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City approves mill levy ballot question

by Eric Mullens
WALSENBURG- The Walsenburg City Council unanimously passed on second reading the resolution that would put before voters in November a question that would allow municipal government to return the mill levy to the 1995 level of 18.547.
The question is one of correcting a past mistake. At a council meeting earlier this month, city treasurer Jacque Sikes explained a procedural mistake, made by the city, in raising the mill levy without voter approval had been discovered by the administration and brought to the attention of the city council. As reported earlier, city council members moved to let the public know about the issue and bring the mill levy question to a vote this fall.
If electors vote yes in November the city will be able to credit back property tax relief of approximately $300,000 plus interest over the next three years which represents the excess collections made since 2002. If voter approval is forthcoming, city government would then want to lower the mill levy for several years by four mills per year, to make up for the over collection.
During the three year payback the mill levy will be be lower than it is currently at 15.840 mills.
The mill levy question and other city issues are one of the reasons the city council has schedule a number of local Town Hall meetings to speak and hear directly from Walsenburg residents. The next meeting is scheduled at 6 pm on Wed., Oct 5 and details regarding the location will be announced by the city in the near future.
Council members also voted to approve a pair of resolutions that deal with utility deposits and delinquency fees; both designed to be more equitable and fair to consumers.
Resolution 2011-R25 would set the minimum deposit on new water utility accounts at $125.00. The same amount will be charged for new gas utility accounts. The resolution allows customers to pay the new utility deposits in monthly installments at the city’s discretion. Effective Oct. 1, 2011, all utility deposits will be applied against the final balance at the old service address and any remaining credit will be transferred to the new service address or refunded.
Resolution 2011-R26 states the current municipal delinquency fee is prohibitive and utility accounts deemed delinquent under Ordinances 965 or 966 but not deemed disconnected from any utility pursuant to the resolution shall be assessed a minimum late fee of $5 plus 1.5 percent of the past due amount on the customer’s account.
The resolution said it is its intent “to avoid disparate treatment and establish equal treatment of municipal utility customers regardless of the specific time of day their services are physically disconnected”.
The resolution said accounts remaining unpaid at 8 am on the date of disconnection under the Ordinances 965 and 966 shall be deemed disconnected, whether or not physical disconnection has occurred and the account shall be assessed a reconnection fee of $25 per metered service to cover additional costs and services.
In other business the council approved an $8,900 expenditure to Farnsworth Group Inc., of Fort Collins, CO regarding a contract to prepare the bid specifications, contract documents, cost estimates, advertizement for bids and other services for the CDOT turn-lane and paving project that will be done near the entrance of the First Choice grocery store and two points west at Walsen and Pine.
The city council did not take action regarding a proposal for engineering services totalling $22,200 from the same firm regarding other planned municipal street paving projects slated for 2012 and beyond.
Council also approved a 3.2 beer license renewal application for Rosa’s Cantina.
In the reports segment of the Sept. 20 meeting, council members discussed recent water testing at the municipal pool and the lack of clear results of that testing being made available to municipal staff from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Walsenburg Police Dept. Lt. Kurt Liebchen presented the monthly police department statistics report and confirmed to council there was a gunshot incident last week that was believed to have occurred in the city and the matter remains under investigation with little public information to be released at this time.
He said, however, the matter was brought to the attention of authorities by hospital emergency room staff and the alleged gunshot victim’s version of events “may not be what happened”.
Leibchen also reported that traffic contacts by city police over the weekend resulted in the seizure of drugs and weapons, one an illegal ‘sawed off’ shotgun.