CENTER— Two Center police officers received awards for their initiative in pursuing a murder investigation, first believed to be a simple hit and run death, during the Center Town Board meeting Tuesday.
Officers Aaron Fresquez and Joseph Ruybal were working without direct supervision following the departure of Saguache Undersheriff James McCloskey as interim Center police chief at the time the investigation was conducted. The Colorado State Patrol and Colorado Bureau of Investigation were assisting the officers, but new Chief Dale Meek pointed out that the two officers were the ones who did most of the legwork.
“These two officers went above and beyond,” Meek told the board. “These officers spent excessive time away from their families and it led to the arrest of a murder suspect; justice was done.”
Meek then delivered his police report to the board, noting that thefts were down in August with only two reported. He praised the community for their efforts to help locate a missing six-year-old girl. “Two dozen people, not police officers, went door to door looking for this little girl, and that was the real story,” he said. She was later found safe with her grandmother.
Meek also told the board Center’s downtown bar needs security personnel and has been advised of this. Mayor Herman Sisneros told Meek that there are also other issues the town needs to address with the bar owner.
During the meeting, the board approved Meek’s contract with the town and also approved nearly $70,000 for the purchase and transport of police cars.
Utility Director David Mahaffie advised the board that a water meter walk-through is scheduled for Sept. 19 and meter installation will begin on Sept. 23. Notices will be placed on the doors of residents whose water will be affected by the installation ahead of time, he said. Mahaffie estimated between 10-20 meters will be installed each day.
He also told the board he has given out quite a few water citations lately and noted watering restrictions will end Oct. 15. This year the town has reduced its water usage by 25 million gallons, he reported, and the board congratulated him on achieving that goal.
One last bore needs to be made at Broadway and Second “over to Curtis Gage’s old place” and the boring will be finished, he said. Mahaffie also told the board he has completed his assay of the various trees for the town’s tree code and they are ready for trustees to consider.
Town Manager Brian Lujan told trustees he has asked former election official Judy Egbert to run Center’s upcoming April election in 2020. Egbert has run Center elections in the past and last year put together Center’s procedure book.
Lujan said his goal is to make Center self-sufficient when it comes to elections and encouraged trustees to engage Egbert now in order to ensure she will be able to assist the town. Assistant Town Clerk Rose DeHerrera said she is comfortable running the election if Egbert can assist.
Both Lujan and DeHerrera will be attending election training prior to the April election.
Veterans wall dedication
Trustee Bill McClure told the board he has asked John Glass with Valley Monument to be the guest of honor at the dedication of Center’s Veterans Wall Nov. 11 and Glass has accepted. Glass did much of the work on the wall at reduced cost.
Chains will need to be placed around the wall to discourage children from climbing on and over it and some names will need to be added to the wall before the November ceremony.
A town resident who says he intends to rent out an RV on two lots he purchased within the town but is currently living on the space until he can complete some improvements came before the board to ask permission to stay on the property until his finishes his improvements.
Mahaffie told the town they have ordinances for mobile homes but no town ordinances that cover recreational vehicles. The man was given a permit but trustees were unsure how to proceed without an ordinance in place. The board approved a 60-day moratorium on the RV, allowing occupancy, until they can hold a work session to discuss an RV ordinance.
Lujan requested $1,750 in funds from the town to contribute to SLV Transit, the transportation firm running shuttles to Alamosa, Salida and other Valley locations. Other Valley towns will also kick in funds to continue the shuttle service.
Lujan also requested that the town help out with fundraisers to reduce Chaffee County’s portion of the shuttle expenses, which is $10,000. Eventually, Lujan said, the town should consider purchasing its own bus and a back-up bus. The board approved the funding request.
School speed limit
A lively discussion over the speed limit posted at Center Schools followed. Trustee Bill McClure said he is receiving complaints from truck drivers and citizens about the school’s 15 MPH school zone limit because it is an inconvenience, especially for truck drivers during harvest. Trustee James Sanchez noted the town had agreed earlier that the speed limit needed to be increased to 25 MPH during school hours.
Other town’s school speeding limits are 25 MPH, Sanchez said.
Sanchez and Bill McClure protested that the lower speed limit could hurt attracting businesses to the town and Trustees Mary McClure and Adeline Sanchez said the safety of the children should take precedence. Sanchez and Bill McClure motioned to set the speed limit at 15 MPH only from 6:45 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., and up the speed limit the rest of the day to 25 MPH. The vote was four to two in favor of the change.
Chief Meek suggested that a flashing pedestrian crossing light also be placed at Broadway and Highway 112 for school children and at the other end of the school zone.