by Carol Dunn
HUERFANO- In less than one week the ballot question on the Huerfano County one percent sales tax increase will need to be filed with the Division of Local Governments. The proposed sales tax, which would be earmarked for emergency dispatch operations, was discussed by the elected officials at their Monday evening meeting. “Time is of the essence for this,” said County Commissioner Scott King. King pointed out that there are over twenty State-sponsored questions and initiatives on the November ballot. Many people at the meeting agreed that voters may get frustrated and not fully consider the importance of what the funding from the additional sales tax will buy. One attendee pointed out that future dispatch services will need to be paid for one way or another, and if the sales tax increase is not successful, property taxes for each of the affected entities will probably need to increase. Added County Commissioner Roger Cain, “At least the sales tax will be shared by people just passing through.”
Referring to inter-governmental agreements for management of dispatch services, Commissioner King stated, “The County will consider taking this over with the proper IGAs in place.” He then posed the question to the representatives of the entities involved, “Are all the entities in favor of turning over management of dispatch services to the County?” Mayors Mickey Schmidt and Edi Sheldon pointed out that they will have an answer after their respective Board meetings this week. Officials of La Veta Fire/EMS, Huerfano County Fire and Gardner (Upper Huerfano) Fire departments all seemed positive, though they would not speak on behalf of their Boards.
The County will be submitting the IGA to its attorney for fine-tuning before it is submitted to the entities involved for final approval. Those entities are: Walsenburg Police, Sheriff, Ambulance, La Veta Fire/EMS, Huerfano County Fire, Gardner Fire, Search and Rescue and La Veta Town Marshal.
According to the Dispatch Proposed Budget handed out to the group, if the sales tax increase is not successful, an agreement will need to be entered into by all entities wanting dispatch service, and the projected cost would be $25 per call. This is less than the $30-plus per call figure the group had used as an estimate eight months ago.
County Administrator John Galusha told the group that the Homeland Security grant monies are available but not be spendable until the appropriate contracts are in place. The grant is for purchasing radio equipment for emergency services in the County.
Galusha also reported that Otero County Landfill, Inc. has verbally agreed to accept the trash from the Walsenburg waste transfer station. The cost will be $11.25 per compacted cubic yard.
The topics of the Mexican Ditch and another ditch were brought up. The City of Walsenburg has not looked at the situation, and it is not slated as an agenda item for the City Council meeting this week.
The next joint meeting of the elected officials will be September 8.
For more information on the proposed sales tax increase, see related stories on the La Veta Town Board meeting and the Walsenburg City Council meeting.