LA VETA — The La Veta Town Board meeting was called to order last Wednesday evening by Mayor Jerry Fitzgerald. The board took care of approving the minutes and treasurer report, then turned over the town’s business to the incoming board of directors, effective after Fitzgerald administered the oath of office to Mayor-elect Douglas R. Brgoch. Brgoch then convened the second meeting of the evening and administered the oath of office to re-elected Trustees Dale Davis and Shane Clouse. Brgoch thanked the outgoing Mayor and Trustee Logan Taggart for their service. “It’s not an easy position,” Brgoch said. “It takes a lot of time and is rarely to the satisfaction of everybody. So thank you.” Trustee Bill Stark was not in attendance because his resignation was effective April 1. Brgoch conducted the meeting with the ease borne of experience, but at one point, he told the board and audience, “This is kind of Wiki-Mayor – If you need to correct me, correct me.” The board
HUERFANO — On April 5, Majors Ranch celebrated achieving Firewise Community/USA status with a Community Firewise day. Fifty ranch residents spent the afternoon learning more about fire mitigation. The featured speaker was CK Morey of Colorado State Forest service (CSFS) who spoke on “Lessons Learned from the East Peak Fire.” Residents also heard from contractors such as Huerfano Hauling and Backhoe, H & H Forestry, RAI Enterprises, and Huerfano Weed Control. La Veta Fire Protection District (LVFPD) gets the credit for energizing Majors Ranch and other parts of Huerfano County. LVFPD has completed a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) for their district and has sponsored six Firewise Communities. Majors Ranch is the only one outside their district so far. Paul Branson is the LVFPD District Liason for these programs and the district has a crew of men who are experts at creating defensible space around a home. Huerfano County is required by state mandate to develop a countywide CWPP, so that’s where we are all headed. Majors Ranch is a community of 23,000 acres north of Navajo Ranch and south of Highway 69. It is unique in that it borders all three county fire protection districts. While the area is predominantly in the pinon and juniper zone, the properties range from relatively flat, treeless prairie to land west of CR 520 and up the flanks of Silver Mountain. On Saturday, a crew of residents helped chip slash left from clearing trees and brush from CR 521 at a pinch point where the road curves after climbing a hill. The purpose was to insure that the road would be wide enough to be a safe evacuation route in case of fire. Residents then viewed examples of trees which had been limbed up and thinned to illustrate how to create defensible space on a property. Finally, residents went inside out of the rain and sleet to listen to the speakers A community earns Firewise status through several steps in collaboration with local fire districts and the local Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS). Mark Loveall, Assistant District Forester in the La Veta District of CSFS wrote a Community Risk Assessment for Majors Ranch and a multi-year action plan was developed from that document. The Firewise Community/USA designation is awarded by the National Fire Protection Association which focuses on local solutions for wildfire safety. For more information, contact Paul Branson at email@example.com or take a look at the Firewise website at www.firewise.org or the LVFPD website at www.lavetafire.org.
WALSENBURG — Approximately 50 citizens attended the Walsenburg City Council meeting Tuesday night and several voiced concerns regarding a proposed ordinance that would have changed the 200 foot distance requirement between a medical marijuana dispensary and a private residence. The item was before city council after Maria and Pete Platt had sought to establish a business in the 1000 block of West 7th Street in the former Lenzini Motors/ Journey Home building. The proposed Ordinance 1043 would have allowed city council to adjust the 200 foot requirement at any distance, including zero. A handful of people spoke against any change during the citizen’s forum segment of the meeting and when the item came up for a vote, Maria Platt attempted to make the case for her family business, Plattinum Organics. Mayor Pro Tem Craig Lessar made the motion to leave the 200 foot requirement in place. Platt accused city council of playing favorites, saying zoning
LA VETA– Tuesday, La Veta voters returned their town governance to familiar territory when they elected Doug Brgoch as Mayor. Brgoch, who grew up in the La Veta area, received 250 votes compared to 52 for his opponent, Trustee Logan Taggart. He previously served 17 years as mayor, leaving the board in 2006. As water commissioner, Brgoch has a keen interest in water rights, and La Veta can put his knowledge to use right away in making its new Mexican Ditch water right more serviceable. There are 599 registered voters in La Veta; 303 ballots were cast on Tuesday. Not every ballot contained a vote for every position or issue, and one ballot only contained a vote on the sales tax question. The ballot question on increasing the local sales tax by one-half percent passed on a vote of 195 to 99. The revenues from the sales tax increase, up to $50,000, will fund the Francisco Fort Museum. If the revenues exceed $50,000, the excess will be allocated to streets, alleys and sidewalk improvements. Trustee Shane Clouse, who appeared on the ballot unopposed, received 218 votes. Trustee Dale Davis, who was also unopposed, received 174 votes. The town had five openings on the board and only two candidates. After the new board is seated, it will have the option of taking letters of interest for the vacant seats, appointing people to fill them, or holding a special election. One of the most crucial matters facing the new board will be deciding how profoundly marijuana establishments will be allowed to affect the complexion of the town, which relies to a great extent on its wholesome charm to attract tourist dollars.
WALSENBURG— In a unanimous vote, the three Huerfano County commissioners on Wednesday morning extended the moratorium on all commercial marijuana growth and sales, both for medical and recreational use, for three additional months. In August of 2013, the commissioners had passed resolution 13-21, which placed the moratorium on all things involving commercial pot, and which was set to expire at the end of this month. This moratorium only affects the unincorporated areas of Huerfano County, not the towns of Walsenburg or La Veta, who are drafting up their own regulations on growing and selling marijuana. The commissioners then directed county planner Steve Channel and the Planning and Zoning commission to draft up possible regulations that could be adopted at the end of the moratorium, with the eye towards allowing commercial indoor grow facilities (greenhouses.) Retail storefront sales would still be banned. Commissioner Max Vezzani, who made the proposal, also asked Channel to look into what kind of revenue the county could make if it allowed commercial grows. In a related resolution, Vezzani also moved the county follow Denver County’s lead, and allow only twelve marijuana plants per property, instead of the six plants per adult rule as allowed under the state-wide Amendment 64. Vezzani noted that under Amendment 64, a house or property could have five or six adults all living there, and each could grow up to six pot plants, which gets it pretty close to a commercial-sized operation. The resolution limiting the number to twelve plants per property also passed unanimously. It was carefully pointed out that these marijuana plants are for personal use only, which is legal statewide, and not for commercial sale. The commissioners made their deliberations and decisions before a packed audience, who waited in silent tension as the commissioners dealt with routine county business before getting to what everyone was waiting for. There was an excited buzz from the audience as the commissioners made themselves clear, and then there was a rush for the exits when it was over, followed by animated discussions in the hallway. In other business, the commissioners approved a resolution for adopting a process for changing street names in the Cuchara area, which has a plethora of Aspen Ways and Aspen Streets— which is confusing for emergency responders, and dangerous if there were a disaster in the area. Name changes will be coming soon.
LA VETA— It helps when you know when and where the news is going to happen. The HWJ was given advance warning of an ‘active shooter’ drill to be held at the La Veta schools last Thursday, and so showed up, camera in hand, to follow the Huerfano County Sheriff, his deputies and a Colorado State Trooper as they secured the school complex and evacuated students and staff to the 4-H barn, where parents were allowed to pick up their children. By the end of the drill, two ‘intruders’ were located and arrested. Those playing the part of intruders at no time had even fake weapons, and no one was ‘shot’ during the exercise. Only five RE-2 staff members were informed ahead of time to the extent and realism of the
WALSENBURG- Commissioner Max Vezzani announced that after a meeting with the state assessor, the board of assessment appeals has set a value of $14,311,392 on the Corrections Corporation of America property, east of Walsenburg. This amount is far lower than the $27 million what the commissioners had valuated the property at, and lower than what they were negotiating for. This will have wide-ranging impacts on tax collecting entities throughout the county, all of whom have already tightened their belts to the pinching point before this announcement. In other news the county received a $60,000 grant from DOLA to implement a hardening of county computer security systems.
WALSENBURG— The Huerfano County planning commission held a joint meeting (no pun intended) Wednesday night, March 12, on whether to allow a moratorium in the county against the growing or selling of marijuana to expire at the end of the month. Close to 50 people attended the public hearing, and about 15 people signed up to address the board. Commissioner Art Bobian started things off by stating, “There is a fact. The fact is, amendment 64 was passed by the voters. We’re here looking for opinions as to whether we should renew the county moratorium or not. You’re opinions are important to us.” And opinions are what he got. People spoke about money. People talked about how pot is now legal, and other communities are benefiting from the growth and sale of marijuana; why shouldn’t Huerfano County? Others said that government estimates on how much tax revenue could be made were wildly inaccurate and should not be trusted, whereas still others said tax projections were low-balling. David Gnaizda of Gardner said, “Marijuana
WALSENBURG — The city council Tuesday night voted 4-3 (with council members Cathy Pineda and James Baca absent) to direct City Attorney Dan Hyatt to prepared potential changes in city’s medical marijuana ordinance to possibly eliminate or change the distance requirements between a dispensary and a private residence. The move came following a request from Pete and Maria Platt, Plattinum Organics, who are proposing to open a medical marijuana dispensary on West 7th St. in the former Lenzini Motor Company / Journey Home building. The motion to direct Hyatt to prepare an amendment to the ordinance was made by Rick Jennings and he was joined voting in favor of the move by Mayor James Eccher, and council members Charlie Montoya and Clint Boehler. Opposing the motion were Sylvana Lind, Nick Vigil, and Craig Lessar. Boehler asked the Platts if their business plan ever called for them moving into the retail, or recreational marijuana business and they said, yes, they would like to, but understood at this time the council has
LA VETA—The third draft of Ordinance #277, setting forth regulations for marijuana establishments in La Veta, was mired in the mud of indecision Tuesday night during the town board meeting. Calling this draft a consensus version, Mayor Jerry Fitzgerald said, “We’re moving forward with regulations to make it legal in the town of La Veta.” There are still portions of the fee schedule that the board members have not agreed on, and there is substantial public sentiment against allowing marijuana establishments within the historic district. When the mayor said he would like to move ahead with a vote, Trustee Dale Davis asked, “Why is it so important that we do this at this meeting?” The mayor replied, “If there is no vote tonight, then the new board can do whatever they want. The two of us that are not going to be here in the future would like to take a vote to make sure the historic district is protected.” Trustee Shane Clouse said, “The number one thing we’ve been hearing is keeping it off Main Street.” From the audience, Chip Kraynyk posed the question, “What is