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Town Manager for La Veta?

by Carol Dunn

LA VETA-The La Veta Town Board heard from a consultant Tuesday night about how a Town Manager would change the way business is conducted.  Don Starbuck, former Mayor of Aguilar, said he was asked by Mayor Pro-tem Larry Klinke to give the Board his thoughts on what it would take to incorporate a Town Manager into La Veta’s existing system of governance.  Starbuck said one of the primary benefits of having a manager is sustaining leadership in a small town.  “For most small towns, the Mayor-Council relationship is fairly well maintained for towns that don’t have much movement,” he said, referring to change.  “There’s a point in time when a town has to consider the growth and change issues and how to address those growth and change issues.”  Starbuck said term limits mean that a governing body’s knowledge base can be lost about every eight years.  He told the Board that a manager can provide continuity and be there 40 hours a week focusing on Town business and also serving as a personnel director.  Comparing La Veta to Aguilar, Starbuck said, “La Veta is a lot more vibrant.  You’re suffering growing pains.”  Starbuck said small towns have an independent streak and want a tight rein on decisions.  “The rein is not as tight when you have a manager,” he said.  Starbuck said, according to Colorado Municipal League estimates, a Town Manager for a small town, with a population of 3,000 to 5,000, might be $50,000 to $85,000 per year.  “We’re much smaller than that,” commented Trustee Tracy Webb.    

    Ralph Jones was back to talk to the Board about credit on his water bill for a water overage during the six-month period when the La Veta water meters were not read.  Jones presented the Board with a chart of the 3-tiered water rate system the Town has had since 2001 and explained how, when the entire five months’ meter reading is lumped into one month, the water user is actually charged more because a larger portion of the month’s bill falls into the highest tier rate, $5.00 per 1,000 gallons.  Jones said when he was researching his water bills, he inadvertently found that the Town’s water billing computer system had an anomaly that sometimes skipped the middle tier and billed water at the highest tier rate, a fact confirmed by Town Clerk Nancy Culbreath.  Culbreath said the Town will be conducting an audit to see if other users were affected by the anomaly.  Trustee Dawn Blanken and Jones tried to decide what portion of the bill might be charged at the base rate, considering 2008 and 2009 usage during the same time frame.  Jones agreed to meet with Blanken and C.J. Smith before the next meeting and decide what usage can be considered average, so the overage can then be billed at the lowest tier rate.

    Regarding his request to reduce the number of EQRs (water equivalent units) at River View Mobile Home Park, Jones explained that it is unfair to be tied to the number of EQRs and paying for the “potential” for using the water in the future.  “This is water overhead and sewer overhead that I don’t use.  Are you going to force people to pay for water they’re not using?”   Blanken explained, “We don’t want to create a situation where water is not available for that space.”  Ultimately, the Board decided to schedule a workshop to decide whether to do a resolution or an ordinance to handle the situation. 

    The Board approved the special events liquor license for Oktoberfest, to be held October 2, and parking for the Bonfils blood drive trailer along the curb on East Ryus, next to the post office. 

    Barb Kowalik told the trustees that the Tree Board no longer has a truck to haul materials.  “We don’t have money to buy a truck,” she added.  Trustee Laurie Erwin told her, “Put it in the budget, so we can look at it.”  Kowalik also told the Board that the guys cutting trees for San Isabel Electric have no pruning training, and she recommended a training session for all San Isabel cutters.  Mayor Don Keairns said, “You need to get it scheduled and do it.  Just be persistent.”

    The water and sewer committee reported that gutters and downspouts have been installed by Drury Brothers of Pueblo on the new water building.  However the $720 bid had never been approved, so the Board voted to approve the payment.

Regarding the Mexican Ditch water case, the Town’s water attorney has outlined the steps the Town will need to take to start using the water.  The Board scheduled a meeting on September 13 at 6:30 pm at  Town Hall to discuss the letter, in preparation for meeting with the attorney about it.

    The Board changed two Town Board meeting dates: October 19 was moved to October 18 and November 2 was moved to November 1.