CENTER — Center Town Administrator Brian Lujan welcomed Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) Representative Christi Culp to the town board meeting Tuesday after inviting her to help the town better organize its finances.
Culp told the board Lujan asked her to offer “some budget guidance to make sure Center is operating according to state statutes.” She recommended the town initiate strategic planning to help with this process. She also told the board DOLA does research for local governments and offers free financial assistance.
Towns must ask for the assistance and DOLA can then help them organize their finances for up to a year, but there is no contract, she said. The process is completely voluntary, Culp noted, and helps establish best practices for communities.
The town said it would consider the matter and let Culp know.
Newly appointed Saguache County Emergency Management Director Bobby Woelz brought a state disaster mitigation plan for Center to look over. Woelz was appointed to replace former emergency management director Jim Felmlee.
Woelz asked the board to review the plan and County Attorney Mike Trujillo said he and the board would look it over. The plan addresses how the state will respond to natural disasters such as floods, tornadoes, earthquakes and wildfires. It also addresses manmade disasters.
A Conejos County disaster plan representative told the board disaster planners could help warehouses and businesses in the area dealing with volatile chemicals make a disaster plan and set up committees to police the businesses. He invited members of the community to consider serving on such a committee.
Trustee Pedro Segura expressed concern that so many chemical plants are located in the area, commenting, “I don’t know another town surrounded by so many chemicals. I don’t think some of them are in compliance.”
Woelz asked the board to review the material at their earliest convenience to meet a March 4 deadline. The board agreed to review it at their February meeting.
Town of Saguache police assistance request
Interim Saguache Town Administrator Brandy Reitter and Saguache Town Clerk Iris Garcia visited with trustees and Lujan regarding the Town of Saguache’s request for police coverage from Center. The issue was discussed further last week after first being raised at the Jan. 9 meeting.
Lujan assured the board that any agreement with Saguache would be based on 100 percent coverage by Saguache of the officer’s salary, fuel, medical insurance and compensation for use of the town’s older police vehicles. The officer would be paid $22.14 an hour for a 34-hour work week. He would be available to Center for the other six hours.
Concerns were raided by the board that taking an officer from Center would hurt the town’s police coverage, but Lujan explained an extra officer just to serve Saguache would be hired by the town. Reitter told the board that if it ever came to where the town would be hurt in the event an officer quit and the Saguache officer had to fill in, Saguache would readily surrender its officer until a replacement could be found.
All this could be worked out via the intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between the two towns, she said. Similar agreements have worked well for years in other counties, Reitter added.
Town Attorney Mike Trujillo said he had reservations regarding liability should anything happen, noting both towns could be held liable. He also asked how Center police would supervise the officer and keep track of his activities.
Reitter said basically Saguache would compensate Center in any way necessary in putting together the IGA and Lujan said the town could address problems and make adjustments as they go. “There is always going to be that ‘what if’ factor,” he told the board.
Trujillo suggested both parties consult with their towns common insurance carrier, CIRSA, about the liability issues and contact counties who are already sharing an officer. The board agreed to consider the matter further.