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City council addresses nuisance issues and appoints new member

by Eric Mullens
WALSENBURG — The Walsenburg City Council Tuesday night passed a new reorganized and rewritten ordinance which defines and prohibits various nuisances within the city limits.
Ordinance 1022 addresses any substance, act, occupation, condition or use of property declared a nuisance by the ordinance, the state or other governmental agency or court, which is of such a nature and duration that substantially annoys, injures or damages the comfort , health, repose or safety of the public. The ordinance covers a wide arena of problems such as vacant buildings, junked cars, trash, unmaintained sidewalks and provides detailed definitions. (The full text of Ordinance 1022 and Ordinance 1023; which establishes limits on truck idling, tonnage and parking, appears in the Legals Section of today’s Huerfano World Journal). Both ordinances passed unanimously on first reading.
In another unanimous vote the city council appointed Walsenburg Ward III resident Charles L. Montoya to the council seat vacated with the recent resignation of James Baca.
Montoya is no stranger to public service in Huerfano County having been a two term county commissioner (1997-2004) and an eight-year veteran of the Walsenburg City Council (1984-1992).
Montoya was sworn into office by City Clerk Wanda Britt at the conclusion of the regular meeting.
Mayor Pro Tem Craig Lessar read a letter from former councilman Baca during the utility committee report portion of the meeting which said, in part, the city has expended hundreds of thousands of dollars in the Northlands project, with no projected payback in sight and addressed the issue of the water/sewer rate hike and other issues Baca had been concerned with. Lessar said he chose to read the letter into the city council record because it had been sent to the local newspapers and would be published anyway. Baca did not send any letter to the Huerfano World Journal. His resignation email sent to city administration and the mayor was quoted, at length, in a story two weeks ago.
Baca was reached by telephone Wednesday morning by HWJ Publisher and Editor Gretchen Orr who requested a copy of the letter. Baca refused to send the letter to the Huerfano World Journal saying he did not like the coverage reporter Eric Mullens has done on city issues. Baca also said he felt Mayor Patrick, an employee of the HWJ, has undue influence on stories published regarding city council.
Orr said this is not, and has never been the case with Patrick, and noted Mullens is a well-known news reporter in both broadcast and print media with over a quarter century experience in Colorado alone.
Lessar’s action Tuesday night prompted a heated debate between him, Mayor Larry Patrick and councilman James Moore concerning the Northlands project and future potential action by the city to acquire the old sewer lagoons via a quick claim deed.
Lessar said he was concerned the city would, if the acquisition moved forward at some point, would become environmentally liable for the clean up of the lagoons. Patrick said the lagoon clean-up had always been part of the Northlands project and the city must acquire them to allow for USDA grant funds to be used for their closing and recovery. Patrick said those grant funds could not be used for the lagoon clean up as long as they remained private property.
Lessar then questioned seven private septic systems that are located in the Northlands area, separate from those in the Huajatolla Hills area, which are set for closure when the Northlands sewer system is completed. Those privately owned systems are planned to be closed utilizing funds from the DOLA and Office of Economic Development state grants monies that will be used to hook up those residents to the Northlands system.
Lessar announced he would make a motion to stop all work, including the current engineering study of the Northlands project. City Attorney Dan Hyatt advised such an action could make the city liable in a breach of contract action by the recently hired engineering firm.
Lessar relented, and did not pursue a motion, after lengthy discussion, when a compromise was reached concerning the Northlands’ property owners and a their long-awaited payment plan.
The city council will sit as the Northlands GID Board of Directors at a meeting set for 5:30 pm Monday, March 25 at city hall in which the Northlands GID residents will be given a two-week deadline to present a payment plan for their portion of the project. Lessar said repeatedly he was not ‘against’ the project, but there were facts that he wanted to know. Councilmember Nick Vigil provided Lessar with a hallelujah chorus, saying “yes” and “me too,” often during Lessar’s remarks.

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