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.

City grants first marijuana license in Walsenburg

WALSENBURG — It was an historic, if low key moment, when the Walsenburg City Council, sitting as the city’s marijuana licensing authority, voted 6-1 to approve and grant a recreational marijuana retail and cultivation license to Bud Hut following a public hearing Tuesday night. City attorney Dan Hyatt led the licensing authority through the proceedings, explaining the quasi-judicial nature of the public hearing and reading into the record the list of evidentiary items prepared by the applicants. Five people, William and Marsha Boeck, Debi and Karl Sporleder, and Rusty Loflin, who are in opposition to recreational pot sales, asked questions to clarify safety and sales issues. No one presented any evidence finding fault with the application or documentation presented by Barbara Johnson and Jim Hillaker. City council members Craig Lessar and John Salazar, both current law enforcement sergeants with the sheriff’s office and city police department respectively, voted in favor of granting the license. Lessar said, while he had consistently voted against retail marijuana and related issues, the public hearing vote came down to whether or not the applicants had met all the necessary criteria for licensure. He said, putting emotion aside, they had. Silvana Lind was the only council member voting against granting the license. Hillaker and Johnson were the only people who presented evidence and testimony in favor of their application. The Bud Hut owners are now awaiting approval of their state retail and cultivation license application. In other business, the city council sat as the Northlands General Improvement District Board of Directors and approved a contract between the GID and Community Resource Services of Greenwood Village, CO, for consulting services, and establishing the PIF (Public Improvement Fee) that will be

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Cattle mutilation right by the highway

HUERFANO COUNTY — An unusual animal death was reported over the weekend to the Huerfano County Sheriff’s Office from the Vallejos ranch located west of I-25 near the Huerfano Butte, off of Butte Road. Whatever happened to the 150 pound, six-week old Black Angus calf may have occurred late Friday, April 17, as internationally known investigative reporter David Perkins told the World Journal Monday. “JB Vallejos, son of Johnny ‘Boots’ Vallejos, said he heard what may have been the calf’s mother mooing and bellowing late Friday night,” Perkins said. The calf was discovered Saturday and had a number of strange wounds, including a single deep cut down the center of the animal’s underside, with the skin peeled back, a circular wound (core) to its rectum and missing tongue, which witnesses told Perkins appeared to have been removed with a straight line cut deep in the animal’s throat. The calf had a value between $1,200 to $1,300. HCSO Deputy Clint Boehler responded to the call and took the report and made crime scene

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Shuler Theater to receive $100K from NM MainStreet Historic Theater Initiative

RATON — The Shuler Theater received a huge 100th birthday present as NM Economic Department Cabinet Secretary, Jon Barela visited Raton on Monday, April 20, 2015 and announced to a curious, enthusiastic crowd the awarding of $100,000 in Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) funds. Part of the MainStreet Historic Theater Initiative from the New Mexico Economic Development Department, funding will go toward digital movie conversion and will allow the theater to show high-quality, first-run movies, which will also allow the theater to serve as the anchor for commerce in downtown Raton. “The Shuler Theater is a historic treasure and was the original inspiration for what became known as our department’s Historic Theater Initiative,” said Secretary Barela. “When I visited the Shuler Theater, I realized that our historic theaters are unique assets in New Mexico’s MainStreet districts and can serve as vital economic development anchors in rural communities to attract business and commerce.” Raton will also host the statewide Historic Theater Workshop and Networking Meeting on June 19 to help communities

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Commissioners propose new marijuana grow regulations

WALSENBURG— Commissioner Max Vezzani pulled a surprise out of his pocket toward the end of Tuesday’s commissioner’s meeting, by proposing new draft marijuana grow regulations for unincorporated Huerfano County land. The commissioners had just reluctantly approved a conditional use permit to Pop’s Farm (this isn’t your father’s farm) for a marijuana grow operation out on County Road 650. Pop’s Farm will be located on a 35-acre parcel of land, with no guaranteed access to water. Phil Cummings of Pop’s Farm said they could not get a five year guarantee on water anywhere, but were currently drilling a well, and appear to have good flow. After Cummings thanked the commissioners and left, Vezzani then said he had concerns about the number of grow operations trying to establish themselves in the county, with County Road 650 getting the lion’s share of proposed marijuana farms. Though these grows are not illegal on these small plots, Vezzani said these 35-acre ranchettes are primarily meant for families who want to enjoy

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