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Citizen interruptions nearly end city council meeting, Mayor calls time out

Administrator’s contract approved; Maes takes oath

by E.E.Mullens
WALSENBURG — Actions by some citizens at Tuesday night’s Walsenburg City Council meeting showed an obvious lack of knowledge between a regulated government meeting and a free-for-all Town Hall session, with a shouting match ensuing that caused Mayor Brian Lalander to gavel a recess before he stormed off the dais to take a frustration fueled short break.
The ire began to rise during the public comment segment of the meeting, when outspoken Walsenburg resident Carman Lara got up to speak and wanted a list of questions she had addressed by elected officials.  The mayor suggested Lara submit the questions in writing, as some might possibly be able to be answered by city administration.  Lara then asked to be put on the agenda for the next council meeting to present her questions.  Lalander told Lara that was unlikely and explained agenda items are usually reserved for topics in which action will be taken at that session.

The exchange was followed by the agenda item Administrator’s Report.  But, during that segment, some of those attending the meeting, including Lara, began to ask questions of the adminstrator out of turn.  The comments and questions from the floor got a response from the mayor, which quickly devolved into a shouting match between meeting attendees and Lalander who attempted to wrest back control of the session.  Shortly before 7 p.m. Lalander slammed down the gavel and walked off the dais calling for a recess.

The mayor returned to council chambers within a few minutes and asked city attorney Dan Hyatt to, once again, explain and outline to citizens when public comment is allowed.  After a nearly five minute long explanation of procedures by the city’s long-time legal counsel, Lara immediately raised her hand and began to ask questions from the floor.  “Didn’t you listen to what was just said?” Lalander asked Lara.

The meeting continued with council member Greg Daniels making a motion to move the Citizen Comment segment in future meetings to a place near the end of the agenda, so citizens might have questions addressed after they had listened to a majority of a meeting.

In future, it is expected citizen comments will be placed just before Mayor and City Council Reports, Comments, and Direction, which is generally one of the last agenda items in Walsenburg’s City Council meetings.  Daniels’ motion passed.

In other business:
The newest member of the Walsenburg City Council, Veronica Maes, was formally sworn into office by Deputy City Clerk Richard Colander and took her position in the dais.  Maes was chosen to fulfill the late council member Clint Boehler’s Ward One position through the November 2021 election.  It will be up to Maes to choose whether or not she will seek a full term of office in the upcoming election.

Council approved the administrator’s contract with former interim city administrator Dustin Stambaugh.

City council received a report from Ryan Cramer regarding work to replace filter media at the city’s water treatment facility.  Due to delays in obtaining material, and a theft of specialized painting equipment belonging to a sub-contractor, the project is approximately two months behind schedule.  It was noted the theft of the sub-contractor’s equipment occurred in Pueblo.  Daniels’ pointed out a two month delay on an anticipated three month long project was significant.  It was reported that work on one of the filter facilities, should be completed this week and then work will progress to the next tank with removal of old filter material, cleaning and painting of the tank and replacement of the old material with new filter media.

Council heard a presentation concerning an alley vacation request from Tom Cave concerning property he owns at Jefferson and Indiana where he plans to build a pair of duplex units.  A special meeting including the request comes before the city’s planning and zoning board is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday, July 30.

Council approved a four inch gas valve replacement on 9th Street at a cost of $11,254 on the recommendation of gas superintendent Art Ortiz.

Shortly before 8 p.m. the city council voted to go into the first of two executive sessions.  This one called for the purpose of receiving legal advice on a specific legal question.  Council member Don Martinez emerged from the closed door session before it was concluded and returned to the council chambers.  The executive session was held in the clerk’s office as the usual meeting room is being used by auditors working on the 2020 city audit.

When council reconvened into regular session, they voted 5-0 to reject an item called JD Partners Proposal, with council member Charlie Montoya having left the meeting earlier, and Martinez recusing himself.  Daniels made a motion to reject the proposal and directed the city attorney to write a letter to “Mr. Davis telling him to remove his fence from city property.”
No details of the proposal were disclosed by council or staff.

Council directed Stambaugh to draft request for proposal documents for repairs at the First Choice parking lot caused by an unfixed city water main leak that caused below ground damage which, in turn, damaged segments of the store’s parking lot.  Council will review the proposals once they come in and decide then which way to proceed.  The city’s underwriter, CIRSA denied a city claim to fix the damage due to city inaction to address the water main leak in a timely manner.