New city councilman not who he appears to be

WALSENBURG– Donald George Lewis, 50, the recently sworn-in councilman for the City of Walsenburg is a convicted felon. While it is not disqualifying for a felon to serve on council, and indeed; felons have served before, the sheer scale and diversity of Lewis’s criminal record without prior disclosure makes his serving on council a judgement call. Lewis was encouraged by Walsenburg Mayor Jim Eccher to fill the vacant seat in Ward III of the city, which no one from that ward wanted to run for. Eccher knew Lewis from shared time at the local bowling alley, where Lewis ‘asked good questions’ about the city government. He has been a resident of Walsenburg for the past two years. Lewis, who is currently unemployed, was voted for unanimously by the rest of the council, before they knew his background. The city clerk did run a background check on Lewis, but did not look further than Colorado. A broader search would have quickly revealed his numerous brushes with the law, beginning in 1986. Lewis, who uses several aliases, and has several social security

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 Huerfano County could be home to over 15 commercial marijuana grows by the end of the year

 WALSENBURG– The Huerfano County Commissioners passed Resolution 15-18 on Tuesday, tightening up and clarifying the rules and regulations regarding commercial marijuana production for all unincorporated areas of the county. This resolution is in response to the approaching deluge of applications to grow in the county. There are currently four permits for grows in the county, with two more winding their way through the process, and another eight to ten waiting for the moratorium placed on April 21 by the commissioners to be lifted. This does not take into account the two permits the City of Walsenburg has issued to commercial grows. The commissioners had been watching with growing alarm as, under old regulations, commercial pot greenhouses were allowed to build on 35-acre ranchettes in the Buffalo Ranch area, some with sketchy or unreliable water supply, and some with out of county developers. Planning and Zoning, taking guidance from the commissioners, submitted their revision of Section 18.00, which the

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Raton honors the Run for the Wall

RATON — It was a cool bright morning as hundreds of motorcycles rumbled into Raton on their way east to honor those who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms. Once the Run for the Wall motorcycles were fueled the crowd gathered around a trailer where Ron Chavez, a purple heart recipient, welcomed the riders to Raton and spoke of the ridicule that many of the veterans who returned from Vietnam faced. He also talked briefly about the important role that so many women (approx 7,500) played in that conflict. He went on to say that someone said ”America is like a bank, you have to put something in it if you want to get something out, 58,148 names on the wall, they put something in our nation’s bank.” Today these riders are on their way to a wall, a wall that was built in 1986 and is now often referred to as the “healing wall.” The wall contains the names of those 58,148 men and women who sacrificed it all and he went on to say that one more came home this week as Master Sergeant James Holt was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetary. Holt had been missing in action for 48 years. “Dying for freedom isn’t the worst thing that can

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Cuchara Ski Resort in process of changing hands

CUCHARA — The Cuchara Mountain Ski Resort is now under new ownership, at least, part of it is. QE Ventures, Inc. (Jerry and JoVonne Fitzgerald of La Veta) have acquired the tax deed for the base of the resort. The remainder is still owned, for now, by Bruce Cantrell through Cuchara Mountain Resort Investors. Jerry Fitzgerald told the World Journal they had been paying the taxes for four years thinking Cantrell would catch up on back taxes. When that didn’t happen, QE Ventures, Inc. became the new owners of the base, which is about 47 to 49 acres and includes the beginner slopes, the ski rental shop, the ticket office, the warming hut, a storage garage and a service garage. The two big buildings, Baker Creek Restaurant, and the corporate offices/ shops building are currently held in tax lien certificates by Arnold and Jean Okerman, and by Rundell Ranches. Fitzgerald knows something can be done with the property, but nothing has been done for quite some time. Not much information has been passed on to them, and there are a lot of unknowns. He doesn’t expect much to happen in the near to mid future.

Raton Commissioners hear bad news on budget

RATON — Raton City Commissioners began their May 12th meeting with a budget hearing to establish a preliminary budget, but with troubling revenues, it will take a number of meetings to address. The bad news included a possible drop in gross revenue receipts by as much as 4%. However Kathy Harris, who spoke to the commission, indicated she had read the economic scene was not good for New Mexico overall, and a more realistic figure might be as much as a 10% drop in GRT. The other drop noted is in gas tax revenues. To add to the finance issues, Raton is also looking at a 12% increase in health insurance costs this year. The other increase in the budget is a 2.5% increase in salaries as negotiated by the union contracts. A fully revised budget will be presented on May 26th. The commission approved mutual aid agreements for Raton Fire and Emergency Services with Folsom EMS, Stonewall Fire Department and Fort Carson mostly for the unit at Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site. Raton Police Chief John Garcia presented a 15-minute report on the many activities the department is involved in and some of their future plans. The department has 14 officers working 12-hour shifts. Garcia is working to replace K-9 Aros hopefully by the end of June. He also noted violent crime has risen 17% while property crimes have decreased 9 % and larceny dropping 11%. Commissioners extended the grant agreement for pavement

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Huerfano County approves two more pot permits

WALSENBURG — Just weeks after imposing a moratorium on new conditional use permits for marijuana grow facilities in Huerfano County, the county commissioners approved two on Tuesday morning- one whose application was in before the moratorium, and the other for strictly private growing. Skyler Walker wants to begin growing more than the individual legal level of six plants, as he is the caregiver for a number of individuals who use pot medicinally. Additionally, the marijuana he grows has a very low THC content. It was noted he would have to haul water for his grow. There was some debate whether he should sign off on a liability waiver at a federal level, but it was decided he did not have to. The second conditional use permit request was from NuGro, which began the application process in December of 2014. Owner John Hix brought a team of architects and experts along with him to plead his case, as planning and zoning had recommended denial. A big sticking point on NuGro’s request is they have no water. Hix noted his company has become a

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Dirty water in Cuchara

CUCHARA — The purification process at the Cuchara water plant is taking longer than usual because the river water is so dirty lately, according to General Manager Bob Northup in his report to the board of Cucharas Sanitation and Water District at its May 8 meeting. The state health department visited CSWD on April 29 to evaluate the water plant’s chlorine contact time. “Hopefully we won’t have to do any measure modifications. We monitor the chlorine constantly,” Northup said. The waste water plant (WWP) is being evaluated for a mixing zone study to see how the effluent mixes with the creek. On the water plant project, all that needs to be done is seeding, and gravel will be placed in front of the plant to reduce erosion. “It’s been a quagmire all winter,” Northup said. Reportedly the road compaction test passed with flying colors, and the road will be graded. “As far as our part, we’re done,” he said. Northup reported for the Pond Owner Committee. The district’s water lawyer has developed various scenarios for the board to discuss. Jeris Danielson is working on setting an evaporation rate for the valley’s ponds and is “on board” with the pond owners. CSWD has until June 2016 to come up with a permanent

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Pioneer layoffs announced

TRINIDAD / DALLAS, TX — Pioneer Natural Resources Company announced Monday, May 4 it will close the company’s Denver office as well as make workforce reductions at its Trinidad field office, as a result of continued weakness in natural gas prices and the recent collapse of crude oil and natural gas liquids prices. The company’s assets in the Raton Basin of Colorado and in the west Panhandle field of Texas will now be managed from Pioneer’s headquarters in Dallas, Texas. The decision to close the Denver office and to consolidate the Colorado workforce was made to preserve the value of these assets and to allow for their continued development within the constraints of the current commodity pricing environment. Of the 70 employees in the Denver office, approximately one-third will be offered relocation opportunities to Dallas. Pioneer will offer the remaining employees severance packages and access to outplacement services. In Trinidad, the total number of employees will be reduced by 100, which is nearly half of the existing workforce. Similarly, the company will offer severance packages and access to outplacement services

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Plane crashes just north of Trinidad

TRINIDAD — A Loveland man has been identified as the pilot killed when a single-engine plane crashed into an open field near the Las Animas County Fairgrounds in Trinidad around 1 pm Thursday, April 30. Gregory Arlen Frank, 53, was the only one aboard the plane when it crashed in an open field north of the fairgrounds, according to Las Animas County authorities. A witness reported seeing the plane circling over his property shortly before it crashed, according to reports. Las Animas County Sheriff James Casias said late last week the airplane was listed in November of 2014 as a missing airplane with the Longmont Police Department. The airplane was taken from the site and taken into custody for transportation, by an insurance company. Frank was born on March 5, 1962, in Denver. He is described in his obituary as an adventurous soul, who raced dirt bikes locally, regionally, and nationally for many years and also enjoyed fishing and off-roading. His latest adventure was learning to fly — a passion he ignited three years ago. Officials have not released any additional information on the plane crash. Las Animas County Undersheriff Derek Navarette said the investigation has been turned over to the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board. A service for Frank is scheduled for 2 pm tomorrow at Howe Mortuary in Longmont.