TRINIDAD — The first regular meeting of the Trinidad City Council for 2016 saw old business wrapped up by the outgoing council, and three new members sworn in by Las Animas County Court Judge Bruce Billings. The changing of the guard was a happy occasion mingled with the sadness of out going city council members, Mayor Joseph Reorda and Mayor Pro Tem Carol Bolton. Mayor elect Phil Rico was sworn in first, followed by the swearing in of current council member Michelle Miles, who will be serving her second term on the city council along with council member Joe Bonato, who is back for his second term, and council member elect Carlos Lopez. Also sworn in was returning municipal judge John Garcia. Council member Anthony Mattie was selected as mayor pro tem by a 6-0 vote of the council with council member Liz Torres absent. The ceremonies followed a long first half of the regular meeting which listed two public hearings on the agenda. The first public hearing was a continuance of a hearing held during a special meeting Dec. 15, 2015. The city council, under Mayor Joseph Reorda, took further testimony from Trinidad residents concerning the zone change that is necessary for the establishment of the Noah’s Ark Animal Welfare building along Moore’s Canyon Road. A second reading of the ordinance was voted on following the hearing and was approved by the council on a 5-1 vote with council member Joe Bonato voting no. The second public hearing was also a continuation from the Dec. 1, 2015 regular meeting concerning High
Sierra Naturals, a marijuana grow operation. The concerns voiced in the December 1st meeting were much the same as the concerns voiced during the Jan. 5, 2016 meeting: That the initial funding cost of the operation, $340,000, was not secured and that the rent, $87,000 a month, looked like “a profit vacuum cleaner,” according to council member Michelle Miles. Miles was all for letting MED decide the validity of an email received from a MED investigator, Penny Paxton showing no dark money was to be found in the business end of the operation. In the end council approved the application with the condition that an official statement from MED be received by the city before High Sierra could begin its operation. The new city council saw its share of controversy in its opening minutes as they considered a bid request for work to be done on the Colorado Welcome Center. Shower Construction out of Colorado Springs had the low bid, however Purgatorie Valley Construction, based in Trinidad, was second lowest coming in at $7,000 more than Shower Construction. Council member Joe Bonato argued that PVC should receive the bid and that would keep locals employed and the funding would also feed into the local economy. However, the project is funded through CDOT, and their regulations require bids to be awarded to the lowest bidder. The council voted 5-1 to award the contract to Shower Construction. Bonato cast the “no” vote. And executive session was voted on at 9:24 p.m. The council adjourned the meeting after completing business in the executive session.