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Huerfano Commissioners listen to Cuchara’s concerns

by Lois Adams, courtesy of the Cuchara Foundation

CUCHARA — Recently the three Huerfano County Commissioners came to Cuchara for a “listening session.” And listen they did, and respond. In addition to Commissioners Max Vezzani, Gerald Cisneros and Ray Garcia, Steve Channel and Melanie Bounds came to help answer questions about address changes.

One of the benefits of living in Huerfano is the close connection citizens have with their elected officials. This is especially good when the elected officials listen to the needs of the folks and actually respond as best they can to them. We appreciate our commissioners and the hardworking county employees who work in Huerfano. This meeting is a good example of what they do.

Here is a brief report from that meeting, which was attended by about 20 locals.

ROADS: The commissioners received thanks from several in attendance. Here are specific thanks expressed. Thank you for:

1. new road signs in the area.

2. road improvements in Pine Haven

3. road improvements in Panadero area

4. listening to us and responding as best you can.

However, some residents requested road improvements in other areas of Cuchara.

Commissioner Vezzani acknowledged the continuing need for road improvements and reminded us again the county has 700 miles of road to care for. They have developed a plan that each road will get major attention every 12 or 15 years. However, there is some positive news. The commissioners have put into their very limited budget some additional resources for roadwork. They have also developed gravel pits in our county and a special cattle guard work force to ease the workload of the roads staff.

Jim Berg reminded the commissioners that Panadero Avenue never got finished last fall. The county will look into that. Berg also said Main Street in Cuchara is a drainage problem. It is V shaped for drainage, and washes out badly. Chips helped a bit, but it really needs solid pan or concrete in the middle. Vezzani suggested that chip seal might work. The county will look into solutions for that and recognize that Main Street is a critical part of our tourist economy.

BROAD BAND: The commissioners acknowledged a need for high speed fiber optic internet in the valley. They are well aware of our challenges and are trying to find some solutions.

Vezzani said that DD Wireless works well for some. However, there are big challenges here to the line of sight approach due to the mountains and trees. Jim Berg reported the water board said DD could look at their site on the ski resort. Mike Sanders with DD Wireless said he wants to look at that and perhaps do a trial run to see if that will work.

The county received a DOLA grant to fund a study to see where gaps in service exist. That study is ongoing right now. It is required to have this in order to receive any federal funds for improving service. If you would like your voice included in the study, call Walt Bolden is director of the Huerfano and Las Animas County Council of Governments, at 719-845-1133 and tell him you’d like to be in the survey.

Centurylink received a huge federal grant to provide service to underserved rural areas. They visited the county in the fall but we have not heard back from them.

NEW ADDRESSES FOR THE RESORT AREA: Steve Channel said that addresses in Filing 1 and 2 are a “mess.” The county is working on a plan to fix this as it is a safety concern. Going back to 1984, the numbering system used either lot numbers or house numbers. A new, systematic numbering system will be announced in the next month or so, and 80% of addresses in the resort area will change.

Then there was a lengthy discussion on whether Panadero Loop should be “Loop” or an extension of Panadero Avenue. A committee was formed to come up with a recommendation for the county: Olan Adams, Jim Berg and Nancy Carroll will tackle it.

And then, Nancy will also be thinking of a name for her road which needs to be differentiated from one that tees the other way. There are only two houses on that road, so she has been asked to suggest names for it. Now, how often do you have an opportunity to name your street? I’m sure Nancy would love to have suggestions! Well, er, maybe not. . .

FIRE PREPAREDNESS: 📢 Plans for early warning for valley of fire: Paul Branson says from what he knows, a siren system is the best, most efficient warning system if you need to evacuate a lot of folks. But of course, it is also expensive. Branson is checking on the cost and feasibility of having such a system in the valley. Grants for sirens should make it possible.

In the meantime, Code Red is available and Paul encouraged everyone to sign up for that. He said statistics are hard to get, but he thinks we don’t have many signed up. It is easy to do, so get signed up. To check and see if you are registered for Code Red, call 738 1044. Caution: If you are already registered, don’t register again as it will confuse the system.

The Fire Wise Grant from FEMA in our area is large and complex but under Branson’s management it is rolling along. Branson said having such a large grant in our rural area is like “docking an aircraft carrier at the marina.” However, it will force us to build a comprehensive Fire Wise system. Data is very clear that communities that have fire wise in place have less impact with a wild fire. Do your part and be sure your property is ready.

WINTER REC/ALPINE CLUB: There is a potential Winter Rec “program” in our area. The county has shown interest in purchasing equipment for trail grooming. The newly formed Alpine Club will attend a commissioners’ meeting and officially ask that they purchase it. Then Lathrop State Park would be asked to maintain the equipment and do grooming on either or both Blue Lake Road and Cordova Pass Road. The county needs to formalize an agreement for this to happen.