NosyNeighbor: A horse peers over his fence last week in the Animas Valley./Photo by Todd Newcomer.

Department stands behind A-LP

The Bureau of Reclamation issued the results of a review of cost overruns related to the Animas-La Plata project on Wednesday, Nov. 26. In a statement, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton said that the Department of the Interior still fully supports the project’s construction.

In late July, A-LP opponents were furious when the Bureau announced that the original estimated $338 million cost of the water project had jumped by nearly 50 percent to $500 million. The cost overruns also prompted Norton to call for an internal review of the overruns. She called the several-month review “rigorous and meticulous.”

In a statement, she noted the Department of the Interior’s continued support for the project that will divert water from the Animas River into a reservoir in Ridges Basin. “The Department of Interior fully supports building the Animas-La Plata Project and remains committed to working with project sponsors to see the project through to completion in as cost-effective a manner as possible,” the statement said.

The review stated that the Bureau of Reclamation will now take a next step and “use these findings to develop and implement a plan of action.” This plan will allegedly prevent further overruns from happening in the future and cut costs wherever possible.

Grandview experiences another delay

Efforts to annex the Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s planned Grandview development into Durango city limits suffered another setback this week. On Monday, the Durango Planning Commission delayed a decision on whether to recommend the annexation because of a boundary dispute.

The tribe has requested annexation of 682 acres for its proposed 2,211-unit development. A central component of the tribe’s Grandview development is the donation of land to Mercy Medical Center, which plans to leave its undersized building in downtown Durango and relocate to an expanded facility. However, the hospital faces a looming construction deadline in order to receive funding and has requested an accelerated timeline.

City Planner Greg Hoch said that the delay was prompted by differences of opinion about property lines.

“What motivated this delay is there has been a boundary discrepancy between the two platted subdivisions of La Paloma and Palo Verde and the tribe’s property,” Hoch said. “That’s been common knowledge for a couple years.”

To solve the problem, Hoch said that the tribe will remove contended sections of the property from the annexation petition. “As a result, they are filing an amended petition which will trigger a new meeting date,” he said.

The petition is expected to be through the Planning Commission and on the City Council’s plate by Jan. 6.

Meters vandalized all over town

Late last week, Durango’s parking meters suffered a serious blow when glue was injected into 155 separate meters. Assistant City Manager Greg Caton said that the vandalism, which took place late Thursday evening, cost the city in the neighborhood of $4,000.

“At this point, we’re estimating damage of over $4,000 and that also includes staff time, cleaning supplies and replacement parts and estimated loss in revenue,” Caton said.

The city had to replace sensors in numerous meters and more than 13 employees worked on Friday and Saturday to fix the problem. Caton said that by 1 p.m. on Saturday, most of the meters were operational. However, some additional damaged meters were found on Monday.

Caton said that the city believes that the incident was no more than vandalism.

“We believe that this was just a random act of vandalism that was quite costly and interruptive for city operations,” he said. “The police are currently investigating it at this point. I have not heard any additional updates or information.”

LPEA decides against election recount

The results of La Plata Electric Association’s September election were challenged recently. Last Wednesday, Nov. 19, the electrical cooperative’s board considered whether to begin a recount and instead decided to stand behind the original tally.

Charges were filed that only 5,186 votes were tallied even though 5,236 were received, and that security for the election was lacking. The numbers could be particularly vital in the case of incumbent Herb Brodsky who won re-election by only six votes over Thorn Mayes. LPEA spokesperson David Waller said that the board carefully weighed its options.

“The decision on whether or not to grant Thorn Mayes a recount was delayed so the board could thoroughly study the election procedures and the actions of LPEA staff in conducting the election,” he said.

Waller said that the board eventually came to the conclusion that the original count was accurate.

“After careful scrutiny the board concluded that the LPEA staff indeed acted properly and fairly and that the election results were valid,” he said. “They determined that a recount would only incur further expenses to LPEA and its members without guaranteeing a more accurate tally.”

Waller said that state-of-the-art counting machines were used to speed the election and get a more accurate count. He added that the ballots that were not counted had not been filled out correctly.

Drought assistance for local farmers

U. S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman has approved a request from Colorado Gov. Bill Owens for drought assistance for farmers and ranchers in the majority of Colorado’s counties. The federal Disaster Declaration affects 43 Colorado counties where damage assessments have shown substantial production losses to crops and livestock forage as a result of the continuing drought.

The federal designation makes farm and ranch operators in the affected counties eligible for low interest emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency.A0It also gives the state USDA Farm Service Agency the ability to permit farmers and ranchers to use Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands for haying and grazing.

La Plata County joined 25 other counties throughout the state in being designated a primary natural disaster area. Seventeen other counties were named contiguous disaster areas.

Farmers and ranchers are encouraged to contact their local USDA Farm Service Agency office.

- compiled by Will Sands





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