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City council puts off water sale to Shell

by Eric Mullens
WALSENBURG — The Walsenburg City Council Tuesday night did not act on a proposed resolution concerning the sale of up to three acre feet of water to Shell Oil for construction use.
Resolution 2012 R 16 appeared on the council agenda, although there was not even a draft resolution in council member or media packages.
Michael Bergstrom, Senior Regulatory Advisor with Shell Exploration and Production, attended the meeting and fielded questions concerning the size and number of trucks the firm would use, as well as possible routes from water loading locations to the four permitted well sites located near Gardner. Most of the council work session prior to the regular meeting was devoted to discussion of the proposed resolution. Council had seemed to have reached a consensus on the price of the water, but once in regular session, any action on the item died in the discussion phase. Council and the oil company will readdress the proposal at the August 21 meeting. Mayor Pro Tem Craig Lessar reminded the council that the city already has a resolution in place concerning short-term, high volume water sales for construction and advised it be reviewed before action is taken on a new resolution.
The council had proposed the sale price to be $21 per 1,000 gallons to Shell Oil.
One acre foot of water equals 325,853 gallons.
The council ended the meeting with an unscheduled executive session for personnel matters.
The closed-door session was prompted by an item added to the council agenda Tuesday night with the vague title of ‘asking for assistance from Don Saling for the next 12-weeks.’ Council member Rick Jennings said he felt the council was acting in haste to consider a short term professional contract with Saling to assist in city administration. “We’re being reactive,” Jennings said, “we need to look at finances and it was too hasty to put this on the agenda.” Council member Silvana Lind suggested the item be discussed in executive session as it could deal with issues related to the work city finance director Dave Johnston has done filling in for acting administrator Beth Neece over the past six weeks.
Following the executive session, the council resumed the regular session and voted 7-0 to appoint Johnston as interim administrator. Neece retains the title of acting city administrator and is currently on family medical leave.
The council did act on:
• approval of liquor license renewals for Alpine Rose Cafe, Pizza Hut, Fraternal Order of Eagles-Aerie No. 1187 in Walsenburg and Sarti’s Bar. It was also discussed that when a liquor license renewal was before city council and there were any violations noted on the application, that city law enforcement attend the council meeting and explain the violation or contact between police and the license holder.
•approved a 90-day renewal of a water supply agreement between the city and the Northlands area.
•approved appointments of council members Lessar to the Youth Activity Board and Erin Jerant to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
•Mayor Larry Patrick said he was appointing himself to the Walsenburg Housing Authority Board in light of recent board member, Maria Urdalis’s resignation in that group. Housing authority director David Mockmore has been placed on administrative leave for a personnel issue, pending his retirement from the housing authority on August 15th after 27 years.
• passed on second reading Ordinance 1011 dealing with re-sale or distribution of city provided water and transportation of same, off approved premises without city consent. The ordinance also provides for private premises water hauling permits.
• voted to allow city ranch manager Butch Corsentino to move 28 head of cattle onto the southern portion of the ranch for limited grazing.
Council member James Baca was not present, having notified city hall earlier in the day on Tuesday that he would not attend the Tuesday night session. Heated exchanges had erupted between Baca and other council members Monday night during committee meeting discussions on proposals to increase water / sewer utility rates.
As council members arrived Tuesday night, a number of them asked city clerk Wanda Britt and Mayor Patrick if they had received a letter of resignation from Baca, who, sources say, threatened to quit the council on Monday night. Britt and Patrick both answered no to the question.