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La Veta delays approval of school annexation

Fearing a no vote, mayor calls for special meeting in one week

by Mark Craddock
LA VETA – They were so close Tuesday night, one could almost taste the water flowing from drinking fountains in the atrium of La Veta’s new school complex.

But it will be at least another week before an ordinance will be approved, ratifying the mediated amended annexation agreement with the school board and setting the stage for the town to start delivering water, the school to receive a certificate of occupancy, and students to roam the halls and classrooms of the new facility.

The town board will convene a special meeting next Tuesday, Jan. 25, 7 p.m., to revisit Ordinance 330, at which time mayor Doug Brgoch said he hopes the trustees will approve the matter.

This was largely a political calculation on the mayor’s part, based on fears that the ordinance might be voted down, which would have forced several weeks’ delay as the town re-introduced the ordinance, conducted a new public hearing and re-set the matter for a vote.

During the discussion, Brgoch and trustee Tim Tady seemed squarely ready to approve the ordinance, in spite of the fact that a few niggling details between the two bodies remained unresolved.

But a quick whip count of the board members demonstrated the mayor’s dilemma.
Trustees Connie and Jack Grimm announced their reluctance to approve the ordinance until all the remaining issues were addressed. Trustee Derek Sokolowski was absent. That meant the remaining two trustees, Kenny Arnold and Mickey Schmidt, would have had to vote to yes to garner the four votes necessary for passage.

Arnold, largely quiet Tuesday but in the past a strong advocate for school-town cooperation in completing the annexation, was a likely “yes” vote.

The X factor was Schmidt.
During the darkest days of the roughly three years of back-and-forth on the annexation deal, Schmidt had routinely been a spark plug in trying to push past the roadblocks. “We’re so close,” was his common refrain.

But the wizened, long-time board member is also a stickler for getting these things done right, so future civic leaders do not have to clean up their predecessors’ messes.

He may have gritted his teeth and voted “yes,” but it would almost certainly have been with some gut-level reluctance. And he said nothing to tip his hand Tuesday night.

Brgoch clearly calculated he could not take the chance.

“So you’re going to put this off a week because you have a board member absent?” a citizen asked from the gallery.
“No,” Brgoch said. “We’re giving it a week to wrap up these details, to hopefully allay some board members’ concerns so that they may feel comfortable in voting for the ordinance.”

Brgoch said that, of the 14 items still requiring “some type of work” after the Jan. 4 meeting, most have been resolved.
The town is still waiting, Brgoch said, for copies of “as built” maps – which detail exactly where and how certain items that fall in the town’s easements have been constructed – for the telephone conduits and the fire-suppression loop. These documents allow the town to know exactly what lies beneath the surface of the land in the event of future development or improvements to the site.

“(The town attorney) indicated that he feels comfortable with what he’s reviewing,” Brgoch said. “I’m kind of the opinion that, we still have a lawsuit pending against the school. I’m of the opinion that we approve Ordinance 330 tonight and leave the lawsuit in place.”

He said that would give the school 30 days to provide the final bits of information without delaying the opening of the new school.

“I guess the biggest thing we have to worry about is the bonding for the roadway,” Schmidt said. “If we went ahead tonight, we’re just basically taking the goodwill and credibility of the newly elected board as surety.
“I trust them, they are where they are, we just need the documentation of where they are.”
The school board is trying to avoid paying the roughly $7,000 it would cost to secure the bond of that size.
School board member Tony Masinton said Tuesday that Paul Morgan Excavating has given the district a bid of $170,000 to do the work in June.

“That’s a firm bid,” he said. “So if we were to give him the money tomorrow, that would lock the deal.”
Trustee Connie Grimm, however, signaled she was not ready to approve the ordinance that night.
“Three years ago, there were 17 items that needed to be addressed by the school board,” she said. “Then I realized that over a week ago there were 14. Almost a year ago is when we mediated, negotiated out the re-annexation agreement after 19 hours of mediation. And tonight, mister mayor just wrote up a list of six different things.

“I’m sorry. It’s my responsibility to represent all the residents of this town, and I feel like it’s also my obligation to not approve something we have been working on for so long – and we’re still at this ridiculous stage of trying to approve the annexation, which should have been the first deal, three-and-a-half years ago.”

Ruben Ortiz

Ruben Ortiz 5/30/1922 ~ 8/6/2020 World War ll US Navy veteran, lifetime Trinidad resident is survived by his wife, Flora Ortiz; children Cynthia (Margarito) Ortiz

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