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Commissioners hear concerns on 1st Choice taxes

by Larry Patrick
WALSENBURG — Hugh and Denise Brown appeared before the Huerfano County Commissioners Wednesday about the taxes assessed on their First Choice Market store. The $51,000 tax bill is much more than what was expected. They had not received the bill earlier due to a wrong address.
Brown is seeking tax relief because of his first year in business and all of the expenses he has had to put forth. However, with the taxes assessed already, the county, city and school districts have based their budgets on those amounts. It is possible through a tax abatement protest that Brown could see a 50% reduction.
RE-1 school superintendent Dawn Olson and school board president Jaye Sudar told the commissioners that giving back half of the school district amount would mean the loss of $10,000 which could cost a part-time employee. Brown says it’s not his intention to to hurt anyone but the $51,000 is a huge hit for his business.
Mayor Larry Patrick and city councilman Nick Vigil said they could not speak on behalf of the entire city council. The city would see a loss of around $3,500, which Vigil said could probably be absorbed. They do not want First Choice Market to be hurt, but understand the problem it poses for the school district.
The commissioners recommended Brown file a tax abatement with the county assessors office. No decision was made, but Brown did file an abatement following the meeting.
For comparison, First Choice Market’s tax bill is three times higher than that of its major competitor in town, Safeway.
In other action, the commissioners approved the replacement of aging water tanks by the Navajo Western Water District. The cost to maintain the current tanks are too costly.
Viaero Communications received approval to put up a 150 foot tower along Hwy 69 to provide cell phone service to the Gardner area. A Viaero spokesman said the tower could be also used by the county, fire or police for emergency services.
The La Veta Chamber of Commerce received approval for their billboard design for the billboards east and west of the Hwy 12 turnoff to La Veta.