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State of the City 2013

by Walsenburg Mayor, Larry Patrick
WALSENBURG — In my first year as Mayor of Walsenburg, working along the city council, we have made a lot of positive strides forward even as we have had to address some tough issues head-on.
In running for mayor, I promised to move the Northlands project forward. Last August, the USDA came forth with a grant for $1.8M and a low-interest loan for $3.6M dollars to build a sewer line. The sewer line is needed to solve several long standing issues such as the smelly sewer ponds and expensive water augmentation. It will also expand opportunities for jobs, business growth and additional sales tax revenue to help all citizens of Walsenburg.
This USDA grant and loan, along with nearly $700,000 in grants from the Department of Local Affairs and Office of Economic Development, gives Walsenburg a great shot at being able to move forward economically. Two weeks ago the city council hired an engineering firm, GMS, Inc. to oversee the sewer line project.
Another positive move forward has been the paving of city streets this past year. The city council has plans to work on more streets this coming spring and summer.
Because the voters passed 2B on the November ballot, the city will now use up to two-thirds of the Capital Improvement Fund to go toward repairing, replacing and maintaining our aging water and sewer lines throughout Walsenburg.
Again, I must emphasize the importance of the Northlands project because development of new restaurants, motels and other tourist-related businesses there will increase the sales tax dollars in this fund for repair of our aging infrastructure.
Having to increase water and sewer rates was a necessary move that has not made anyone happy, including your mayor and city council. However, the action will put our water and sewer fund on a sound financial foundation. We’re still awaiting a USDA study to be completed on our utility rates that will help us determine if adjustments are necessary.
The Downtown Assessment group organized a study last October to improve the looks and financial well-being of businesses along Walsen, Main and W. 7th Streets. Some of their ideas will be put into play in 2013. A stronger downtown district remains one of my goals. The renewed energy of the Downtown Revitalization Committee and their ideas for moving the business community forward are positive. With a stronger Chamber of Commerce in the years ahead, both of these groups can be vital in helping the city grow and prosper.
A goal was to hire a fulltime city administrator because the city had had interim administrators for nearly three years. Fortunately, Dave Johnston, our finance director, stepped up and took on the interim administrator role during the illness and subsequent death of acting administrator Beth Neece. He proved to all on city council that he deserved the position fulltime.
Turnover at City Hall has been minimal overall this past year. Our employees stepped up to the plate in a big way with the serious water main and gas main breaks that occurred. Our police department is making positive strides after some troublesome events.
Walsenburg continues to lose population and we need to turn that around to ease the cost of running the city. The plans are in place that can do that and benefit every resident of Walsenburg.
The Kaspia Group is opening the old Kanbuild factory and Chae Organics is building a facility west of town. These are positive signs for increased employment opportunities in Walsenburg.
Walsenburg has many opportunities for economic growth that other communities only wish they had. There is no staying the same for Walsenburg. We either move forward or backward. As your mayor and with your help and that of city council and staff, there can be great days ahead for our city.