by Carol Dunn
LAâ€ˆVETA- At the meeting of the La Veta Town Board on January 4, Trustee Dale Davis announced that the Town has been named a recipient of a construction grant in the amount of $224,000 through the Colorado Department of Transportation. The bridge to be replaced is a one lane concrete structure on Ryus Street over the Cucharas River. Davis said the grant will be 80% of the estimated cost, which is $280,000. The Town will have until 2014 to come up with its match of $56,000 and do the project. Davis said he is looking at other sources to fulfill the match requirement.
Matt Abbey talked with the Board about the year 2010 from the perspective of the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad. Abbey said about the same number of passengers patronized the railroad in 2010 as in 2009. He said the service in 2011 will focus on Friday through Sunday, including trips originated in both La Veta and Alamosa. Management is planning to continue the summer concert series, and will be adding half-day scenic trips out of La Veta. Abbey said the railroad has acquired a second club car, the City of New Orleans, from the Illinois Central, and plans to feature live music on its routes. Abbey told the Board it costs about $12-million to run the railroad for one year, and the current passenger service brings in about $9-million a year. “Maybe we can break even someday,” he said.
Robin Richards read a letter to the Board regarding “recall of elected officials.” Richards said she represents La Veta citizens concerned about the Town’s integrity and who oppose the proposed recall of Trustee Dawn Blanken. “We oppose the attempt and action due to lack of cause,” she read. Richards said the group has two requests: 1. That the Mayor voice a vote, yes or no, for the record, whether he supports or opposes the recall. Richards said this involves leadership and transparency. 2. That the Board members vote to use Town funds to pay any and all potential legal costs incurred by Blanken because of the recall. “We citizens need to pay those costs if incurred,” Richards said, in order to get back to principled government. Richards received an extended round of applause from the audience. Mayor Keairns allowed several questions and comments from the audience, and these were also met by applause.
In response to Richards, Mayor Don Keairns said, “I’m going to abstain from voting on that because I represent all the people in this Town.” Regarding the second request listed by Richards, Trustee Laurie Erwin read from the Colorado Revised Statutes, which discusses reimbursing government officials who are involved in recall actions. The statute (CRS 1-12-120) directs that the incumbent shall file a detailed request for reimbursement within 60 days after the recall election. The governing body will review and consider the request within 30 days after receiving the request. Erwin had already researched the reimbursement issue, as she had been asked to do so at the Town’s previous meeting. Erwin said the Town Board can pass a resolution to reimburse Blanken at 40 cents per eligible elector or a maximum of $10,000. Erwin said the reimbursement would only include expenses, challenges and court actions pertaining to the “sufficiency of the recall petition.” The Town’s attorney, Larry Berkowitz, informed the trustees by email that he will represent the Town and Nancy Culbreath in the resultant court case. Blanken will need to employ a separate attorney. “The Town should not be a party to the lawsuit,” Berkowitz wrote, and said he will be filing a motion to dismiss the Town from the lawsuit. Berkowitz also gave his opinion that the plaintiffs failed to exhaust all administrative remedies involving the recall process before filing the court case, and that he would likely file a motion next week to dismiss the case.
Trustee Dale Davis asked the audience, “How many people will want to run for office if they know the Town won’t stand behind them?” Davis made a motion that the Town cover all Blanken’s legal costs, even if a recall election is not held; the motion was seconded by Trustee Jim Fowler. Trustee Larry Klinke pointed out that the State statute only covers reimbursement after a recall election (CRS 31-4-504.5), and he said the motion was out of order. There was no vote taken on the motion. Klinke suggested Berkowitz be consulted about the matter. Keairns added, “We need to move on” and see how the legal process comes out.