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Briefs from the San Luis Valley

Brief by Marcia Darnell

San Luis Valley – April 1998 – Colorado Central Magazine

There Goes da Judge

James Mrzlak, 49, resigned as Saguache County Court judge after pleading guilty to a drunken-driving charge in February. It was His Honor’s second such offense.

Mrzlak pleaded guilty to driving while ability impaired. He was granted a deferred sentence for a year and must complete alcohol counseling, perform 48 hours of community service, and pay court costs. His earlier offense resulted in three points against his driver’s license.

A search is under way for a replacement judge. Perhaps a Breathalyzer test should be part of the interview.

Convention Center or Animal Shelter?

The Alamosa County commissioners are hearing ideas about how to use their new 60-acre parcel. The land is two miles south of Alamosa, east of U.S. 285.

Suggestions so far include a microbrewery, a jail, a day-care center, and a Broncos stadium.

A UFO landing site and Alien Visitors Center would be great. Why should Roswell get all the tourists?

Strange Days

The small town of Monte Vista is embroiled in disputes on the past, present and future.

After five murder-free years, the town suffered two homicides in February. Both cases have resulted in arrests. In addition, a former Monte Vista resident was shot and wounded in Pueblo, and a 33-year-old man hanged himself in the Monte Vista jail last month.

In other news, the school board voted to ban memorials to dead students because they might traumatize students by reminding them of past tragedies. The board encouraged the establishment of scholarships to pay tribute to the dead. The challenge for survivors, apparently, is to find a way to memorialize loved ones without reminding people that they died.

Finally, the Urban Renewal Authority has turned down a third offer to buy and renovate the historic Fassett building in downtown Monte Vista. The empty, crumbling edifice is valued at $120,000 to $142,000. Given Monte Vista’s other problems, and its interest in a Main Street renovation program, this hesitation is puzzling. The URA’s decisions have been made in private sessions — another enigma.

Water Fight Level Rises

Rep. Lewis Entz, who may be the last person to represent the San Luis Valley as a whole, is sponsoring a bill in the state legislature designed to protect the Valley’s aquifer. HB1011 calls for mandatory replacement of groundwater depletions. Stockman’s Water Company, the latest in a series of prospective water sellers in the Valley, has been accused by Entz of trying to buy votes against the bill. Expensive dinners and free cigars are allegedly the tactics used.

Stockman’s plans to pump out and sell 150,000 acre feet of water a year. Gary Boyce, the owner of Stockman’s, denies any improper actions by his two lobbyists. He says the bill targets him personally.

Other watery bills in contention include a call to make the board of directors of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District elected positions, rather than the appointed jobs they are now. And there’s also the Children’s Educational Trust Fund Act, which would require the federal Closed Basin Project to pay the state for water pumped from under Colorado School Trust lands in the basin. Opponents to both bills say Boyce is behind them, in retaliation for HB1011. But Boyce denies this.

Water isn’t the only thing that flows in Colorado.

Conservancy Moves

In this era of “conservatism,” it’s sort of refreshing to find an outfit that actually is trying to conserve something.

Such is the Nature Conservancy, working to conserve the wetlands of the San Luis Valley, among them Mishak Lakes near Moffat.

Its local office was in Alamosa, but local managers Nancy and Chuck Warner have moved it to 210 Fourth Street in Saguache; the new telephone number is 719-655-2722.