Nov. billing cycle even though it was only passed on second reading on Nov. 20, 2012. Mayor Larry Patrick said city attorney Dan Hyatt would check into that issue and come back with a legal opinion to the question.
On three 8-0 votes (council member Nick Vigil was absent from the meeting) the city council approved the $6,501,109 2013 balanced budget and the 11.765 mil levy. In his budget message to council, city administrator Dave Johnston said the document was prepared “in spite of a difficult and challenging economic period of the city’s history.”
He said, “a city-wide hiring freeze has been in place since 2009 and the 2013 budget does on include any vacant employee positions.” Johnston told the council, “in a move to curtail costs in 2013, the city intends to continue changes that have been made in its overtime policies. The focus for 2013 will be overtime costs in the police department. Personnel costs continue to be a significant portion of the budgeted expenses.” He also said city employee benefits will be increased by approximately six percent when compared to the 2012 budget year.
Filling in at the last minute for Police Chief James Chamberlain, WPD Lt. Kurt Liebchen told the city council he believes in the chain of command when it comes to a single voice speaking for the department and said, “Jim needs to speak to you directly.” He added however, “you can’t administrate a department by breaking the employees in that department and that is where I am at this December.”
The city council also voted unanimously to approve the $55,501 employment contract with Johnston as city administrator.
David Johnston, former city finance officer and interim administrator was hired as city administrator this week by the city council.
photo by Eric Mullens