by Larry Patrick
WALSENBURG- The Huerfano County Commissioners voted to lower the request for funding emergency services in the county to 1% instead of the 1 ½% general sales tax it had been seeking. After going over budget figures for the coming year, County administrator, John Galusha felt the 1% would be close enough to do the job if Huerfano County took over dispatch services. It would raise $240,000 of the projected $261,000 that he feels Huerfano County could do the job for taxpayers. That is less than what it currently cost the city to provide the services. Galusha feels the job could be done with 5 dispatchers and a dispatch supervisor also doing dispatch duties. With benefits and salary for the six positions, the amount would be about $258,000 plus another $3,000 for other budget expenses including utilities, insurance, office supplies and other miscellaneous items. Galusha’s plan would have training paid for by the 911 board which the city currently pays.
The tri-county board will meet on Monday, Aug. 18th to discuss the 1% general sales tax. The Commissioners believe they need all of the entities on board in asking for the 1% general sales tax. If the county were to take over the dispatch services, it would provide financial relief for the City of Walsenburg that currently funds the vast majority of emergency services in Huerfano County. Since Walsenburg voters pay for the majority of emergency services, approximately $300,000 per year, the city taxpayers could see money going for other needed services in the city if the tax passed.
A plan B is being looked at by Galusha if voters do not approve the 1% tax. That would assess a $25 per call for Walsenburg, LaVeta and various Huerfano County groups such as ambulance and fire departments. The County Commissioners made it clear that they are not going to subsidize emergency services. It has to be paid for by the tax or budgeted by the various entities needing the services. The 1% general sales tax would allow for tourists to pay for some of the emergency services currently paid for by taxpayers in the county by themselves. With the amount of tourists buying gas, food and supplies as they go through the area, that could amount to a large amount of relief on local budgets.
Speaking about local budgets, the lack of travel due to higher gasoline prices this year has the county hurting with their road and bridge budget. Revenues from the highway user’s tax district are down a whopping $65,000 dollars through the halfway point of the year. County Commissioners are having to tighten financial belts because of the shortfall in revenue.
The County Treasuer’s office got its part-time person they had been seeking since one person retired. County Commissioners ok’d the hiring of Alicia Bryant, who previously worked in the County Clerks office. Since there was an in-house applicant, the county did not have to advertise the position. Bryant will work 20 hours per week.
The Rock Springs Arroyo fire is under control. Paul Gomez of the Huerfano County Fire Department reported to the County Commissioners that the fire engulfed 65-70 acres in a hard to get to location in the county. The Rifle Hot Shot team came down to assist in getting the fire under control. The 20 man team was housed and fed by the county.
Peter Gintautus gave his monthly update on the Petroglyph studies of methane in groundwater areas. They are still in Phase I of the 3 phase study before being able to move forward with drilling possibilities. Water levels seem to be back up and methane gas levels are down. Seep testing results will be given evenutally to the building inspector who can advise would be buyers of coal mines or methane gas problems in certain areas. With this knowledge buyers and the county would be better able to work together to avoid problems that are plaguing many rural homeowners at the present time. Another update will come up next month on progress that is being made in the testing of the wells affected.