Brief by Marcia Darnell
San Luis Valley – February 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine –
Colorado Distilling Co., located near Vail, has targeted the San Luis Valley for the site of its next distillery. Citing the quality of the water, the firm plans to build a plant to generate 5,000 barrels of cognac and/or scotch per year. The proposed operation would create 15 to 20 jobs and the plant will buy 2,000 tons of local barley a year. Construction is tentatively scheduled for summer.
Would a train running between Creede and South Fork be good or bad for the economy? Proponents of the plan to resurrect the old line say it will boost tourism and reduce traffic on the Silver Thread Byway. Opponents say it will overload Creede during the summer months and harm the lodging business in the old mining town by making it too convenient for visitors to get out of town before dark. Interestingly enough, the most vocal advocates of the train represent South Fork.
Being behind the times has its advantages. Alamosa is working on the Y2k problem in its finance and other city departments, but officials aren’t panicked. Low-tech towns, it seems, aren’t as threatened by the rumored disasters ensuing when computer clocks click over to 2000 (or 1900). Department heads say it will be relatively easy to do everything manually, if necessary. Going back to the horse-and-buggy days is doable if you still have the horses and buggies.
The U.S. Attorney says that charges are unlikely against the top dogs in the Summitville mess. Duh. After trashing a mountain and several creeks and rivers, executives of Galactic Resources absconded with the reclamation money and fled to Canada. The mine has become an EPA Superfund site.
Local businesses were hurt as well, by the loss of mining jobs and the non-payment of bills owed by Galactic. The U.S. Attorney will not pursue the criminal investigation further, leaving Coloradans to hope for some other form of justice, perhaps a well-aimed asteroid.
The Valley’s jails are overflowing. Four of the five counties report more than double the number of inmates the jails were designed to hold. Sheriffs blame lack of funding to build new jails, population growth, and tougher sentencing laws. A proposed solution is a Valley-wide jail. No plans or funding have been developed, though.
Another Money Fight
The state is suing the San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center for overbilling Medicaid. The center, rated one of the top 10 rural hospitals in the country, is alleged to have billed for multiple service (when only one was provided) and billing for transportation services (when a lesser-cost service was performed). The amount overbilled is said to be under $34,000, but the state is suing for $230,000, including penalties and fines. Paul Herman, executive director of the medical center, vigorously denies the allegations.
Gary Boyce, the owner of Stockman’s Water Co., announced he would not, and in fact did not, file a claim in water court before year’s end. Boyce wants to sell 150,000 acre-feet of water a year from his holdings near Crestone. Boyce’s lobbying efforts failed to pass two water-sales amendments in the last statewide election. The results of his efforts in the legislature remain to be seen. For now, San Luis Valley water is safe.