by Eric Mullens
WALSENBURG — Following a 90 minute executive session Tuesday night, the five members of the city council who attended the first meeting of 2018, voted to bypass two attorneys and select a lay person as the municipal judge.
Joel F. Shults Phd, was elected on a three to two vote to serve as the city judge for the next two years. Corlin Pratt, a newcomer to the area and two term judge Cathy Mullens, along with Shults were interviewed by council members during the executive session. Shults and Mullens were nominated for the position and council, led by Mayor Pro Tem Dennis Hoyt, voted for New Hope Church Pastor Shults. Charlie Montoya and Don Martinez voted for Mullens while Clint Boehler, Hoyt, and James Hudgens cast their ballots for Shults. Mayor Jim Eccher and councilman Greg Daniels did not attend the first of the year session.
City council also met in another executive to obtain information regarding the proposed Memorandum of Understanding concerning shared water storage at City Lake Dam, once the rehabilitation and enlargement project there is completed. That executive session last approximately 40 minutes and Hoyt announced at the conclusion of the closed-door meeting that no action would be taken.
In other business:
Council heard from three citizens who expressed their feelings on the resolution passed three weeks ago concerning the application fee for the city water haul program. Regarding the new water haul system, Walsenburg Public Works Director Dave Harriman said installation of the pump station and set up of its computer control system should begin January 17.
Council engaged, at length, in an open session discussion that bordered on executive session material regarding personnel. Without providing any details, councilman Boehler indicated he had been approached by some city employees who had complaints, and he alleged administration had told those employees they were not allowed to talk to council members. Walsenburg Administrator James Toth told the council he did not have any such discussion with any city employee. Toth, and city attorney Dan Hyatt both discussed, again, the role of a council member and the necessary separation of those elected officials and city staff.
Toth had planned to conduct part two of his new council member orientation during the scheduled 5:30 pm work session, but only two members of the council were in chambers at that time. Hoyt took up the issue of how pay raises would be handled for city employees and had to be reminded by Toth the day to day operations, including financial ones, were the responsibility of administration.
Hoyt told the administrator that he agreed to disagree with him on the issue. Hoyt also appeared to have no memory of the recent budget sessions, as he had questions about employee insurance plans and the city / employee contribution schedule. Deputy city clerk Wanda Britt told Hoyt she had provided him that information on two recent occasions and that the council had voted on the question. City finance director Mark Ellis said the issue had been addressed in nearly every meeting the council had in the fall and winter of 2017 regarding the city budget.
• Council took no action of a sewer tap request for the Green Chili Eatery at 321 W. 7th St., with Hyatt recommending the property owner and his tenant formalize an agreement that would allow the sewer line to cross another property owned by the landlord. Hyatt said a formal easement agreement would protect all parties involved.
• Council voted to allow Butch Corsentino to sub-lease part of the City Ranch pasture he leases from the city so another individual could run approximately 20 head of cattle on the land. No action was taken on the proposed city ranch manager agreement between Corsentino and the city as some utility questions still need to be negotiated between him and city administration.
• On a unanimous vote the city council approved a $27,780 expenditure for a 2018 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 from Spradley Motors.
• Council voted to spend $12,549.50 with M & M Repair and Towing for work on the bucket truck the city obtained from San Isabel Electric Association for $1. Harriman said once all the issues with the vehicle have been repaired it will meet all CDOT/DOT regulations for certification. Harriman said the cost of repairs was far below the value of the bucket truck overall.