Briefs from the San Luis Valley

Brief by Marcia Darnell

San Luis Valley – March 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine

2 Cents’ Change

Alamosa County resident Larry Crowder wants to change the county tax rate and distribution. Currently, the county keeps 0.8£ of its 2% sales tax, with the other 1.2£ going to the city of Alamosa.

Crowder maintains that this is taxation without representation, since county shoppers are taxed, but have no say in city government. He proposes a reduction in the tax to 1.5%, with all the money going to the county government, mostly to improve roads.

The commissioners liked the idea of an April election to decide the issue, but Alamosa city officials aren’t so hot on the idea. City Attorney Richard Jacobs informed the commissioners that the county can’t hold that election without the city’s consent.

Tax-change issues can only be voted on in November, thanks to the TABOR amendment.

The EPA has added another wrinkle with its upcoming tougher restrictions on arsenic levels in city water. Alamosa faces hard work — and big bills — to clean up its water by October 2000.

Another Recall

Meanwhile, a petition to recall Blanca mayor Myrrl Smith garnered enough signatures to make a ballot. The recall committee plans to present the petition to the town board.

Smith is accused of harassing town employees, fixing tickets for relatives, and giving out free water and sewer services without the town board’s permission.

Smith says the petition drive is a personal vendetta.

Avian Confusion

The mild winter weather has played hell with the migration patterns of birds in the Valley. Those who are supposed to leave (like yellowheaded blackbirds and snipe) are still here, and expected arrivals (like bald and golden eagles) haven’t come.

La Niña is making an interesting time for bird watchers — and birds.

Loose Lynx

Lynx are returning to the San Juans for the first time in 25 years. Eleven of the animals are being released near South Fork. The warm weather and an abundance of snowshoe hare (i.e., dinner) make the outlook rosy for the cats.

Revolving Door

Desi Medina, the sheriff of Rio Grande County, has re-hired his wife as a jailer/dispatcher. She held the job four years ago, but quit when it became a campaign issue.

There are no laws against nepotism in the county, but under current term limits, this is Medina’s last term.

Still Guilty

Auto racer Bobby Unser lost his appeal of a conviction of driving a snowmobile in a wilderness area. Two years ago, Unser made national news when he became lost in a blizzard while cruising in Rio Grande National Forest.

Motorized vehicles are forbidden in designated wilderness areas.

Unser was fined $75.

Lift Delay

The proposed new ski lift at Wolf Creek Ski Area is on hold.

Carson Forest Watch, a New-Mexico based environmental group, filed an appeal with the U.S. Forest Service, which has agreed to look into the fate of the Rio Grande cutthroat trout in the drainage below the ski area.

Good Home Needed

The La Jara mayor, Larry Buhr, evicted the ambulance from the police department building, leaving the vehicle — and the service — without a home.

The ambulance is housed in Manassa at the moment, meaning a five- to 10-minute delay in responding to calls in La Jara. The city is soliciting a donation of space for the ambulance.