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City Council okays funding for Northlands study

by Bill Knowles
WALSENBURG- The Walsenburg City Council, on a 5-4 vote, approved a $12,000 outlay from the capital improvement fund to pay for an environmental study of a proposed route for the sewer line the state has mandated for the Northlands.
The route will run down the Pictou Arroyo, under I-25 and bend back towards the south to be joined with the newly finished wastewater treatment facility. Estimated cost for the project is around $5.5 million to $6 million. E.R.O. is the company that will conduct the study and should complete it in three to four weeks from the commencement date. The study will look at impacts to the land, especially any disturbances to Native American sites, such as hunting camps or burial areas.
Another $6,000 to $8,000 will be needed in order for Tetratek to complete a necessary preliminary engineering report needed by the state and various agencies such as the USDA for grants and loans the city hopes to win in order to complete the project. Tetratek will do their part at no charge with the expectation they will be paid when funding begins to arrive for the project.
City Treasurer Jacque Sikes protested the vote to move forward on the project by the city council during the Tuesday evening meeting, saying that in the beginning the project was a cheaper deal. “Under the original agreement, the annexation agreement, the Northlands was to put up a million dollars to help with the costs of a project that was estimated to be around $2.3 million. Since then the costs have gone up, now to around $6 million and the Northlands is still committed for the original million,” Sikes said. “They’ve gone from putting up half the cost to one-sixth the cost.”
The state mandated that the city run a sewer line from the Northlands to a wastewater treatment facility so that the water the city was selling the Northlands from the Cucharas River Basin could be returned to the river. The Northlands sits outside of the Cucharas River Basin, and the city has been augmenting the water on a two-to-one basis, two acre feet of augmentation for every acre foot sold to the Northlands.
If the city does not do the project, the state may shut off water to the Northlands and levy steep fines against the city. The other alternative discussed during the city council meeting was to look into changing the annexation agreement to reflect the increased costs of the sewer line project.
Traffic control and the impending media invasion for the trial of the three Doughertys was a topic of discussion. The Doughertys will make a television appearance from the Pueblo County jail for an arraignment hearing in District Court at the Huerfano County Courthouse on Monday, Aug. 22, at 3:30 pm. County Administrator John Galusha, approached the city with a request to stage the media in Heritage Park during the high profile arraignment on Monday. He also asked that Russell Street be closed as well.
The Doughertys were captured by Walsenburg Police, Huerfano County Sheriff’s Deputies, Colorado State Patrol, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the FBI on Wednesday, Aug. 10. All three siblings survived a crash following a high speed chase and were transported to the Pueblo County jail after being taken into custody.
In other business, changes to Ordinance 967 were considered by the city council Tuesday. The changes were requested by several members of the council. Most of them did little to enhance the ordinance.
A change in one line item originally read that, “The City Administrator shall be compensated for services as the Mayor and City Council may from time to time determine.” After the change it read, “The City Administrator’s compensation shall be structured and the rate set by the Mayor and City Council. The Mayor and City Council may review the structure and rate of compensation as frequently as is seen fit by the Mayor and City Council.” Such a change could in effect allow the mayor and city council to hold the city administrator hostage to their whims by adjusting the administrator’s pay up or down as “seen fit.”
The changes to the ordinance failed to pass on a 7-2 vote with Mayor Quintana andcouncil members Craig Lessar voting no.

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