by Brian Orr
WALSENBURG- The new Walsenburg City Council was sworn in on Tuesday evening, with one seat from Ward 2 left vacant, and it will remain so for the forseeable future.
The seat had been held by Larry Patrick for four years, but no one ran to fill it last election, and no one has come forward to fill it since- until Patrick said he would serve again, if he was approved by Council.
Patrick was nominated to re-fill his seat by James Moore, who described Patrick as the best (only) candidate for the seat, and having established a strong track record, with a great deal of experience and information. The motion was seconded by Councilwoman Silvaana Lind.
Led by Mayor Bruce Quintana, Erin Jerant and James England, Patrick’s motives and commitment were called into question, with Quintana particularly saying Patrick was against poor people. Quintana also alleged that the City’s financial woes were Patrick’s fault. Patrick denied all of this, particularly noting that if there was fault to be laid for the City’s finances, it should be on the entire council.
The Council did not appoint Patrick to his old seat, as they deadlocked in a four to four tie vote, and let it remain vacant. Quintana, Jerant, Lessar and Vigil voted against appointing Patrick. Quintana said he would continue to advertise for someone from Ward 2 to come forward and fill it.
Since the seat has remained unfilled for 60 days after the last election, Colorado statute requires that another election be held to fill the vacancy, even though no one but Patrick has shown interest in the position. This will be an additional financial burden that the City has to absorb at a time when employees are being laid off.
Though the Council failed to fill the Ward 2 seat, they were able to fill other critical positions. The City Clerk position went to Lori Sheldon, who has been doing the job since mid-year, when health problems forced John Zgut to retire.
The position of City Treasurer went to the one candidate who was eligible; former City Councilwoman and businesswoman Jacque Sikes.
For the position of Mayor Pro-Tem, James England was approved unanimously. England said he looked forward to serving with the Council.
Quintana also announced who he wanted to chair the various committees that answer to the Council.
For the Finance Chair, Quintana appointed James England. For the Parks and Recreation Chair, he appointed Erin Jerant. For the Public Resource Committee, Quintana appointed freshman Councilman Craig Lessar. The committee will meet quarterly, unless a specific meeting is called for by Lessar.
For the position of Public Resources Chairperson, Quintana said he wanted to leave it open for now, and have staff conduct meetings. England suggested that perhaps the former chairperson, former Councilwoman Edie Flanagin might be persuaded to continue with the job. Flanagin said she would be willing to help the committee, but not chair it, and declined the offer.
In other business, City Administrator Alan Hein reported a discussion he had with Hugh Brown, the man who is planning on opening a new grocery store in Walsenburg. Right now, Brown is in negotiations with CDOT about the turn lane into his proposed store. For the moment, the price is prohibitively expensive, but the City is looking at ways to help reduce the cost by having City crews do a portion of the construction.
Hein said that the Martin Lake valve project and the wastewater treatment plant are both waiting for approval from the State.
Finally, the publishing of City legals changed hands, from the Journal to the Huerfano County World.