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New La Veta Board seated

by Carol Dunn

LA VETA- Two La Veta Town Board meetings were held April 7.  First the “old Board” met to finish up old business, then the newly elected Mayor and trustees were sworn in and seated to take up any new business.

    Coral Anderson, replete with period costume and feather boa was on hand to speak in favor of a special events license for Francisco Fort Saloon Night, which was approved for June 5 to happy applause. 

    Matthew Abby, San Luis Rio Grande Railroad, was on hand to report to the Board that the long-awaited emergency plan for the La Veta Fire Protection District is nearly complete.  Abby said there are only two items left to cover in the plan: a seating diagram for the coach car, and escape ladders for bi-level cars.  Mark Brunner concurred from the audience that the plan is nearly finished.  “We worked hand in hand,” he said.  “The railroad has been willing to put in whatever we asked for.”

    The Board discussed closure of the fuel farm at the airport, in light of violations resulting from the underground fuel tanks.  The tanks, which have been emptied, either need to be removed or filled with an inert material and left in place.  CGRS Environmental Services, the contractor currently working on the contamination cleanup at La Veta oil, provided a cost estimate of $20,000 for the removal option.  Mayor Mickey Schmidt said that filling and leaving the tanks may be more expensive.  Schmidt said the Town must show diligence in addressing the violation by April 16.  Trustee Dale Davis suggested the Town contact some contractors and see if they want the tanks and will remove them.

    Mayor Schmidt said the Town is looking into putting audio recordings of the Board meetings on the Town’s web site.  Trustee Jesse Yarbrough told the Board that Sierra Fourwinds is willing to help the Board accomplish that.

    The Historic Preservation Committee reported that a meeting has been held to designate 50 historic and contributing structures in the Town of La Veta.

    Dale Davis told the Board he has met with School Superintendent Dave Seaney, and the school has agreed to move the fence back at Locust and Birch so the street can be widened.

    Davis read aloud a letter from former Town Trustee Bob Kennemer who said it had been his personal privilege to serve on the Board twice with Mickey Schmidt.  Addressing Schmidt, Kennemer’s letter said, “A thousand thank-yous.  I am happy for and grateful for the 30 years you served the Town of La Veta.  You are a true treasure.  No Board member knows more about the ordinances, water law, La Veta history, the history of the local government, keeping the Town within budget, and maintaining the Town’s unique character.  You never caved in to special interests or gave in to shouting bullies.  You spent  countless hours  as mayor and trustee, in committee meetings, hours with constituents, and on email.  You got it done Mickey, and you got it done right.”  Sniffles were heard here and there in the audience.  A visibly moved Schmidt received a standing ovation and was, for a few moments, speechless.  Schmidt then told everyone, “It’s been a pleasure to serve.  I’m available at all times to the new Board and the new Mayor.  I’m glad to have served all these years.  La Veta will be ok.”

    An audience member added, “Tracy, Jesse, Mickey, we are so thankful for every hour you have served.  Our little town is the envy of other towns because of its strong condition.”

    After the bills were paid, Mayor Schmidt’s last official act was to swear in newly elected Mayor Don Keairns and trustees Dale Davis, Laurie Irwin and Larry Klinke.

    As he called the second meeting to order, Mayor Keairns said, “I am truly humbled to serve La Veta in this capacity.  I hope we can collectively come together and solve some of our issues.”

    The Board accepted an application for a liquor and retail business license for La Veta Bistro & Brewery, owned by Carol Houk and Reed White, at 1010 S. Oak St.   A public hearing was set for May 18 at 6:50 pm.  

    The Board ratified the appointment of two trustees for the La Veta Library District: Ginny Carlson and Katherine Hale.  Larry Klinke was appointed as Mayor Pro-tem.  Larry Berkowitz was retained as Town Attorney.

    Resolution 6-10 was passed,  adding Mayor Keairns as a signer on the Town bank accounts.

    The Town has received letters of interest for Municipal Court Judge from: Mary White, Lee Hawke, Al Drum, Cathy Mullens, and Jytte Hale-Helps.  Mayor Keairns suggested tabling the appointment until interviews can be conducted.  Trustee Dawn Blanken suggested scheduling those interviews as soon as possible because the Town is trying to catch up with municipal court.  The Board set the date of April 22 for a workshop and interviews, with an appointment of the Judge to follow on May 4.  The chosen judge will then appoint the clerk of the court.

    Trustees were appointed to the following committees:  Museum, Blanken (chair), Davis, and Trustee Jim Fowler; Streets & Alleys, Klinke (chair), Fowler, Trustee Laurie Irwin, and Davis; Police, Code Enforcement & Building, Blanken (chair), Davis and Klinke; Water & Sewer, Fowler (chair) and Irwin; Personnel, Blanken (chair), Davis, and Irwin; Finance, Irwin (chair) and Klinke.  Mayor Keairns will serve on the countywide 911 Committee and serve as secretary of that group.

    The election of Keairns leaves a vacant Trustee seat, and the Board has 30 days to fill that position.  Board members debated whether to publish a call for letters of interest or appoint the person with the next highest number of votes in the April 6 election (which was Tracy Webb).  The Board set a workshop for April 19 at 6 pm to discuss which method they will use.

    The Town received an invoice from Paul Morgan Excavating for blading the streets in Town.  Morgan is charging $100 per hour.  From the audience, Mickey Schmidt explained that the Board decided months ago to hire outside help to get the streets into shape all at one time, and Morgan’s invoice is a result of some of that work.  The matter was referred to the Streets & Alleys Committee.  Davis said the previous committee had developed a list of priority street projects.

    Before the meeting adjourned, Trustee Irwin thanked Mickey Schmidt for staying around for the meeting to help get the new Board off to a good start.

    In a meeting that had all the potential to be testy, graciousness and good manners prevailed, and the public had the opportunity to be optimistic for a smooth transition in La Veta Town government.