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La Veta protests the pain of water rate hike

by Carol Dunn
LA VETA- The June 21 La Veta Town Board meeting was at times unruly and loud as homeowners vented their displeasure with the Town’s new tiered water rates, which went into effect June 1. There were various complaints about the increase, and a letter was presented by Darrell and Kristi Arnold, who also addressed the Board. The Arnolds’ letter stated, “There is no evidence that the Town is currently in a water crisis, and there is no justification for raising water rates to stem usage at this time. We do not know, exactly, how the Town has gotten itself in a position where it must find new ways to increase revenues, but correcting the problem by placing the burden on water users is wrong.” Mrs. Arnold, who cited landscape needs around their home, told the Board, “My water rate will be more than my mortgage.” Also in reference to landscaping, she said, “This town is the ugliest community I’ve seen in a long time.” The letter also said, “Raising rates will result in a never-ending upward spiral of robbing the residents, a process that has nothing to do with water shortages.” When the discussion was over, she received an ovation from the audience.
Responding to a complaint that some meters were being read three days early, Mayor Pro-tem Larry Klinke told the audience that those early meter readings were discarded because they would have affected the sliding scale for water charges. Trustee Jim Fowler told the audience that one reservoir is two feet low; the community has a leaking dam; and the Town Board does not want to borrow a lot of money to address the dam and other water issues. According to Mayor Don Keairns, the 4% interest rate on the $675,000 loan to make state-mandated dam repairs would have been 8% if the Town had not raised the base rate by 13.8% to cover the cost of producing the water.
Appearing taken aback by some of the emotional comments, Mr. Fowler said, “We’re trying to do the best we can.” The Board was staunchly defended by Rena Kaplowitz, who said she has attended hundreds of Town Board meetings and, “These guys are doing their job.” Finally the Board offered to hold a special public meeting with the Town’s water engineers present, which didn’t interest most of the group. Rather, the meeting will be held without engineers on Tuesday, June 28 at 6:00 pm at the La Veta Community Center. The Board also voted 4-2 to delay implementation of the new tiered rates.
“Older buildings connect us to our past,” Mary Jean Fowler told the Board as the Historic Preservation Committee gave a presentation on 206 S. Main St. – the Marshal’s office. Mrs. Fowler told the Board the Committee is applying for a Historical Structure Assessment grant in the amount of $15,000 for an architectural and structural engineering study of returning the building to its original 1908 façade. “There is no cost to the Town,” she stressed. “There is no obligation to proceed.” HPC has researched eight potential sources of funding for the renovation, which could take place in 2013.
Because of dry conditions, the Board enacted an ordinance which immediately bans the use of fireworks within La Veta Town limits until June 1, 2012. The ordinance will contain a list of restrictions recently enacted by Huerfano County, including not permitting people to smoke outside a building or a vehicle.
The La Veta Inn was granted a variance on the size of its sign posted on the fence next to La Veta Oil, which turns out to be on Town property. The sign is 82.5 square feet, rather than the 50 square feet allowed by the municipal code. The request stated, “The banner is an attractive sign and we believe more attractive than the fence it covers.”
The Board approved the commercial redevelopment permit application for the Next Door Deli at 107 W. Francisco St. It also approved the liquor license application for Deerprint Wine at 106 E. Francisco St.
Klinke made a public statement clarifying an issue from the previous Board meeting: “I do not have any ties to Grandote Peaks Golf Course and have not for two years.”