WALSENBURG — Two-thirds of the Walsenburg City Council, sitting as council members and as the Board of Directors of the Downtown and Northlands General Improvement Districts, unanimously approved all three budgets for next year Tuesday night. Newly appointed Ward III councilman Troy Reeves, Mayor James Eccher, and councilmen Charles Montoya, Nick Vigil, Clint Boehler, and Mayor Pro Tem Craig Lessar were in attendance. Veteran councilmembers Cathy Pineda, Rick Jennings and Silvana Lind were absent. In unanimous votes, the six approved the 2015 Walsenburg Downtown General Improvement District (GID) budget of $3,387; the Northlands GID budget of $6,310,500 and the City of Walsenburg budget of $13,346,257. The group also unanimously approved accompanying resolutions concerning the budgets, including Resolution 2014 R-15 that approves the city property tax of 11.756 mils on each dollar’s worth of property assessed by the county assessor in 2014. In addition, sitting as the Downtown GID Board of Directors, the six council members unanimously approved Resolution 2014 R-4, that grants consent for downtown property owners within the district to maintain, trim or remove trees within the
district. The trees are owned by the district, and business property owners within the GID may trim or cut down the trees after signing an agreement with the GID Board indemnifying the district for any damage to persons or property that may occur during maintenance, trimming or removal. The business property owner will also have to provide the GID with a certificate of general liability insurance naming the GID as an additional insured entity. In his 2015 budget message to the city council, Walsenburg Administrator Dave Johnston wrote the city is, “embarking on (an) encouraging year as 2014 ends and 2015 begins. The long anticipated Northlands Sewer Project is again on track and scheduled for completion in the third quarter of 2015.” Johnston also wrote about potential economic development with a new truck stop/auto fuel center set for construction in May 2015 on the east side of I-25 at the southern entrance to Walsenburg; a possible new auto parts retailer for downtown, and current negotiations with Martra Holdings, the company buying a portion of the city-owned ranch, which could become the largest buyer of city water in the future. Brian Trani, President and CEO of Martra Holdings, briefly attended the city council meeting and signed an initial purchase agreement for the land with Mayor Eccher. Johnston also wrote in the budget message, “The City’s General Fund is in disrepair and a portion of previous year deficits from 2013 and prior, will be carried to 2015. The City has not yet fully recovered from the many impacts brought on by the recent national recession, including declining home values and high unemployment.” Johnston said Walsenburg’s assessed valuation declined by a net $3.8 million this year and that valuation will result in a $40,000 reduction in anticipated 2015 property tax revenues. The lower revaluation of the closed prison was cited as a contributing factor. Johnston said the city’s overall wage and hiring freeze remains in effect, although the city proposes to maintain services and activities at levels commensurate with the scope of the 2015 budget. The city will face a number of high profile issues as 2015 dawns; including identification of the scope of work necessary to repair the city’s five dams, and repairs to the raw water line and water storage tank as mandated by state agencies. The city has also budgeted about $650,000 for street improvements in the coming year.