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With shortfall looming, commissioners not ready to commit to non-profit funding request

by Eric Mullens

Nov. 12, 2017 will be George Parker Day in Huerfano County recognizing his U.S. Navy service aboard the USS Fulton and USS Ponchatoula. Parker attained the rank of Petty Officer 3rd Class and was awarded the Expert Marksman Badge, Battle E Ribbon and Sea Service Ribbon. Photo by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — With a minimum of a $200,000 and a worst case $700,000 budget shortfall facing Huerfano County, the commissioners Tuesday listened to a funds request from the Museum of Friends, but made it clear they were in no position at this time to make any grants to non-profits.

Commission chairman Ray Garcia told Brendt and Maria Berger, while he commends what they have done, and what they continue to do, right now available money is the big question. The county budget deadline is approaching in early December and county administrator John Galusha said even with reworking the numbers and tightening spending in many areas, the county could still face a $200,000 shortfall. The Gallagher ammendment cost the county approximately $140,000 in assessed valuations. “We have a lot of work to do on the budget before December 5,” commissioner Max Vezzani told the Bergers, “after that we’ll have to see what kind of money we have in the budget.”

The MOF was seeking $5,000 from the county to put towards a goal of $66,000 in matching funds they need for the multiphase $199,677 History Colorado grant, that has been approved. But, until the matching funds are raised, the grant funds cannot be released. The Bergers presented the commissioners with the museum’s financial plan, and Maria emphasized the overall $1.5 M renovation of the Roof & Dick building, “isn’t about us,” but that the MOF will outlive them and it is for Walsenburg and Huerfano County.

“We can’t give you a decision today,” Vezzani said, noting only four years ago, due to budget constraints, the county had to lay off employees. Garcia reminded the requesters and others attending the meeting, that if the district attorney’s ballot issue seeking a sales and use tax increase in both Huerfano and Las Animas counties fails, the board of commissioners expects Henry Solano will be back before the commissioners seeking additional funds for his office.

The Bergers continue fund raising efforts with a large “Save the Roof & Dick building” event scheduled for December 2, 2017 and continue to accept donations from the private sector. The upcoming event will feature artwork for sale from 70 artists, silent auction items and available sponsorships. Ticket price for the event will be $25 and more information is available at the MoF located in downtown Walsenburg.

In other business:

• The commissioners heard of a $14,559 expenditure the City of Walsenburg will make under the sheriff’s law enforcement contract that will see 23 new body cameras for use by patrol deputies and supervisors. Ten body cameras the sheriff’s office got when they took over the duties of the former Walsenburg Police Department under the voter approved contract, will be assigned to the jail detention staff. The purchase will be made with Safari Land and will include $1,500 for a separate server for the cameras.

• Approved a letter of support for the San Carlos Ranger District OHV Trails Grant of 2019. The commissioners have supported this program since 2011.

•Acknowledged three upcoming workshops concerning the Source Water Protection Plan (SWPP) for the Gardner Water and Sanitation District. The first planning workshop is Nov. 14, 2017 from 5 – 6:30 pm at the Gardner Community Center. The second and third meeting times will be announced. The SWPP should be finalized by March 2018. Gardner residents seeking additional information may contact Huerfano County Public Works Director Melanie Bounds at 738-3000 extension 105.

•Approved writing a letter of support for the Wahatoya Firewise community mitigation project. James Cooper made the presentation and brief the board of the volunteer work that has already been done, including the Month-of-Sundays clearing project.

• Commissioners approved on a 3-0 vote, to issue a waiver and allow a physical address to be assigned to a location on CR 332 as requested by James R. Shannon for an agricultural operation that will include an orchard and the growing of organic garlic. There is a metal shop building, garage and septic system, all prior approved and permitted on the property located approximately 10 miles south of Walsenburg.

• Unanimously approved Resolution 17-117, denoting Nov. 12, 2017 as George M. Parker Day in Huerfano County, recognizing his service in the U.S. Navy as a Petty Officer 3rd Class.

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