WALSENBURG — The new Walsenburg City Council Tuesday night passed the $14,040,918 municipal budget for the coming year with $6,328,500 noted as pass-through funds in the Northlands General Improvement category. The budget was approved with two of the three newest council members, Greg Daniels and Dennis Hoyt, voting against the budget which includes increases in utility rates that will show up on consumer’s bills in February. The 2016 budget also includes a 5.1 percent pay increase for city employees, making up in part, for a ten percent wage cut they had taken previously Council passed Resolutions 2015-R-29 to Adopt the 2016 Budget (5-2; Daniels/Hoyt voting no); 2015-R-28 Approving Appropriation of Funds (5-2; Daniels/Hoyt voting no) and 2015-R-30 the resolution levying general property taxes, once again at 9.756 mills. That item passed 7-0. Walsenburg Administrator David Johnston said despite efforts to lower General Fund deficits, the TABOR pay back facing the city is expected to continue for at least the next four years. The coming year’s city budget shows anticipated appropriations of $1,448,705 in the General Fund; $1,606,960 in the Gas Fund; $1,600,718 in the Water Fund; $1,103,582 in the Sewer Fund and $1,012,500 in the Street Improvement Fund. Council member Craig Lessar was selected by unanimous vote to continue as Mayor Pro Tem. Lessar has voiced concerns
that realignment and improvement of Pennsylvania Avenue must be a priority in the 2016 street improvement fund. Other fund appropriations for 2016 include $4,500 Fire Pension Fund; $15,020 Conservation Trust Fund; $370,200 Capital Improvement Funds; $426,933 Internal Services Fund; $116,790 Water Park Fund, and $6,510 Downtown Development Fund. The final piece of business conducted by the ‘old’ city council prior to new members and officials being swore in was approval of an extension of MinitMart’s (former Acorn) temporary beer license through January 17, 2016. That item, and the usually routine approval of finance reports and disbursements were the last 9-0 votes to be recorded by the city council as new council reflects three city wards, instead of four. “This is the smallest city council Walsenburg has had in 125 years,” Johnston said. It was a council session that saw three members ending their council careers, Silvana Lind, Don Lewis and Rick Jennings, although later in the meeting, Jennings would continue his public service career being appointed a member of the Walsenburg Historic Preservation Board. Patricia Burgess was also appointed unanimously by the city council to that board. Huerfano County Judge Gary Stork administered the oath of office to Mayor Jim Eccher, Treasurer James Moore, City Clerk Wanda Britt and council members Greg Daniels Ward I; Dennis Hoyt Ward II and John Salazar II Ward III. The newly seated seven member council put off two decisions in their inaugural session, deciding to choose a newspaper of record at their next meeting and deciding to interview the Municipal Judge candidates before making that two year appointment. A question concerning the parameters of the newspaper of record bid request has been raised by World Journal publishers Gretchen and Brian Orr and council members decided to study the issue further before selecting a newspaper to publish Walsenburg legals. This item was discussed at length during the Tuesday evening meeting. Council members also chose to interview those who submitted letters of interest in the position of Municipal Judge. Those candidates include the current Walsenburg Municipal Judge Cathy Mullens of La Veta, and attorneys Patrick Avalos, Daniel Kender and Carla Sikes, all of Pueblo and non-attorney Joel Shults of Walsenburg. Council approved, on first reading, Ordinance 1081 that will allow used car sales by a person holding a current, valid Colorado motor vehicle dealer’s license in C-1 and C-2 commercial districts. Council also approved Resolution 2015-R-31 designating the main entrance to City Hall, the bulletin boards at the county clerk and recorder’s office and the library as designated locations for posting of city related meetings, public hearings and ordinances.