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City of Trinidad adjusts to coronavirus, approves hemp ordinance and MOU with creative district

by Bill Knowles


TRINIDAD — During a closed chamber meeting streamed live through a Go to Meeting app, the Trinidad City Council began conducting business over the sterile environment of the internet for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak. And the first order of business was for the city to release an update about what’s open and what’s not.

With Mayor Phil Rico and Interim City Manager Mike Valentine streaming from the council chambers at City Hall, along with Tom Murphy who was taping the meeting for posting on his YouTube channel, the meeting was mostly staged from kitchens, home offices, and living rooms.

Valentine gave an update on the progress of the virus, showing where the state statistics were at by 4 p.m. March 18; last Wednesday. At that time there were 213 cases. As of Saturday, March 21, the state website of showed 475 cases in the state, with 49 people hospitalized. So far, the virus has spread to 29 counties and 4,550 tests have been administered and five deaths have occurred. No cases have been found in Las Animas County. Among city operations, the Colorado Welcome Center, library, the community center have been closed. Business at city hall will be conducted by appointment only. Utilities can be paid online, over the phone, or at the drop box. Fees for using either a credit card or debit card have been waived until emergency orders are in effect.

The Trinidad Police Department issued a statement saying … “As a precaution to the coronavirus, people are encouraged to conduct business online and by phone as much as possible. To help with that, the Trinidad Police Department now has an online reporting option for victims of non-violent crimes.

“To file an online police report, go to Once the report is submitted, an officer will review it and contact the reporting party by phone or email with a report number.

“To request a copy of a police report, including accident reports, go to Report requests are fulfilled during regular business hours. It takes 5-7 business days for reports to be ready for release.”

If 9-1-1 Dispatch is called, the caller will be questioned concerning the health of other individuals on the scene. That information will be relayed to the first responders that have been called to the scene so the responders can take adequate measures to protect themselves.

Valentine looked at the emergency declaration issued by Governor Jared Polis last week. That order shut-down restaurants and bars. The city is in touch with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the Las Animas-Huerfano Counties Public Health Department (LAHUPHD) concerning questions on cannabis dispensaries for guidance on them.

An unofficial survey of the cannabis businesses in Trinidad showed that the dispensaries are observing social distancing both verbally and with posted signage by allowing only so many customers at a time in the lobbies. Bud tenders and customer service employees are wearing masks.

Closure of the dispensaries is something the city would prefer not to do. Rico spoke on the issue, tying it in with a flow of revenues into the city that will help keep it afloat. The other issue looked at was keeping the dispensaries open, especially the medical side of the business.

Wally Wallace, the city’s economic development director, looked at programs that would help local businesses stay afloat. He said that the Office of Economic Development and International Trade and Startup Colorado along with the Small Business Administration will be available to work with local businesses.

Wallace also spoke about the state working to make unemployment filings and claims move quicker. However a larger than normal volume is slowing down the process of filing for unemployment.

According to the report, the City of Trinidad is taking a financial hit because sales are down across the business sector and this is dragging down city tax revenues.


Hemp as a regulated substance

The city council passed on a 5-0-1 vote with council member Aaron Williamson not voting due to loss of internet, the second reading of an ordinance that will prohibit hemp cultivation operations and other hemp agricultural operations within the corporate limits of the City of Trinidad.

As with the first reading, the reason given for the ordinance is that there is a potential for male hemp plants to pollinate female marijuana plants being grown for the city’s dispensaries. However council member Karen Griego said that it looked like the city council was attempting to regulate something outside of the city. She then asked City Attorney Les Downs if the city could place all hemp cultivation outside the city. Downs said that in a way the city was regulating something in the county. By banning hemp cultivation in the city, that activity would have to take place in the county if someone were to cultivate hemp.

But Downs also looked at the possibility of an exemption for anyone proposing to cultivate hemp indoors. Council member Erin Ogletree observed that as long as there are no male plants, cross pollination isn’t possible. Downs replied that no assurances could be given that all male plants would be pulled. “So the ordinance is necessary,” Downs said. “There are currently no hemp cultivation facilities in Trinidad.” The city currently has a moratorium in place on hemp cultivation.

Doug Peterson approached the city council asking support for a proposal on extraction business in the city. He noted that such a research facility would need to clone and grow different varieties of hemp and test them for commercial use for farmers out in the county to produce crops with.

Again Downs: “Growing clones in the city for cultivation would need a regulatory toe-hold. The city could say it would be possible for hemp clones grown for export to the county. We need to be sure of no cross contamination of hemp to marijuana in city.”

Typically the city will pass an ordinance and then carve out an exemption to later when or if the need might arise. Griego made the motion to pass the ordinance with a second from Anthony Mattie. The vote was 5-0-1.


Space to Create

The city approved, with a 6-0 vote, a Memorandum of Understanding with the Corazon de Trinidad Creative District. The document calls for a completion of the build-out of the Commons through the receipt of the Certificate of Occupancy. For the procurement of lessees of the commercial spaces in the Commons.

The city is also obligated to consider leasing or providing some additional space for expanded coworking venture, and delegate certain management and operating functions – and appropriate associated resources – for the Commons to the district, including those functions listed in the ordinance forming the Space to Create Commons Oversight Board that state will: “ … when complete, oversee the management of Community Space (The Commons) including, but not limited to commercial/retail leases, events and other activities.

“ … City staff assigned to this project will serve as … the primary point of contact with the local community and the media. …” All of this in the first phase, which is where the development is currently at.


Consent agenda

With a 6-0 vote on the consent agenda the council approved a special event permit for the A.R. Mitchell Museum for March 28, April 18, May 24, May 30, July 18, October 31, and December 2, 2020.

They also re-appointed Gabriel Moreno to the Las Animas County E911 Authority Board. Other board appointments made are the appointment of Janet Clark to the Carnegie Public Library Advisory Board. The appointment of Garrett Watson and Chad Kraft to the Space to Create Commons Oversight Board. And the appointment of David Barrack to the Trinidad Urban Renewal Authority Commission.

The city council adjourned at 7:25 pm.

3rd Judicial District Chief Judge issues order on court operations during pandemic


by Bill Knowles


TRINIDAD — Third Judicial District Chief Judge Leslie Gerbracht last week issued an order concerning the operations and scheduling of the 3rd Judicial District Court rooms and trials or hearings. The order issued on March 17 follows on the heels of a Declaration of Emergency issued by both the State of Colorado and Las Animas County last week as well.

The judicial order reads … “Due to this crisis we can no longer maintain normal functions and will be operating on an emergency basis. The 3rd Judicial District will remain open at this time, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 12 noon and 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. for essential functions … with a reduced staff.”

The order also calls for all jury trials scheduled for March and April to be continued — postponed until a later time. Each judge in the 3rd Judicial District will meet with the prosecuting attorney and defense counsel to either reset within the Constitutional framework of speedy trial; waive speedy trial and reset, or resolve the matter through disposition.

“If the trial cannot be resolved through one of these means and must go forward, the jurors will be staggered in order to maintain no more than 20 persons in the courtroom at a time,” the order reads.

All court hearings that are currently set through April 3, 2020 will be continued for 60 days. There are exceptions for the following which will go forward as scheduled: here is a partial list. For a complete list see

All temporary or permanent protection order hearings to include TRPO and ERPO. An ERPO is defined as: Any person who has in his or her custody or control a firearm or purchases, possesses, or receives a firearm with knowledge that he or she is prohibited from doing so by an ERPO or temporary ERPO which is a class 2 misdemeanor.

All Criminal Procedure Rule 5 advisement for incarcerated persons and the initial setting of bail. Preliminary Proceedings (a) Felony Proceedings. (1) Procedure following Arrest. … Thereafter, a felony complaint, information, or indictment shall be filed, if it has not already been filed, without unnecessary delay in the proper court and a copy thereof given to the defendant. (2) Appearance Before the Court.

Revocation hearings on complaints to revoke probation involving an incarcerated defendant. Proceedings necessary to protect the constitutional rights of criminal defendants including bond-related matters and plea agreements for incarcerated individuals. And detention hearings for juvenile delinquency cases.

Coping with Corona

by Kerrie Meyler


This column was hard to write. So much is changing, and so quickly, which makes it challenging to write something that can still be pertinent by the time this week’s newspaper is published.

What is offered is some thoughts that might help keep you mentally healthy. While some of these topics have been previously covered, recycling can be useful!

• Absorb reliable information about the coronavirus crisis, but avoid doing so obsessively. Take a break from it altogether when a sense of anxiety creeps in. Realize that as more test kits become available, by definition the number of identified cases will go up. It’s easy to go into panic mode, and harder to get out of it.

• As with any news item, make common sense choices regarding the sources of information.

• Fitness activities (even solitary) keeps you in a routine that helps make things feel normal. It may not be the same as what you’re accustomed to, but it can help keep you healthy. Consider jogging, bicycling, walking, using a treadmill, exercise bike, or other equipment you might have at home. Practice yoga or Tai Chi by yourself – you won’t have the group experience, but you can get the meditative and physical benefits.

• Stress relief is a recognized major benefit of an exercise habit. Exercise can help calm you – and that’s especially important right now. Less stress translates to less anxiety.

• Mental focus (on form for instance) can provide a meditative benefit, helping you to feel less stressed or overwhelmed.

• Exercise in moderation, but do so to a point of feeling a sense of accomplishment, which has a carryover impact on the other aspects of daily life. Particularly now, with so much of what we are familiar with being restricted, attaining a sense of accomplishment can be essential to mental health.

• Even applying the six foot separation advised for social distancing, small group activities (say 2-5 people) whether done outdoors or indoors are possible to attain the obvious benefits of keeping us in touch with each other. We are social creatures; determine the amount of interaction that you feel safe doing, and with the people that you feel safe with.

• Awareness that worry is worthless for what’s beyond our control should provide some measure of calm. Worrying causes stress, without removing the cause of what’s bothering you.

• Take a deep breath. Dig deep to find what helps you relax, if not escape. For some it’s reading, for others it is music, videos, painting, or quilting. Make it a point to take care of yourself mentally.

Don’t get crazy. And of course, wash your hands.

My deepest thanks to my friend Ben Wiley for inspiring me to write this content.

Rural Colorado ranchers face uncertainties with COVID-19

Rancher Steve Wooten herds cattle to a new pasture on his ranch in eastern Las Animas County. Photo courtesy Steve Wooten


by Tracy Wahl, KRCC


LAS ANIMAS — People throughout the state of Colorado are dealing with the impact of the new coronavirus in different ways. For many, it presents new economic questions.

That includes Steve Wooten, President of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association.

Wooten is a fourth generation rancher who lives about 45 miles northwest of Kim, Colorado, population 74. Kim is in the far southeastern part of the state not far from the borders of both Kansas and New Mexico. It’s in one of the most sparsely populated counties in the state and serves as a hub for cattle ranchers around Las Animas County — one of the largest counties in the state.

Wooten said his biggest concern is how the markets are responding to the new coronavirus — citing the record drops.

“When you’re living on margins of two to three percent per year and you see a twenty percent change in two weeks, that’s pretty hard,” Wooten said. And it’s not just the cattle markets that have been affected.

“It’s also wheat, corn, soybeans, milk,” he said. “Every one of our commodity products that we produce has been subject to what happened to Wall Street.”

On the upside, Wooten said that because of the way the cattle business works, the income varies depending on the season and he’s used to long periods without funds coming in.

He said that means some ranchers may be able to meet payroll in the short term but the true impact of a huge market drop may not be felt for months.

“It’s going to have long term ramifications for wheat guys and corn. That’s going to start happening to them in late summer,” Wooten said. “And then cattle guys — there’s those that are being impacted now and others that will be impacted in October, November, December.”

When it comes to dealing with COVID-19 itself, Wooten said there are at least three hospitals within a 200 mile radius. In this part of the world, that’s not really all that far. The options include Southeast Colorado Hospital and Medical Clinic in Springfield to the east, the Arkansas Regional Medical Center in La Junta to the North and and Mt. San Rafael Hospital in Trinidad to the west.

The town of Kim does have EMS ambulance service. The closest grocery store is about an hour away in La Junta. Internet service, increasingly important as schools and universities switch to online education, is spotty, Wooten said.

“There is no broadband built out in Las Animas County,” he said, although he can sometimes get a 3G connection at his house.

To make things work at home, when his grandkids need to stream video for school or fun, Wooten just “shuts down everything else so that they can take care of that.

“And we’ll pick up any business stuff after they’ve done their online work.”

At the end of the day, he remains hopeful. “I guess if there’s anything that crosses your mind is keep your fingers crossed in your prayers that friends, family and loved ones can avoid being exposed and pray for everybody’s health and safety.”

Primary registration deadline coming up

by Sharon Niederman


RATON — Colfax County Clerk Rayetta M. Trujillo alerts voters the time is approaching to register to vote in New Mexico primary elections to be held June 2, 2020.

“To vote in the primary you must be affiliated with one of the three major parties: Democrat, Republican, or Libertarian,” Trujillo says. “The deadline to register is May 5, 2020.

“As we are in lockdown and no one may enter the building, voters need to do this by going to the NM Secretary of State’s website:”

If you go to the Voter Portal, you may update your voter registration and request an absentee ballot.

If you need further assistance, please call the county clerk at 575-445-5551.

The same goes for registering to vote in the general election. If you need to update your voter registration or if you are a first time voter, please go to the Secretary of State’s website.

Registration will be accomplished so long as your current information matches the information on file with New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division.

If you need to adjust your information in a way not available to you online, contact the county clerk at the number above, and she will do the necessary paperwork so your registration can be corrected by mail.

If you need a new hobby…

by Katherine Agnello


TRINIDAD — We can only spend so much time on the internet, pursuing COVID-19 memes, before we’re forced to find a new hobby. Carol Bazanele, the owner of Trinidad Greenhouse, has a great option for you to try: gardening!

“Gardening grounds you. It helps you find joy and happiness,” Carol explains.

During World War II, a Japanese internment camp existed in southern Colorado, outside the small town of Granada, known as Camp Amache. The Trinidad Greenhouse has been in business since the 1940s, when a displaced Japanese family from California opened a greenhouse here in Trinidad and became a flourishing business. Carol worked there during her high school years in 1977, after which her family bought the business in 1982. They have a seasonal garden center, where they grow plants from seeds, cuttings, and other specialty growers.

They also have a full service floral shop and are still providing a limited floral service. They use cold frames for slow-growing perennials, meaning they’re protected from the elements while still being outside. They begin sowing seeds around Christmastime. Right now, they are in the midst of transplanting seed-sprouted vegetables. The greenhouse grows and transplants thirty different types of peppers, twenty-five different types of tomatoes, artichokes, and regional favorites such as basil and oregano. Later in the season, about six weeks before they open, the greenhouse will do direct sowing for fast-growing plants like beans, peas, corn, and lettuce. They also offer petunias and other bright flowers for growing in windowsill planters, hanging baskets, or color bowls. “You can’t eat them, but they sure make you happy,” Carol says. She’s sold a great deal of house plants over the past two weeks.

It’s too early in the season to reliably grow plants– they tend to freeze– so the greenhouse currently sells planters, soil, and pots. They offer curbside pickup if you call ahead from your car. They will usually open for plant-based business between the end of April and the middle of May. They recommend refraining from planting until the final freeze is done, generally between May 7 and 11. There’s a “legend” for local farmers: when the snow is gone from Fisher’s Peak, it’s safe to start planting. Carol says this holds true, but it’s sometimes difficult to tell with the peak’s burn scar. It certainly isn’t time to plant yet, but you can start planning your garden. Turn over the soil, make your beds, research what you want to plant and make sure it can grow well here. Make sure it’s a variety you’re interested in eating!

“[In the end,] it’s so cool to realize that this came from your dirt and water,” Carol says.

Huerfano Jail inmate visits suspended – Deputies not responding automatically to ambulance calls

by E. E. Mullens


HUERFANO COUNTY— Huerfano County Sheriff Bruce Newman has announced that visits with inmates at the county jail have been suspended until further notice in light of precautions to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19

The no-visit policy has now been in effect for over a week.

The sheriff also said deputies will not automatically respond to ambulance calls for service, which, in the past, has been a fairly routine practice when deputies have not otherwise been engaged in other calls for service.

Newman said, on a case-by-case basis, deputies may issue summons to individuals as opposed to making custody arrests, and, in addition, a number of inmates or new arrestees may be allowed personal recognizance bonds on arrest charges to help keep jail population numbers down.

Additionally the sheriff’s office is asking citizens to conduct all sheriff’s office business with them via email or phone calls.

The office will also be placing a drop box outside the secured front door to allow citizens who wish to place money in an inmate’s concession account to do so without having to come inside the sheriff’s office.

Sheriff Newman said in his quarterly meeting with the Walsenburg City Council last week that all precautions possible are being taken by staff to minimize the possibility of COVID-19 infection at the jail.

As of Tuesday, March 24, the inmate count at the Huerfano County Jail was 14, with two new overnight arrests.


Not all charges may be eligible for immediate release via PR bonds or summons:

On Monday, March 23, two individuals were arrested and taken into custody on numerous charges on active arrest warrants.

Jesse Vialpando, 33, was arrested on active warrants charging unlawful distribution/manufacturing/dispensing/sale and/or possession of a controlled substance; possession of controlled substance, and three other warrants alleging criminal trespass and burglary.

Devin Pino, 27, was also arrested on three active warrants alleging possession of a controlled substance, introducing contraband in the first degree, violation of bail bond conditions and theft.

All Huerfano County offices closed to all person-to-person meeting

Third Judicial District Huerfano offices/courts limiting services


Huerfano County Official Press Release

HUERFANO (MARCH 24, 2020 12 NOON)— The Elected Officials of Huerfano County and the 3rd Judicial District Branch know that our primary mission is to serve the needs of the citizens of Huerfano County. Our employees are the most important component in serving you. With the rapid expansion of the COVID-19, and the need for public and staff safety we are changing the way we do business by trying to minimize our employee’s exposure to infection.

All County business transactions must be done remotely by way of our Drop Box or electronically. Visit to see the many ways you can contact our offices and use one of the methods for conducting business with each office within Huerfano County.

The 3rd Judicial District Courts are also operating under limited services.

Please visit for information on how to conduct business with the courts here within Huerfano County regarding hearings, trials, probation, and jury duty, etc.

Grab and Go

by Sharon Niederman


RATON —The staff of Raton Housing Authority prepares and serves grab and go breakfast and lunch to children age 1-18 every weekday. According to Raton Housing Authority Director Terry Baca, 400-700 lunches are served daily in Raton at the Raton Convention Center, 901 S. 3rd St., and along the Raton bus routes, as well as in Springer, Maxwell, and Des Moines.

Meal service is not available on the weekends.

No forms are necessary, and there is no charge.

“Just show up at the site,” Baca says. Call 575-445-8021 for site locations.

In Raton, all children may pick up grab and go breakfast between 8-9 am and lunch from noon-1 pm.

On a recent weekday at the Convention Center, children seemed pleased with their lunches of turkey and cheese sandwiches and apples. “They really like the food,” said Crystal Fulkerson, mother of two young boys, Bane and Aiden.

Following Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s executive order to insure that all New Mexico children are fed during school closures due to COVID 19, the Raton Housing Authority extended the 26 year-old summer program of providing lunch to Raton children in Ripley, Longfellow, and Legion parks. This program will continue through the summer after the school year is officially over.

The meals are funded by New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department through the USDA.

Homeschooling 101

by Karen Jo Agnello


From a long-time homeschool mom to all the new homeschool parents, “You’ve got this!” Don’t panic. Number one, almost every single family in the country is learning to homeschool right now and no one is prepared. Number two, there are tons of resources available online.

Let’s take a deep breath and relax. Your children need to see your strength during this time of crisis. Allow your family time to be together: go to the park together, read a new book together, bake together, garden together, color or do a craft together, take a hike together, do a 1000 piece puzzle together, learn to sew/knit/crochet together, bake or learn a new recipe together, play Wii Fit together, play any game together. The key is to be together to provide your children the reassurance that we will all survive this crisis.

It’s much easier than you think to incorporate learning into everyday tasks at home. In our homeschool family, we’re always learning, whether it is planning a menu, shopping for bargains when planning a meal, measuring ingredients for a meal, or learning spatial relationships whilst loading the dishwasher. Think about the tasks you do at home and include your children with the goal of teaching them a skill, not just completing a chore.

If your district is providing their curriculum online or with alternative methods, you should not feel pressured that your child should sit and stare at the computer for 6 hours straight. They don’t do that at school. They have opportunities to work in groups, read silently and aloud, do experiments, have recess, art, PE, Music, even walk in the halls to change classes. Do the same thing at home. Make sure to provide frequent “brain-breaks” throughout the day to encourage variety with learning.

If it turns out that homeschooling is right for your family in the future, Colorado has very few restrictions and many state sponsored opportunities. Trinidad even has a local homeschool group that meets regularly for co-ops and field trips. You can find them on Facebook: the H.A.R.T- Homeschoolers Around Raton and Trinidad.

If your district is not providing a curriculum (and even if they are) there are many resources that are offering free subscriptions now. There are websites offering free virtual opportunities: virtual field trips/tours of museums and National Parks; entertainers reading books; Metropolitan Opera and Broadway virtual shows; dance, art, and quilting classes; and even virtual rides at Disney World. Trinidad Kids and Youth Connection and Calendar on Facebook has been posting multiple links to online learning opportunities. Some favorites:

• Kids Discover- free access to their digital library

• NASA makes their entire media library publicly accessible and copyright free-

• NASA Stem at Home

• Virtual Field Trips- Buckingham Palace, White House, Monterrey Bay Aquarium, Mt. Everest, National Aquarium, National Museum of US Air Force, Smithsonian Museum, Zoos, Farms, etc

• Google Earth has virtual tours of 31 National Parks

• Netflix and Amazon have numerous educational titles, including Imax, National Geographic, Discovery Channel, etc

• History Colorado will offer Hands On History Mon-Fri at 10 am via Zoom

• Kennedy Space Center has launched science lessons on Facebook live

• Distance Learning Resources from the Smithsonian Learning Lab

• Scholastic Learn at Home

• – math and reading games

• – a great site full of math and logic games

• National Geographic Kids

• – 7000 free videos in 13 subjects

• SuperCharged Science

• PBS Learning Media

• Project Explorer- free videos from around the world

• National Geographic Kids

• Old Farmer’s Almanac for kids- free


homeschool resources:

• Freedom Homeschooling- free

• Khan Academy- free

• Elephango- reduced from $200 a year to $20 a year

• Starfall- has free parent-teacher resources

• Ed Helper- Daily Free Learning Workbooks

• 123 Homeschool 4 Me- free worksheets

• Big History Project- free, middle and highschool

• Discovery k12- Online homeschool platform & curriculum for Pre-K to 12th grade

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