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City accepts proposed 2011 budget

by Bill Knowles

WALSENBURG— After a month of discussion the Walsenburg City Council voted 8-0 to accept the proposed 2011 budget of around $10 million.  Any shortages showing up in the budget, which has around $8 million in revenues and $10 million in expenditures will be made up in January or February according to City Finance Director David Johnston.  “There will be an adjustment period at the beginning of the year when the city will balance things out with transfers from reserves and funds that show an excess when ending and beginning balances are fixed.”

    After a month of combing through the proposed budget, asking many questions and making comments and suggestions, the city council quickly voted to approve three resolutions allowing them to: adopt the budget, appropriate the funds to run the government and appropriate the mill levy.  The budget now goes to the state.

    Another action taken by the city council caused a heated exchange between Mayor Bruce Quintana and Charles Bryant, a member of the Planning Commission.  The council adopted a new ordinance that would begin the process of increasing the Planning Commission board from seven members to nine members.

    At issue was the Mayor’s attendance at planning commission meetings.  Members of the commission can only miss three meetings before they are removed, by a vote of the City Council.  However state law requires the Mayor to be member of the commission, an ex officio position which means “from the office.”  The Mayor is a member of the planning commission because of legal requirements.  And, according to the city’s attorney, Dan Hyatt, the Mayor will sit on the commission during his entire term as mayor.

    However, due to the number of meetings the mayor attends each month, he has missed more planning commission meetings than the new ordinance would allow.  Bryant then inquired about a possible double standard in the ordinance causing the mayor to fire back that he didn’t schedule the meetings and that some of the blame for a conflict of scheduled meetings should rest with the planning commission.

    Planning commission chairman John Carlson interjected that problems arising from the old ordinances were now past and that the new rules should put everyone on the same page.  The city council then voted 7-0 to accept the first reading of ordinance 997.

    The new ordinance will call for the mayor, a council member appointed by the mayor, a council member appointed by the city council and six citizen members to fill out the planning commission.

    The costs for the new wastewater treatment facility saw a $145,000 increase on a change order for Moltz Construction.  A break down of the increase was for $105,000 in material costs, $12,500 for equipment costs and $27,400 in labor costs. 

    Interim City Administrator, Don Saling, said, “Moltz is moving so fast on this project we are having a hard time getting our in-kind work in and this is the reason for the change order.”

    The council voted 6-1 authorizing the change order, with council member Erin Jerant absent from this part of the meeting.  Council member Craig Lessar was the only no vote.  Lessar cited gross oversight as the reason for his vote.  He noted however that the oversight wasn’t the fault of anyone serving with the current city administration.

    The city also authorized an expenditure of $36,433 for electrical service to be installed at the new WWTF.  The budgeted amount was found as a line item in the 2010 budget.  The council voted 7-1 to approve the expenditure with Council member Craig Lessar again voting no.