Commissioners adopt smaller 2015 budget

WALSENBURG– The Huerfano County commissioners met Wednesday morning, after skipping a week to attend a commissioner’s conference. From their meeting two weeks ago, there had been discussion about renovations to the Huerfano County courthouse in 2015, if a $1.8 million grant from the Department of Local Affairs come through. The entire renovation project is expected to cost upwards of $3.6 million, with more grants hoped for in the future, but still leaving a financial shortfall. The county would be required to commit to $200,000 a year for three years. The renovations would include changing out the basement bathrooms for A.D.A. compliant facilities, replacing the elevator, reconfiguring the central hallway, and a block-by-block evaluation of the exterior stonework. The commissioners signed a contract with San Isabel Electric Association to provide a security light at the new bulk water station by Gardner. A security camera will also be installed in the near future as well. Malea Schmidt of the La Veta ambulance service asked the

commissioners to certify the service again for 2015, noting they had passed all their inspections. When asked, she noted their call volume was about the same as 2013. In yesterday’s meeting, the commissioners formally adopted the county budget for 2015, noting there was an overall decrease in funds, though County Administrator John Galusha noted there was the expectation that marijuana cultivation in the county could bring in an additional $15,000 in land use fees. “This is a very conservative number,” Galusha added. The commissioners said they wanted to thank all the department heads and their staff for working so hard to save the county money. That being said, there were no raises planned for the 2015 budget. The decline in revenues is being felt in all departments, but is particularly acute in the county ambulance district, which has seen a drop-off in calls volume, and at the same time a decrease in the amount of collections on transport. “We’re down to about thirty percent on that,” Galusha said. The ambulance district is expected to be down $160,000 in 2015. Mike Downey of the San Isabel Land Protection Trust asked the commissioners for a letter of support to be sent to Great Outdoors Colorado, in funding a conservation easement on the Redwing Ranch above Gardner. James Williams of Invenergy introduced himself to the commissioners, and discussed his company’s plan on bringing clean energy production into Huerfano county, specifically wind farms. Williams’ plans for energy production are still in early stages, and he has not yet secured a purchase power agreement, or figured out exactly where he would tie his clean power into the energy grid. Finally, the commissioners opened sealed bids for publishing the county legals for 2015. The Signature newspaper did not bid, as they have forfeited their standing as a legal paper of record in 2015. The bid automatically went to the Huerfano World Journal, who bid the same amount as last year.