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City council takes no action on Northlands, again

City risks losing grant/loan funds if deadline not met in three years

WALSENBURG — Walsenburg City Council members once again took no reportable action following an executive session Tuesday night under the heading of negotiations that concern land issues associated with the proposed Northlands sanitary sewer system project. For months the council and one property owner have gone back and forth regarding potential land swaps. Offers have been made from the private sector that have all been turned down by council members. It is worth reminding voters, elected officials and those interested in economic development for Walsenburg and Huerfano County in general, there exists a firm timeline tied to the USDA/DOLA loan and grant programs for the Northlands project. While taking no action on the Northlands project in executive session, in the regular meeting the six council members who attended the Tuesday night session voted unanimously in favor of an Intergovernmental Agreement with Huerfano County and

the Town of La Veta to ‘cooperate in developing and carrying out an Economic Development Administration strategic planning grant application, the purpose of which is to develop a strategic plan for Huerfano County’. With no manufacturing job creation on the horizon, any economic development plan to improve the position of Walsenburg must, it seems apparent, rely heavily on development of the Northlands annex. Actions by the city council in 2014 however, do not seem to be leaning in that direction. Another large issue was dealt with by council, again in a 6-0 vote, when they approved hiring RJH Consultants, Inc., of Englewood, CO, for engineering services to help the city address dam safety deficiencies at City Lake Dam and Reservoir. Michael L. Graber, an engineer with the consulting company and 20-year veteran of the state engineer’s office made a brief presentation to council Tuesday night. The city is facing a mid-month deadline from the state of Colorado to have some kind of plan of action in place or the order to lower the dam’s capacity by three feet will be enforced. This is not a new issue; the state engineer’s reports going back years have identified a number of problems with City Lake Dam and none of the large concerns identified by the state have been corrected. The contract for engineering services approved Tuesday night is for $104,300, which will come from the one-third of sales tax earmarked by voters for water system improvements. A plus for residents is the fact the money spent for the engineering services will be able to be identified as city in-kind matching funds when administration and elected officials begin seeking grant monies to pay for the actual improvements to City Lake. Graber told the council he will be able to begin work within two weeks, and administration will notify the state engineer’s office of the hiring of the consultant immediately. This action should prevent the state engineer’s office from imposing the three-foot storage restriction on the dam. In other business the city council approved three resolutions by unanimous vote that formally approve the name ‘Miner’s Plaza’ to the pocket park at Sixth and Main; accept the transfer of real property to the city for the park, and formally support a grant application to Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund for completion of ‘Miner’s Plaza’. City council also approved a five year lease extension agreement that terminates on June 30, 2020 with Colorado Parks & Wildlife concerning the Walsenburg Golf Course. The intent of the extension is to allow the parties time to explore potential long-term solutions for the course’s future. The council unanimously passed the routine Intergovernmental Agreement with Huerfano County regarding the coordinated 2014 election. They also approved on a 6-0 vote the donation of a 2002 Dodge Durango from the police department to the Huerfano Ambulance Service. The vehicle, according to WPD Chief Tommie McLallen, has seen little use since the retirement of Lt. John Rodriguez. Benjamin Gladden attended the council meeting representing the ambulance service, and said the Dodge would be used as a first responder vehicle to get medical equipment and an EMT to the scene when an ambulance may not be available due to other calls. Mayor Jim Eccher called a Finance Committee work session for Tuesday August 12 saying he would like to see all council members attend. Eccher, Sylvana Lind, Charles Montoya, Cathy Pineda, Craig Lessar and Clint Boehler attended the regular meeting this week.