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City and GID Northlands approve ballot questions

by Eric Mullens
WALSENBURG — The Walsenburg City Council and the Northlands General Improvement District Board of Directors Tuesday night approved local ballot questions for the November 2, 2012 general election and among the city issues will be an election for the vacant Ward II city council seat.
The city council met in regular session Tuesday night but prior to that meeting, city council members sat as the General Improvement District Board of Directors for both Northlands and the downtown GID.
As the Northlands GID board, the members voted unanimously to pass Resolution 2012 R2. The resolution will put the question of whether or not the qualified electors of the district want to increase the debt limit by an additional $6.25 million dollars, bringing that total to $7.25 million to pay for acquisition, construction, installation and completion of a local sanitary sewage collection and transmission system for the Northlands area. The total estimated pay back, if the question is approved, and the project is done, will be $10.3 million.
Even if the question passes, neither the GID or the residents of the Northlands area are bound to the project unless, and until officials are presented with a loan / grant package that all concerned feel is fiscally appropriate.
As the downtown GID, the board approved proposed expenditures for the Downtown Revitalization Committee Inc., (a 501(c)(3) non-profit) for $5,250. The funds will be used for a DOLA (Department of Local Affairs) assessment that will help unify vision for the economic development district. This program costs $3,500. The group will also use $1,000 for vinyl sign wraps to replace the fading Welcome to Walsenburg signs. The downtown group will also use $750 to pay for accounting and legal costs to get their books and records in order.
The expenditure will leave approximately $5,600 in the committee’s back account.
Sitting as the city council, members approved Ordinance 1012, that calls for a ballot question to be put before city voters asking to increase the city’s mill levy from 11.7558 mills to the pre-Tabor 1995 level of 18.5470 mills. The vote passed 8-0.
All city council members were present for the meeting Tuesday night, with Mayor Pro Tem Craig Lessar appearing telephonically for about half of the regular meeting.
Lessar placed the name of Cathy P. Pineda in nomination for the vacant Ward II council seat. The vote was four yes and four no with Rick Jennings, Nick Vigil, James Baca and Lessar voting for Pineda and Silvana Lind, Erin Jerant, James Moore and Mayor Larry Patrick voting no. The council voted on a second motion to appoint James England to the seat, which also resulted in a tie with yes and no votes reversed.
Pineda is a former two-term city council member and a 33-year former city employee. England is also a former city council member. As the council discussed the issue and the possibility and costs of a special election, England volunteered to take his name out of nomination, but the council rejected the offer by not calling for a second vote regarding Pineda. The Tuesday night meeting was the final day the council could appoint someone to the vacant seat before the issue is mandated to a vote of city electors. The council did approve placing the question before voters in the regular election in November. England, Pineda and any other interested and qualified Ward II citizen will now be able to run for the council seat. City Clerk Wanda Britt said council candidate packages are available at her office.
The regular city council meeting got underway on a somber note with Mayor Larry Patrick announcing the sudden death of city treasurer R. Gary Crandell at about 10:30 Tuesday morning. Patrick offered condolences and the sympathy of the city council and staff to the family and friends of Crandell.
In other business the city council approved a $350 per month contract with Foothills Engineers as a consulting in-house engineering team for the city. Council also approved a number of items regarding intergovernmental agreements between the city and the Huerfano County Clerk’s office concerning the placement of ballot issues.
Council also approved additional expenditures for Rubin Brown, the contracted auditor for the city, to accomplish additional work in the 2011 audit. This will include a fixed assets schedule, and a new requirement that records and fixes an assessed value to property in which the city has an easement.
The fixed assets schedule is something the city should have been doing since 2002. The state auditor has written to the city advising if this is not done this year, and the city doesn’t have a clean audit report, sales tax revenues, valued at $200,000 to $300,000 will be withheld.
The city council also approved a ballot question for voters in November that seeks to make the positions of city clerk and city treasurer appointed, not elected positions.
The is especially important in the case of the city clerk, who must undergo extensive training and certification for the position. The history of knowledge, experience and the cost of training is lost when the individual in that position is forbidden from running for reelection at just about the same time it takes that person to complete the training and certification.