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Las Animas County Commission on federal grants and county road closure

by Bill Knowles

Paula Ozzello speaks with the Las Animas County Commission on Nov. 21, 2017, concerning federal legislation that could restrict funding for historial and cultural sites as well as easements.. Photo by Bill Knowles.

TRINIDAD — The Las Animas County Commissioners were informed last week in their regular meeting of an amendment placed into the Department of Interior Appropriations Bill by Colorado’s U.S. Senator Cory Gardner that, if passed, would cut funding for any national heritage area, national heritage corridor, national heritage canal way, route, historical district, cultural heritage corridor, or other heritage partnership program.

The funding cuts would affect the southeastern Colorado counties of Baca, Bent, Crowley, Huerfano, Kiowa, Las Animas, Otero, Prowers and Pueblo.

“This is not a political partisan issue, it is an issue that affects a whole region of the state and basically cuts off any and all funding assistance to locals for preservation of our heritage and cultural sites,” Paula Ozzello, a local activist said.

According to his office, Rep Ken Buck (R) inserted the amendment to the appropriations bill in an attempt to keep the federal government from creating a national heritage area and gives control over to local, county, and state hands by cutting federal funding.

According to Ozzello, in a letter to the county commissioners, the act, if passed would see ramifications “…that would affect securing any grants or loans to be used by local entities and civic organizations that would be seeking federal monies to enhance and preserve any cultural and historical projects and buildings or sites in the future including the Trinidad downtown historical designated area, not to mention the Highway of Legends, Coal Miners Museum, Ludlow Memorial Site, Santa Fe Trail, and the Purgatoire Watershed,” among many other sites.

The appropriations bill has already passed the House and is awaiting Senate approval. For any further information contact Senator Cory Gardner at 719-543-1324 or Senator Michael Bennett at 719-542-7550.

In other business, the closure of county road 85.5 was tabled with a 3-0 vote while commissioners worked on authorizing a traffic survey for the road. The survey would give an accurate count on the amount of vehicles that use the road.

Safety of the ranches, ranchers, and their families was the topic that most concerned the commissioners. Even though the road now has gates on it, traffic is still driving through the area.

The county commission has until Dec. 19 to take action on the request to close the country road, which so far hasn’t generated any negative comments from the areas ranchers,

Commissioner Luis Lopez, during the commissioner committee reports, informed the commission that 12 businesses in Las Animas County have applied for loans with the Otero Partnership Inc. The revolving loan fund, with offices in La Junta, is designed to help new businesses get started. Lopez is a member of the board. The fund balance available is about $420,000. The amount out in loans is currently at $288,000. According to Lopez, one of the businesses being financed with a loan from OPI is a hydroponic lettuce farm.

La Junta Valley Oil’s bid to sell 8,000 gallons of unleaded gasoline at $2.15 a gallon was accepted by the commission on a 3-0 vote. The total for the bid is $17,200. Three other companies solicited to bid didn’t submit bids, leaving La Junta Valley Oil the sole bidder for the sale.


The county commissioners went into executive session at 10:20.

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