by Bill Knowles
TRINIDAD/RATON — With an increase in the bond debt carried by Raton, New Mexico, and Trinidad, Colorado, the two cities took different paths to solve the rising utility rates demanded by the Arkansas River Power Authority (ARPA).
The tale of the two cities began to diverge in 2008 when Raton filed suit against ARPA while Trinidad continued to work with the company.
In 2004, the City of Raton learned of new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations governing pollution caused by the use of coal in the generation of electrical power. In Raton, ARPA operated a coal fired power plant that was 78 years old and scheduled to be shut down around the same time a newly converted ARPA plant in Lamar, Colorado, was to be fired up. The City of Raton was skeptical that the conversion of the Lamar plant from gas to coal was a good idea.
In 2008 Raton city officials filed a federal lawsuit against ARPA, seeking to limit the city’s financial liability regarding ARPA’s Lamar Repowering Project which the city opposed after initially – and reluctantly – approving it with a smaller budget than the $110 million cost it had reached.
Raton successfully withdrew from ARPA following a dispute around the city’s contention that it did not authorize additional cost increases above the original bond issuance of $86 million in 2006. The city contended since it did not approve the issuance of additional bonds for the project, the city should not be responsible for cost overruns, according to a report in the Lamar Ledger in 2012.
A test of the new boiler in Lamar in 2011 caused it to explode. As of press time, ARPA has yet to generate one kilowatt of power from the Lamar Power Plant.
The City of Trinidad filed a breach of contract rescission, and impracticability of performance in 2010. In the suit, Trinidad claimed ARPA did not file a written notice to Trinidad or other member municipalities of their intent to commit funds for the Lamar Repowering Project (LRP) for the Series 2010 Bonds for $17,260,000.
ARPA argued that under the contract, APRA was authorized to fully provide funds for the project through the issuance of bonds without seeking additional member municipality approval. APRA also claimed Trinidad did approve the 2010 Series Bonds and Trinidad should equally be stopped from arguing that ARPA failed to obtain additional approvals.
Third Judicial District Judge Leslie Gerbracht ruled in October 2013 that ARPA was in breach of its obligations to Trinidad, thus granting the partial summary judgment for Trinidad’s first claim for relief.
Raton signed an agreement with Enserco Energy which began in January, 2013. Then in September 2013, Raton changed utility providers, switching to Twin Eagle Resource Management headquartered in Houston, Texas.
Currently, Trinidad and five other municipalities, Holly, La Junta, Lamar, Las Animas, and Springfield, are bearing the burden of about $145 million in debt, according to Trinidad City Council member Michelle Miles. That means rate payers in Trinidad are seeing 3.8 cents per kilowatt hour used by the customer out of their electric bills being applied to the bond debt. In other words, 3.8 percent of the total bill paid by each customer goes to pay bond debt for the defunct power plant in Lamar.
Raton however, is purchasing power with a secured rate contract resulting in rates below those charged in the cities that are part of ARPA.
Archive for: October 2015
by Bill Knowles
by Colette Armijo
RATON — On Thursday October 22, 2015, New Mexico State University’s (NMSU) Academy of Civil, Agricultural and Geological Engineering (CAGE) will initiate 2015’s few select members. CAGE was formed to serve as a multipurpose liaison between the University’s Department and Engineering professionals. The academy is action oriented and aids in developing support for engineering within NMSU, across the state of New Mexico, as well as the entire nation.
When Karen Stearns transferred to NMSU after falling in love with the beauty of New Mexico’s landscape, little did she know that her path would be led to being initiated into the prestigious CAGE Academy. Born and raised in Chicago, she attended an all-girl Catholic High School. In her senior year, her love of math and science prompted one of her teachers to encourage her to attend a ‘Women in Science & Engineering’ seminar. Following the three day seminar, Stearns felt compelled to embark upon her journey to become a Civil Engineer. First she had to make her way through her Bachelors in Science at NMSU learning the fundamentals of engineering and four years of work experience under a licensed Civil Engineer, which all culminated with the engineering application process and a day long examination.
Throughout her career, Stearns has worked in various fields. Evaluating facilities for safety system compliance, designing residential and commercial developments, floodplain mapping, and 39 miles of widening US70 through the Hondo Valley are just some of the high points of her career. She is able to now look back at the importance of having strong mentors to guide her along her journey. Mentorship is something she feels passionately about, especially in this field which requires experience and skill. This passion has always led her towards hiring engineers who are straight out of school so they too can have the opportunity at practical experience. She recently hired a young high school graduate who is aspiring to be a construction technician.
Having worked across New Mexico in places such as Albuquerque and Los Alamos, Stearns made her way one year ago to the peaceful town of Raton. Stearns and her husband purchased one of the historic buildings in Raton, making it their home as well as a haven for their other interests. This building houses Stearn’s engineering consulting firm, Engineering Analytics, and Colfax Ale Cellar, the couple’s microbrewery which consumes all and any of Stearn’s spare time.
Stearns continues to be in awe of New Mexico’s natural beauty and enjoys regular walks and hikes with her husband and their dog, Pippin. Walking through Downtown Raton, a hike through Sugarite Canyon, or a scenic trip to Goat Hill are all in the top running as Stearn’s favorite experiences in Raton.
by Colette M. Armijo
RATON — October 19-23, 2015 has been declared “Raton Professional Business Women’s Week”. Citizens of Raton will join in to salute working women, encouraging and promoting a celebration and acknowledgement of all their achievements. During this week, business and professional women will be honored for their daily contributions to the community’s economic, civic and cultural well being. This week has also been declared “New Mexico Business Women’s Week” by the Honorable Suzanna Martinez, Governor of the State of New Mexico.
On October 13, 2015, members of the Raton Chapter of the Professional Business Women New Mexico (PBWNM received a proclamation signed by Mayor pro-tem of Raton James Neil Segotta Jr. The proclamation highlighted the continued efforts and initiatives coordinated by the group which was initially started in 1928. Interestingly, it also identified that women constitute over 52% of New Mexico’s workforce and that women-owned business account for 31.7% of all New Mexico’s companies.
PBWNM continues to adopt a legislative platform that supports women in all stages of their lives and with equality under the law, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, physical abilities, or class. PBWNM proudly improves the lives of women throughout the state of New Mexico by sponsoring programs, promoting leadership, communication, negotiation, and many other skills needed by women for their success.
PBWNM takes this opportunity to urge all women across New Mexico, and nationwide, to recognize their own power, especially to make a difference in their own lives by exercising their right to vote.
Las Animas County receives 2014 audit report Audit finds LAC in compliance with federal and state accounting law
by Bill Knowles
TRINIDAD — The Las Animas County Board of County Commissioners, during a regular meeting on October 22, received the 2014 fiscal year audit report from the county’s auditing firm Dixon, Waller and Company.
The report looked across the entire spectrum of financial activity conducted by the county and gave its operation for 2014 the green light. The firm did not identify any deficiencies in internal control, the county’s use of taxpayer revenues, or government funding that could be considered a material weakness.
The county was also found to be free from material misstatements. Several tests of its compliance with certain provisions of laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements were performed during the audit to determine the county’s compliance with government auditing standards.
Deficiencies exist when the design or operation of a control does not allow management or employees, in the normal course of performing their assigned work, to prevent, or detect and correct misstatement on a timely basis. Deficiencies can lead to material weaknesses, which are broken down in internal control “to the degree that the possibility of a material misstatement of the county’s financial statements will not be prevented, or detected and corrected on a timely basis.”
Compliance for each major federal program the county administers was also found to be in line with government regulations for the use of federal funds. The major programs the Department of Human Services in Las Animas County administers are the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) funded at $794,000, the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) funded at $580,000, the Foster Care program under Title IV-E funded at $252,000, and the Title XIX Medicaid program funded at $226,000.
The county’s investment rating on money market funds is AAA. The Government National Mortgage Association (Ginne Mae) carries the backing of the U.S. Government, as does the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) which is also rated senior to AAA by Standard and Poors.
In other business, the county commission approved with a 3-0 vote the renewal of a liquor license for the Ludlow Valley Liquor store in Trinidad. They also approved the payment of bills and payroll for the first half of October 2015.
The commissioners went into executive session at 10 am. When they came out of the session no further actions were taken. They adjourned shortly after.
Everything got done that needed to be done
by Bill Knowles
TRINIDAD — The shortest city council meeting of the year, lasting just 18 minutes and 21 seconds, showed the Trinidad City Council does indeed know what brevity is. Even with two council members, Anthony Mattie and Liz Torres, absent, voting on action items and approval items such as the approval of the minutes from the Oct. 6, 2015 meeting moved quickly.
The longest portion of the meeting came when City Administrator Gabriel Engeland read a letter from businessman Sean Sheridan.
In the letter, Sheridan argued his “pot mini mall” business should be allowed to proceed, because he received his Conditional Use Permit (CUP) last July. At the time, city code permitted the establishment of multiple retail outlets (mini mall) in a single building. It was not until the passage of Ordinance 1900 in September 2015 that the pot mini-mall model became illegal. Because he received approval for multiple outlets prior to the passage of Ordinance 1900, his business and properties should be “grandfathered” in under a legal non-conforming status, in according to city code.
Section 14-04 of the code states: “Certain uses of land and buildings may be found to be in existence at the time of passage of the Zoning Ordinance which do not meet the requirements as set forth herein. It is the intent of this Section to allow the continuance of such nonconforming use…”
Accordingly, this would allow for Sheridan’s properties to be “grandfathered” in. Under city definition, “grandfathered” is legal non-conformance, or a property that at one time conformed to city codes but currently doesn’t because of rule change or regulation change. The rule change that brought Sheridan’s buildings into non-conformity was Ordinance 1900.
The city passed an ordinance, 5-0, on second reading, to change the zoning of a business at 1133 N. Linden Avenue, in Trinidad from established-low density residential to established neighborhood services.
The city also renewed, with a 5-0 vote, the city’s health insurance coverage for 2016.
The city voted 5-0 to go into executive session at 7:17 pm. It adjourned shortly after they came out of the session with no action taken by the city council.
Mary C. Gonzales, passed away at Mt. San Rafael Hospital on October 26, 2015 at the age of 95.
Survivors include sons John (Betty) Gonzales, Trinidad CO, Jim (Antoinette) Gonzales, Denver, CO, Pat Gonzales (Ron Pouncey) Denver, CO, and numerous other relatives.
Services will be held in Denver, CO, with interment at Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Wheatridge, CO.
Local arrangements made under direction of Comi Funeral Home.
K12/15 MUST SELL 40FT COUNTRY AIR 5TH WHEEL. REDUCED: $1300.00 FIRM. MAY BE SEEN AT 441 JEFFERSON, RATON.
In partnership with the State of New Mexico, the University of New Mexico Family Development Program invites leaders from all different sectors in the community who are interested in working collaboratively to make a positive impact on the well-being of children to join the Raton Early Childhood Coalition. Anyone interested should attend the informational meeting at the Isabel Castillo Performing Arts Center building on Thursday, November 5th at 6:30 pm.
Coalition members will be asked to:
- make a commitment to meet on a monthly basis
- develop a shared vision for change that includes a common understanding of issues and problems in the Raton community
- create effective solutions through action
- participate in the Mind in the Making series of learning opportunities to be presented at convention Center
- engage in collaborative leadership practices with the support of the UNM Family Development Program and the Collaborative Leadership toolkit
Please RSVP by calling the GrowRaton! office at (575) 245-4769 or send an email to: GROWRATON@RATONNM.US
Alice Mae Mandril-Johnson
Born: December 12, 1921
Died: October 11, 2015
Alice Mae Mandril-Johnson 93, passed peacefully in her own home on Oct. 11, 2015.
She was proceeded in death by her husband, Fred W. Johnson, her parents, and her siblings. Survivors include her daughters Jolene Cassa (Richard) Granier, Laurie (Larry) Drefke, Grand daughter, Ashley (Tyler) Sanchez and Grandson, Deon Drefke, Great grand daughters, Madison Alice and Lucy Mae.
Alice was a feisty little Italian lady that did everything to perfection and expected everyone else to do the same. She never asked you to do more than she did but she expected you to do your best. Born on December 12, 1921 in the small mining camp of Sopris, Colorado to Batista Mandrille and Saverina Bolario, Italian immigrants who came to America in 1903. Grammy, as we called her, was the youngest of seven, four brothers and two sisters. The family lived in a four room house without plumbing or heating built by her father and other immigrants. Naturally, it had a wine cellar. Her father was a coal miner and her mother a seamstress and homemaker. Lincoln High School Panthers was her alma mater where she was extremely athletic and competitive. She had to be with four older brothers. Her sport was basketball and she played in the AAU tournament in Omaha, Nebraska. Later she became a softball player and a bowler carrying a 160 average and throwing a 16 lb bowling ball. Her reputation of being the best ballroom dancer spread to the other mining camps.
At the age of 14 her mother was diagnosed with sugar diabetes. Grammy became the matriarch of the family, carrying for her parents. This began her life time calling of being a care giver. In 1941, she became engaged to Joe S. Cassa, son of Mary and Pete Cassa. She was suppose to marry in June of that year but her mother passed in March and according to Italian tradition, the family had to mourn for six months. She and her sisters wore black clothing the entire time. Grammy promised her mother that she would always take care of her father. Poppy, as we called him, and Grammy were never separated until he passed. Her daughter Jolene was born and her new husband went off to war. She was 21 years old, alone with a new baby and her father.
In 1949, the family moved to Denver. Joe with her brother, Chuck, opened the Standard Oil Filling Station on the corner of 38th and Sheridan, a land mark in the community. The business became Casman Automotive and is still in the family, run by her nephew, and his sons.
In 1956, her second daughter, Laurie was born. The family prospered and she always gave thanks for her family and home.
In 1978, Alice and Fred W. Johnson, aka “Fredo” were married and enjoyed traveling and sharing their love of family until he passed in 1987. She continued her caring for loved ones shortly after when her older sister moved to Denver to live with her. Alice and her big sister, Margaret, enjoyed years of taking care of grandchildren, preparing marvelous meals for the family and simply being together. After her sisters passing, Alice’s dear sister-in-law of 50 years also passed, leaving a beloved brother-in-law, George Cassa, alone and in need of care. Again, Alice fulfilled her desire to care for family encouraging George to live in her loving house. They, too, spent many years sharing their love for family, and eating out! A lot! Our Beloved Uncle George passed in 2014, leaving Alice and the entire family with many treasured memories and love.
Although Grammy was her favorite nick name, she had many others: Big Al, Al,” A”, Alma, Allie, Barney, The GodMother, Grand-Ma, and Grandbo. Her humor was contagious and spread to other family members.
Grammy, as most called her, was a role model for our large Italian family. She was devoted to God, Family and her home. Her legacy will be her fabulous Italian cooking including ravioli, each one stuffed and cut by hand. Grammy loved roses and cared for them as gently as she cared for her family. She was strict with high expectations but always fair and wise. As her daughters, she knew what we were going to do before we did, especially if it was trouble.
A Memorial Mass was held Friday, October 23, 2015 at Spirit of Christ Catholic Church, 7400 W 80th Ave, Arvada, 80003. Inurnment followed at Mt. Olivet Cemetery, 12801 W. 44th Avenue in Wheat Ridge. As we say “good bye” to our mother, grandmother, great grandmother and aunt, we know she will be the matriarch of our memories,and always in our hearts.