by Brian Orr
WALSENBURG- Despite a last-minute request by Huerfano County Department Fire Chief Gerald Jerant for a two-week delay, The Walsenburg City Council voted Tuesday evening to accept ownership of the Black Diamond Park water system.
The system, which has been operational for the past two years, required an additional backup pump system to be installed to ensure water pressure in Black Diamond Park in the event of an emergency. That pump has now been installed and tested, though not with any Huerfano County Fire Department officers on hand, which is why Jerant requested the delay.
McEntee, who claimed to be “blindsided” by the request for delay, repeatedly noted his system was “state of the art” and “cost a lot of money” and had passed two previous water pressure tests, when HCFD officers were present. “We’ve met all our obligations,” he said.
Councilmen Lou Taylor and James England both said they had seen the water system being installed and verified it was a system at least as good and probably better than Walsenburg’s. The Council accepted ownership and maintenence of the system, along with McEntee’s five-year workmanship guarantee.
In other business, the City Council approved a water augmentation plan presented by the Huajatolla Valley Estates Homeowners Association, which is currently under a cease-and-desist order for their well, which needs to augment at least 12-acre feet of water a year until another, more permanent augmentation system can be put in place. Walsenburg Attorney Dan Hyatt described the deal as a win-win situation, as Walsenburg has too much water right now, and needs to show consumptive use of it to retain its rights. As members of the Huajatolla Valley Estate Association filed out, one of them joked, “I don’t have to drink champagne anymore; I can drink water!”
City Administrator Eric Pearson faced some tough questioning from Council members about continued problems with the utility department and perceived mismanagement of billing. Councilman Bruce Quintana told Pearson he needed to be more open to listening to people’s complaints about their bills, while Pearson noted that people seemed to come in and complain on the day their utilities get shut off, and not before to work matters out. Despite the fact that the average employed time for city employees working at the Utility window is five months, Pearson feels confident they have a 97 percent correct-bill rate. Quintana responded that citizens were beginning to believe the City was incompetent.
The Council approved a grant from DOLA to help pay for a new water valve on Martin lake, and also approved a shading project for Walsenburg Wild Waters, to throw more shade around the zero-entry end of the pool. There was also beginning discussion about expanding the lazy river portion of the park westward past the current boundaries of the park.
A date for a visit by the Denver Broncos has been set for Aug 13, and finally, the Council adopted Ordinance 976, creating the Northlands General Improvement District and declaring it an emergency, which allows them to move forward faster.