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City water to the rescue

by Brian Orr

WALSENBURG- Mayor Edi Sheldon placed a resolution before the Walsenburg City Council Tuesday evening that would lift the restriction on buying city water.  Currently, only Walsenburg residents can do so.

    The reason for this is because more and more nearby wells are becoming contaminated by coal bed methane.

    To be eligible to purchase City water however, people would have to show that their existing water supply has been contaminated by gas seepage from coal bed methane wells.

    The wording in the resolution states; methane gas has rendered many wells within the county unusable.  Many of these wells are located just outside the city.

    “This is stop-gap to help these people,” Mayor Sheldon said at City Council.  “The answers aren’t easy at this point.  The City has the ability to help.”

    Sheldon decided to take this action after sitting in on a roundtable discussion with Congressman John Salazar last week, where citizens talked about having to haul water.

    In order to be eligible to buy city water at resident  rates, prospective purchasors will have to prove that their wells have been contaminated, and will be taken on a case-by-case basis.  When asked how people would prove their wells had been contaminated, Mayor Sheldon said people would have to show they were within range of a well- “though this gas seepage can travel for miles,” she said.  She noted that the problems at River Ridge ranch were well known, and Black Hawk, Silver Spurs and Navajo all have reason to be nervous.

    The program, which was unanimously approved by Council, will continue as long as Walsenburg has the extra water to sell.

    In other business, Councilman Bruce Quintana, who heads the Parks and Recreation Committee, told the Council he had recieved a letter from an un-named source about problems out at the Walsenburg Golf Course.  It was stated there have been consistant, ongoing problems with the management and business practices at the golf course, to an extent that the golf course is now asking for money from the City. 

    “The golf course is seriously broken and needs to be fixed,” Quintana said.  “The City and the County need to exercise their rights for oversight.”  Quintana added that the problem had been growing for years, and that quite a few people knew about it, and chose to ignore the situation.  “This good ol’ boy business as usual attitude is gonna have to change,” he said.  He wants a meeting between the golf course board and the City Council to see what changes need to be made to the golf course’s business practices.

    Quintana addressed the summer operating budget for Walsenburg Wild Waters, and noted that figures are still preliminary, with bills still coming in.  Hopefully a final number will be set by the end of November.  He also noted the Pool Committee is still debating whether or not to try and build a new snack bar by the pool, or to retrofit the existing building.

    City Council voted on Resolution 2008 R-23, which will raise the gas rates for the City’s customers, from $.555 per month, with an additional  delivery charge of $.21288 per ccf per month, and a gas supply charge of $.62262 per ccf per month.

    For the Town of Aguilar, which is a customer of Walsenburg’s, the additional charge will be: $.555 per month, with an additional  delivery charge of $.06631 per ccf per month, and a gas supply charge of $.62262 per ccf per month.  These additional charges will take effect on Nov. 1, 2008. When asked what does this mean in dollars and cents, City Administrator Eric Person said it depends.  “If it’s a cold winter like last year, people will see their price go up a bit.  If it’s warm, then it won’t seem as bad.”  The Council approved the resolution, and then went on to approve Resolution 2008 R-24 which forgives the to/from balances on the City balance sheets.

    The Council heard the first reading of  Ordinance 977, dealing with International Building Codes (IBC) and set a date of Nov. 18.  They passed Ordinance 978, establishing zoning districts for the Northlands annexation area, heard the first reading of Ordinance 979, vacating the alley located near and around 4th Street and Willis.

    Ranch Manager Butch Corsentino was re-hired with praise for all his work.  He gave a report on the second cutting of hay.  He said the cut crop had gotten wet, but he was able to turn it a couple of times so it dried out.  “It’ll be okay- good for horses,” he said. 

    Corsentino told the Council they should wait on opening bids for leases on City pastures, until the cattle markets improve in the next couple of weeks.

    Corsentino was asked if he noticed any difference in the quality of the hay crop with the water coming out of the Cuchara River, which carries methane-tainted water.  “Oh yea,” he said.  “It’s okay on the better land, but it crusts up in the lower places.  We sure don’t want any more of that water.”  He also noted the price of fertilizer is going through the roof- “It’s getting to a point where it’s not worth putting it on.”

    Police Chief Larry Baldonado told the Council that he will be interviewing several potential police officers next week, with most of them fresh out of the Academy.  Council members asked Baldonado about a rash of break-ins, and his response was “We try and patrol as often as we can, but with the shortage of personnel, we’re reactive.”

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