CENTER — Dale Eugene (Gene) Meek was sworn in as Center’s new police chief during a Center Town Board meeting Tuesday with his wife, son and one of the officers from Santa Fe, N.M. where he previously served in attendance at the meeting.
Meek gave a brief speech following his swearing-in, explaining that while police work was not his first career choice, it is the work he loves. “I bring a lot of passion to this job,” he told Center trustees and town staff. “I take this job seriously when it comes to public safety. I am happy and privileged to be here.”
Meek said Center reminds him of his hometown in Lake City, Ky., “just a one-stoplight town. My graduating class was only 101.” He told the board he has already begun work on a grant to obtain equipment and training for dispatchers and officers. He also has established a Facebook page to keep town residents informed about police activity in the town and is working with the schools.
Aaron Fresquez, in charge of the police department prior to Meek’s hiring, told the board he also is working on grants. There have been no more break-ins, he reported, and the department is still being assisted by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to help track down the hit and run driver responsible for the death a Center resident.
Iconergy workers are currently mapping out streets and collecting the information necessary to begin installing the water meters, an Iconergy representative told the board. The crew is also noting the condition of town streets for water line placement and for purposes of future remediation. Next month building officials also will estimate the replacement value for town buildings and look over the past several years of town audits.
Utility director David Mahaffie announced the water meter installation will begin Sept. 15 and end in November, with crews installing about 20 meters a day for a total of 800. Meters will be installed between property lines and the town’s right of way, not next to residences as in the past. Residents will be notified when the town begins to install meters on their block.
Mahaffie said utility workers will hang signs on doorknobs ahead of schedule, listing the date and times the water will be shut off. Worker hours will run from 7:30 to 5 p.m. each day, he said, but water probably won’t be shut off until about 9:30 a.m. Mahaffie said his department “will try to accommodate everybody.”
Ditch odor issues
Brian Lujan told trustees he is currently looking for a maintenance man who holds licenses necessary to perform the required water and other inspections, but is trying to keep the salary at an affordable level for the town. He reported that the odor from the ditch running along Highway 112 is bad, noting that Idaho Pacific (IP), who dumps potato waste water into the ditch, is having trouble cleaning up the ditch itself and the odor it produces because of recent rains.
In the past IP has treated the ditch wager with chemicals to eliminate the odor from algae that grows in the ditch and is preparing to treat it again in the near future. Lujan noted a lot of the smell from the ditch comes from weeds falling into the water that prevent the ditch from draining into the ground properly.
The Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) is complaining about the ongoing ditch issue and Lujan said the odor level is “just below the limit” enforced by CDPHE. IP had a problem regulating water in the ditches because treatment procedures that were said to be in place to treat the potato waste, including ultraviolet treatment, are not being used as the company indicated would be the case when the plant was recently updated.
Lujan observed that this is not the first time IP has been on CDPHE’s radar, commenting the company could be fined for the violations.
Lujan said a recent Downtown Colorado meeting in Alamosa went very well and the town is preparing to work with the school and other organizations to involve young entrepreneurs in a contest to create a new mock business in the town. The old pharmacy building will be used as the staging area for proposed business set ups.
Those proposing the best business ideas will win a $500 prize for first place, a $300 prize for second place and a $200 prize for third place. The funding award was provided by Downtown Colorado. Lujan said Downtown Colorado officials were amazed the town has a 90-care parcel (Consaul property) to develop, adding he is excited about all the possibilities for the town.
Lujan also gave an update on the progress of the Frontier Drive-in project, held up by code difficulties encountered in Rio Grande County. The project is now moving forward, he said, and the developers hope to have it completed by next spring. The complex will serve as a corporate retreat center, a place to screen films and documentaries and a community center equipped with cooking facilities for weddings, reunions, seminars, presentations and other get-togethers.
The veterans wall is now in place at Casa Blanca Park and trustee Bill McClure told the board they owe a big thank you to John Glass for completing the work, much of it at no cost. The town passed a resolution to hold a dedication ceremony for the wall on Nov. 11, Veterans Day, this year. McClure said Glass will be a guest of honor at the ceremony.