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Council fails to act on water rates, again

by Eric Mullens
WALSENBURG — The Walsenburg City Council Tuesday night almost addressed one of the current water rate issues, the cost of water bought ‘off the wall’, but the proposed resolution failed on a 4-3 vote.
Resolution 2012 R-27, would have, if passed, cut the rate water haulers pay in half, to 1.5 cents per gallon vs the current rate of 3 cents. The resolution failed as council members Rick Jennings, Craig Lessar, Silvana Lind and Nick Vigil voted against it, all indicating this was not the appropriate time to adjust that particular rate. Led by Jennings, the dissenting voters all said they felt the council should first address whatever residential water and sewer rate increases will be made before action is taken on any reconfiguration of water haul prices.
The issue was contentious enough between council members Erin Jerant and James Baca, that Baca left city hall after the break between the public hearing and the regular meeting.
“I was pretty annoyed they were trying to push the water haul rate through when we haven’t gotten all the correct numbers,” Baca told the Huerfano World Journal Wednesday morning. “What really upset me,” Baca said, “was I told Larry Patrick and the council we needed another work session to explain the base increase to residents. Jerant said ‘hell no’ and that really set me off.” Baca said he felt with the animosity over the issue it would not have been productive for him to stay at the meeting.
Controversy wasn’t limited to just the water rate issue. Mayor Patrick read a prepared statement at the beginning of the regular session addressing the issue of an appointment to the Walsenburg Housing Authority Board. He said, in effect, the members of the board are good people doing a difficult job, and he felt the board members and their attorney were out of line to attempt to reopen the closed issue of Patrick’s self appointment to that group. He said at the end of his remarks however, that some situations had changed at the housing authority and he did not plan to reappoint himself. Patrick did not elaboration on what had changed.
He invited the housing authority board to gather letters of interest for the open position from authority property residents or others for future consideration. The appointment to fill that open seat will remain with the mayor, but must be ratified by city council.
Prompted by a citizen forum subject, city council indicated they will also in the near future look into the standing ordinances governing the cost of tap fees for abandoned properties that individuals may have purchased for renovation.
Council voted to renew the liquor license for Chang’s Bistro; passed Resolution 2012 R-23, that provides for appropriate uses of Old Hire Police Officer’s pension fund dollars ($16,244.87) which may now be used for law enforcement-related purposes. Council held a public hearing prior to the regular meeting on this topic and no one spoke in opposition to the action.
Council also voted to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the Walsenburg RE-1 School District, to work on the traffic congestion problem near the John Mall High School / Peakview Elementary – Middle School complex and voted to hire on an hourly basis, retired CPA Mike Cortez to assist in the finance office. Cortez will be paid $25 per hour with no benefits and may work up to 24 hours per week.