Saguache Commissioners field requests, discuss options


SAGUACHE — Department heads provided updates for Saguache County Commissioners during their regular meeting on Feb. 16, and representatives from Center previewed plans to annex 92 acres. 

Center Town Administrator Brian Lujan delivered an annexation impact study before the meeting to see if it raised issues with the commissioners. The expansion efforts started when Center acquired property north of town in 2007. Last year, Lujan asked if the commissioners would waive an impact study for the project. His request denied, Lujan returned with an impact assessment for preliminary review to identify roadblocks “prior to our petition for annexation.”  

Although the board expressed no immediate concerns, they agreed to provide extensive feedback before the Center Town Board meeting on Feb. 23. 

During the morning portion of the meeting, Housing Authority Director Evan Samora asked for approval to continue participating in Colorado’s Property Owner Preservation Program. A tenant whose income dropped as a result of COVID-19 can request payment coverage for rent. Samora added that only one tenant sought help through social services, and only three people approached him for rent assistance during 2020.  

The board approved Samora’s application process, which extends participation in the program beyond June 30. Samora also received approval for new equipment to maintain lawns at the county’s two properties.  

County Attorney Ben Gibbons addressed legal options for blight issues. Forcing property owners to clean sites becomes a bigger problem if higher courts don’t support legal challenges. Commissioners expressed interest in meeting the new District Attorney, Alonzo Payne, to get acquainted. Saguache County directs $120,000 a year to the DA’s office. 

Road and Bridge Supervisor Randy Arredondo discussed offering a Free Dump Day for residents, considering it was cancelled in 2020. Commissioners suggested stretching it out over a few days, one during the week and one on the weekend. Targeting Earth Day on April 22, they discussed communications in advance to guide residents. For example, if they separate burn items like unpainted wood, it will save space. 

Arredondo also described road signage projects on county roads in the KV Estates subdivision. The county is responsible for marking county roads, yet they will work with municipalities to streamline the process. 

County Treasurer Connie Trujillo provided an update on foreclosures in the county. During a typical year, she would see 15 to 17 foreclosures, although it has been as high as 30. But in 2020, the county only had five. County Attorney Gibbons said he anticipated an increase, recalling a backlog of foreclosures that hit together in 2008. 

In the afternoon, the board approved four land-use issues. Land Use Administrator Amber Wilson presented business ownership changes, compliance mitigation and a lot swap for a trade with no deed. 

Commissioners announced ending Zoom connections for their meetings. But after discussing the issue, they agreed to continue the process for the foreseeable future as COVID-19 continues. Although attending via Zoom saves gas for some participants, commissioners shared concerns about county employees attending online instead of in-person at the courthouse. Online access allows employees to complete other tasks during the meeting while working from their offices. Yet they can’t do other work in the meeting room. While they weigh pros and cons, commissioners agreed to ask Zoom participants to identify themselves when they join the meeting. 

Commissioners scheduled working sessions for next week and interviews with candidates for the open County Attorney and Social Services Director positions. 

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