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Cotarco – what happened?

(continued from last week)

HUERFANO — When the Cotarco initiative began – a $11,500,000 project – some local residents were skeptical After all, the idea that a large corporation or corporations would build plants using local coal seemed unbelievable in 1955. Other residents embraced the new industries and began forming some new businesses themselves. Walsenburg’s state senator Sam Taylor was named president of a new investment firm, First Western Corp. Two other officers were also officers of Cotarco. Fernando Serafini, assistant Colorado Secretary of State with ties to Walsenburg, was named corporation secretary. Senator Sam, president of Huerfano Mining Corp., decided to start a $250,000 mine expansion program. Taylor No. 1 mine, located on the Klikus ranch six miles west of La Veta, would have Alfred Newman, veteran miner, in charge of operations. Charles Keeling would take over the tipple construction. A second mine, north of Taylor No. 1, would begin in 30 days, and a third, south of Walsenburg, would open in the spring. Note that Senator Sam was also the counsel for both Cotarco and the fertilizer company, Umbaugh Chemical. He knew they would require huge quantities of coal. The key to the industries locating in Huerfano County was a new Colorado law – Senate Bill 313, co-authored by Sam Taylor. It allowed

cities to issue anticipation warrants “for the public good.” These anticipation warrants would finance a plant’s construction, equipment, and machinery. Senate Bill 313 was modeled on statutes in other states and the legality had been upheld by the courts. Even the Colorado Attorney General gave an opinion that the city had the right to enter these transactions. When the warrants were sold, the money would be used by the city to build and equip Cotarco and Umbaugh plants as a “public works project.” The two firms would then lease the plants. Each of the two companies would pay $1 million each for 10 years to the city for the leases. Then they would pay $1,500 yearly rent for the land. Several steps were taken to reassure the doubters. TV Channel 5 – KCSJ – had a weekly Cotarco program. One night Mayor George Turner and Mayor-Elect Donald Haney appeared on the show explaining the plans. Because the city ordinances, the leases, the contracts, and other documents were so complex, Umbaugh and Cotarco retained more attorneys, all local, to assist City Attorney Angelo Mosco: E. U. Sandoval, Albert Tomsic, and Floyd Murr. Nine southern Colorado men were flown east to see Umbaugh laboratory plants in Ohio and Indiana. From Walsenburg John Denise, Chamber of Commerce president and editor and publisher of the World-Independent, and Rancher John Corsentino, were selected by the Chamber. Everything seemed set. It was time to open bids for the plants’ construction. And then a lawsuit was filed. (COTARCO to be continued next week). Information is from a variety of World-Independent newspapers from June 1955 through February 1956. The original newspapers are in the Tirey Local History Museum. Microfilm copies are in the Spanish Peaks Library and Rawlings Library, Pueblo. The History Detective is a service of the Huerfano County Historical Society