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City sets date for Town Hall meeting on $500,000 shuffle

by Bill Knowles

WALSENBURG- The Walsenburg City Council voted 8-0 approving a second reading of Ordinance 996.  This decision will allow the city of Walsenburg to put a question on the November 2 ballot asking voters to decide whether the city can use the final $500,000 dollars from the Power  trust fund in order to pay an unfunded portion of the Waste Water Treatment Facility (WWTF) construction costs.

    Then the City Council set Wednesday, Oct. 20, as the date for a Town Hall meeting to explain to city residents why the funding is needed.  At press time, city staff was working to reserve the meeting room in Spanish Peaks Library.  A second location would be Council Chambers at City Hall.

    Ordinance 996 shows the complete cost of the new WWTF to be nearly $5 million with a $650,903.90 shortfall in funding.  This shortfall, according to the ordinance, will be made up in part with $500,000 from the Utility Trust Fund principal.  All council members voted to approve the second reading with Ward 2 still underrepresented with just one council member, Rick Jennings.

    Currently the WWTF is ahead of schedule, according to interim City Administrator Donald Saling.  Construction is going fast with the exterior walls going up and rebar being cut and set for the interior walls.  The water line pipe has been ordered and should arrive next week.  It will then be laid and pressure tests can be conducted on the lines.

    “It’s unusual for a project of this size in this stage of construction not to have any change orders.   But right now no change orders have been issued by the contractor,” Saling said in a report to the City Council.

    City Council delayed selection of a replacement for the Ward 2 seat vacated when James England resigned in August.  The council will consider the candidates during a special meeting on Thursday, Oct. 14.  Two items will appear on the agenda for that meeting, receiving the first draft and discussion  of the 2011 budget and the selection of a new Ward 2 council member.

    Four persons applied for the open seat with one being eliminated because of residency requirements.  Larry Patrick, Paul Rivera and Jerry Sporcich are the remaining candidates.  Sporcich missed the meeting because of an injury, bringing about the delay in selection by the council.  Members agreed to give each candidate a “fair and equal chance” at the seat by not holding the interview until Sporcich could be present.

    A memo from City Attorney Dan Hyatt to city staff indicated that the best long term solution to filling vacated council seats would be to reduce the number of wards after the census figures are available.

    Officer Andrea Hoegg has been hired to be the Walsenburg Police Department’s new secretary and municipal court clerk.  She may join the Reserve Sheriff’s Deputy program with the Huerfano County Sheriff’s Department in order to keep her certification as a police officer.

    Joining the Walsenburg Police Department is Sergeant James Hipshmann.  Sgt. Hipshmann resigned from the Huerfano County Sheriff’s Department and then joined the police department.  The Walsenburg Police roster is down to nine officers including Chief James Chamberlain.  The department has an opening for one patrol officer and one Sergeant.  Currently all officers are working 12 hour shifts.

    Walsenburg will be sponsoring the Parade of Lights.  According to Parade of Lights organizer Brian Orr, this can be done at no additional cost to the city in that the sponsorship is already included in the insurance package.  “The theme is Christmas Around the World,” Orr said.  “That theme was picked because Walsenburg, which drew labor from all around the world to work in the coal mines, has been known as the Ellis Island of the Rockies.”