• Doug-Brgoch-swear
    La Veta Mayor Doug Brgoch swears in town trustees at his first town board meeting.
  • Clouse-and-Davis-swear
    La Veta Trustees Shane Clouse and Dale Davis are sworn in again as town trustees.
  • woodchipper
    Tree limbs get chipped at a FireWise work day in April.
  • New-Mayor-Doug-Brgoch
    La Veta's new mayor is their old mayor, Doug Brgoch.
  • active-shooter-drill-in-La-Veta
    Law enforcement take part in an active shooter drill in La Veta schools on March 20, 2014
  • Trinidad-play
    Murder at the High Noon Saloon in Trinidad
  • Roller-derby
    Brick City Roller Derby girls during opening season match
  • Chili-cook-off
    Serving up chili at the Career Building Academy chili cook-off
  • website-photo-JM-wrestlers
    John Mall wrestlers head off to state tournament on Wednesday
  • Penn-fire-night
    Firefighters struggled with brutal cold at a housefire on the 300 block of Pennsylvania in the early morning hours of February 6.
  • Penn st fire daytime
    Steam pours out of a burned out house on Pennsylvania St in Walsenburg, on a sub-zero morning.
  • Candelario-house
    Police presence at Candelario house in Walsenburg.
  • Rusty-redeux
    The Tourism sculpture touting the Spanish Peaks was altered last week by a sculpture critic.
  • Rosy-sunrise
    A beautiful winter sunrise on the East Spanish Peak
  • Mother-Jones-leading-strike
    "The most dangerous woman in America" Mother Jones leading a strike
  • hazmat-crew
    Hazmat crews on scene inspecting suspicious car after high speed chase
  • Ludlow-machine-gun-training
    Colorado State militia training on a machine gun, prior to the Ludlow massacre in 1914.
  • Snowy-Greenhorn2
    A break between snowstorms offers a glimpse of Greenhorn mountain.
  • Deer in Mist 3
    Three bucks appear out of the mist in La Veta.
  • LV-Barn-in-winter
    A frosty morning outside La Veta. Photo by Lori A. Utley
  • Goemmer-butte-in-Winter
    Goemmer's butte in the snow. Photo by Lori A. Utley
  • LV-Building-in-Winter
    Cold and snowy in La Veta. Photo by Lori A. Utley
  • cold-morning-in-La-Veta
    A frosty cold morning at La Veta school. Photo by Lori A. Utley

Council rejects medical marijuana dispensary distance change

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

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La Veta elects Doug Brgoch as mayor

 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.

Commissioners extend three month pot moratorium

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.

“Active Shooter” drill at La Veta Schools gets rapid law enforcement response

 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

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Valuation of CCA prison property comes in low

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.

Clearing the air on pot differences in Huerfano County

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

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Walsenburg may reconsider distance issue for dispensaries

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

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Third time is not the charm

 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

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Lopez guilty of reckless manslaughter

WALSENBURG — Appearing shackled and dressed in a bright yellow Huerfano County Jail jump suit, 23-year old Roberto Lopez, was sentenced to six years in the state department of corrections for the January 2013 stabbing death of his La Veta roommate Eraclio Lopez-Lopez, in a plea agreement to reckless manslaughter. “I want to apologize to everyone for what happened, I know it is difficult to prove who really did this, but I want to say I’m sorry,” Roberto Lopez said through a court translator. The defendant’s attorney, Patrick McCarville, said from his first meetings with Lopez in January 2013, he told him, “ I could not have done this, but if I did, it was the devil inside of me”. The six-year sentence will be

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JMHS Principal George Purnell retained

 WALSENBURG— The RE-1 Board of Education met in an executive session to discuss the renewal contract for John Mall High School principal George Purnell and emerged with five yes votes and two abstentions to renew the contract for the 2014-15 school year. Several citizens and teachers addressed the BOE during the regular meeting asking they retain their principal and offered their vote of confidence. In other items, the board accepted the letter of resignation with regret for Special Education teacher, Marie Nigrini. Preliminary numbers for the new budget were also discussed and if everything remains the same, the district could be looking at a $149,420 shortfall next year. The estimated pupil count and reimbursement per student will be $7,483.59. The district will be looking for a way to meet the needs of the district and maintain a balanced budget. While the numbers are a concern, there are no plans yet to make adjustments. One area of concern, however, came from the

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