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Police Chief James Chamberlain now officially chief

by Bill Knowles

WALSENBURG- Walsenburg has a new police chief.  Chief James Chamberlain was appointed  Nov. 11 by Interim City Administrator Donald Saling.  Chief Chamberlain has been interim himself since last March when the city laid off Larry Baldonado.

    Chief Chamberlain has been tasked with increasing the interaction with police departments in other municipalities.  The city will benefit from the associations in such areas as internet investigations, crime watch programs and undercover assistance.  He has also been asked to establish a “Crime Watch” program in the city.  The city council would like to see the program in Walsenburg.

    The Martin Lake project was back on the agenda with the city council learning that the seepage at the dam may be due to a french drain that was installed by the contractor in order to ease pressures on the dam.  If the drain is indeed the cause of the seepage and the state’s dam engineer approves the fix, then the project will come to an end.  If it’s not approved, then the city will be responsible for repairs.

    The cost to repair the valve to the Martin Lake dam is at $905,000.  Revenues for the project are listed as $268,000 from an Energy Mineral Impact Grant, $602,400 from Contractor Funds and $34,600 from contractor in-kind work.

    An amendment to extend an Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Program grant usage deadline from the end of 2010 to March 30, 2011 was approved by the city council.  The original grant was signed in August 2008 and was written for the purpose of purchasing materials to complete the Martin Lake valve project.  The council is requesting the extension because the project will be finished around March, and the grant could be closed out.  So far the city has requested $63,581 from the grant leaving a balance of $204,419 due to the city.

    A misunderstanding by the city council resulted in Dr. William Beverly and Paul Rivera being appointed to the city’s Planning and Zoning Committee last week, and then on Tuesday, Nov. 16, the council found out that the P and Z Committee has seven board members and all the seats are full.  City Attorney Dan Hyatt advised the council that nine members on the board would be better and recommended an amendment be added to the city ordinance that establishes the board.

    After a motion and second were made, council member Erin Jerant took issue with increasing the number of board members on the Planning and Zoning Committee saying “it would make the board unwieldy.”   With council member Silvana Lind absent, the vote to have an amendment drafted increasing the city’s Planning and Zoning Committee board from seven members to nine members, passed on an 8-0 vote.

    City council members voted to accept the renewal of the current health insurance program with Rocky Mountain Health Plans.  With health insurance premiums going up 7.9 percent in 2011, an employee paying for single coverage will see current premiums increase from $502 to about $542.  Family coverage will increase from about $1,332 to  $1435. The city will be paying for 75 percent of the costs with the city workers paying 25 percent.  About $19,000 will be added to the 2011 budget due to the increase in health insurance premiums.

    Despite the increase, other insurance providers bid higher, according to city staff.  Rocky Mountain Health Plans has been covering the city’s workers for several years and has them listed under a large business rating.  The city, for insurance purposes, is a small business.