Saguache Town Election Heads Into Home Stretch
With the Town of Saguache April 5 Election one week away, it’s time for a political roundup report. Since the beginning of the year, Trustee and Mayoral candidates, as well as ballot initiative advocates have been hot on the campaign trail listening to voters, and trying to tally votes in their favor.
Saguache Today contributors Lynn Nowikowski and Kathy Bedell were there to cover the Meet The Candidates events and informational session leading up to next Tuesday’s April 5 Election. In addition, Saguache Today will report the election results live as they come in, letting voters know the outcome right away!
Meet the Candidates for Town Trustees, Mayor
By Lynn Nowikowski , © Saguache Today Contributor
At the Meet The Candidates Forum on March 5 there were approximately 50 residents in attendance. Saguache Board Trustee Kate Vasnu stated she was glad to see the largest turnout of voters since she has been a member of the board. She said that in past elections, the voter interest was so low, that the board was called on to appoint some members.
The two “Meet The Candidates” events were sponsored by the Saguache Chamber of Commerce and the Friends of the Saguache Public Library. The events gave candidates for Town Trustees as well as the Mayor of Saguache an opportunity to describer their background, qualifications and reasons they were running for office. Saguache Today was there to report their announcements and also gave candidates not able to attend the forum the same opportunity to state their case to voters.
So, it’s time to Meet Your Candidates! First, up are the Town Trustee Candidates. The top four – out of five – vote-getters will fill the four open Trustee positions. According to the Town of Saguache website, some of those terms are for two years, and some are for four years. Officers can serve a total eight consecutive years. Municipal elections are non-partisan.
Amber Wilson – Amber Wilson, the youngest of our trustee hopefuls, is very active in the community. She is a county employee and works in the Land Use Office. Amber is currently active with The Saguache Marijuana Initiative, and enjoys being able to help her home town. When asked about how much time she would be able to devote as trustee, she indicated that she was willing to give as much as was needed, that Saguache is very important to her.
June Savage (submitted by candidate) – As a current member of the Town Board of Trustees I am eager to continue the momentum we have gained in the direction of infrastructure repair and improvements. The opportunities for project funding are available and key to acquiring that funding is the hiring of a Town Administrator/grant writer who would oversee the projects, make timely and thorough reports to the funders and keep the Board well informed of project progress. My main interests are interacting with the County Board of Commissioners on important issues that concern the town – law enforcement, the use of our air field and water law are a few on my list. I look forward to helping make the future Saguache a healthy, desirable home for our next generation and beyond.
Loren Aldrich – Loren Aldrich is new to the community. Previously from the small town of Vanmeter Iowa, he brings previous board experience to the table. Loren served on the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Council in Dallas County Iowa. One of his duties there was to oversee the distribution of funds to various community organizations. Loren sees a pressing need to develop the town economically as he has personally been impacted by the effects of the recent low oil prices. His present employer, Power Zone Equipment near Center, is dependent on this volatile market. He would like to help Saguache to focus on bringing businesses and small-scale industry to the area providing jobs and revenue for the future success of our town.
- Town resident for approximately 40 years.
- Trustee for the Town of Saguache in 9/82 – 3/88.
- Retired from the Forest Service in 8/12.
- Career spanned 25 years with the Forest Service and the National Park Service, which involved overseeing non-recreational special uses program, lands programs, minerals/oil/gas and overseeing large budgets.
- Prior work experience in the private sector involved -, banking agricultural loan department, real estate title examiner, legal administrative assistant and clerk/bailiff in the District/County Courts.
I am running for Trustee for Town of Saguache because I feel very strongly about working with the residents of Saguache to help make this the best place to live and work. Areas that I believe need to be focused on are:
- Public Safety.
- Upgrading/maintaining of sewer facilities/systems.
- Water Issues.
- Encouraging and promoting businesses in the Saguache area.
- To objectively review requests presented to the board.
- Coordinating with other local and state government agencies.
Susan Collins – (submitted by candidate). My name is Susan Collins; I was born in Del Norte, Colorado. I was raised on the family ranch, in the Cochetopa Valley in Saguache County. This is where I learned family values, morals and work ethics that shaped me into the woman I am today. I graduated from Gunnison high school in Gunnison, Colorado. This is where my interest in art continued to grow. My hobbies being active in 4-H. Where I showed horses in the open horse shows. Some of my other interests as well were livestock judging and cooking. I was also an active member in FHA, FFA and FBLA during my high school years.
Upon graduating from Gunnison high school, I worked for the Gunnison School District Transportation Department. While also working for a trucking company. In 1998 I moved to Collbaran, Colorado and worked for the United States Forest Service part time and the Plateau Valley School. From 2000 I have worked for the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office and Alpine Veterinary Hospital in Monte Vista, Colorado. I worked as a receptionist and a veterinary tech for 2 years.
I am currently still employed with the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office as a communications officer. Serving the Northern Saguache County Districts, in fire, ambulance, search and rescue including emergency calls for this area and all other law enforcement services. My job as a detention officer includes monitoring the incarceration of inmates, during the judicial process. Keeping and entering records that go through the state and federal system. Some outside activities I enjoy are riding horses, 4 wheeling, snowmobiling, fishing, hunting, hiking, cooking, gardening and time with my family.
My life and work experiences will serve the community well in the position of Trustee. I am running for Public Trustee to serve our community using my job knowledge and experiences to help guide our community in a positive direction. I believe it takes the entire board to make important decisions for the town of Saguache. Together, we can all make a difference for the community that we all share and love. I will listen and respect the citizens and voice your concerns to the board.
Candidates for Mayor of Saguache
The following list of candidates was acquired from the Town’s Clerk and Recorder office, although the actual ballot may list the candidates in a different order:
Greg Terrell (Incumbent) – Greg Terrell would like to continue as Mayor. Greg replaced previous Mayor, Tony Sandoval, when Sandoval was unable to fulfill his office due to illness. Greg and the current board have been addressing the town’s antiquated infrastructure. He believes the most pressing issue facing Saguache Today is water. He and the board are currently researching to find the best possible solution in terms of cost and implementation that will insure that Saguache’s water supply will be able to meet the needs and budget of the users and fulfill the requirements of the State of Colorado.
Janice Torrez – Janice has been managing the Alta Gas station on hwy 285 for over 25 years. She thinks she would be a good fit for Mayor because her ability to oversee daily operations of one of the town’s fastest paced businesses, her skills at keeping on task, and her familiarity with the town’s residents would help to bring the community’s concerns as well as strengths to the table. She would like to find a comfortable balance between the town’s desire to remain as it has always been and it’s need to consider and implement changes that will most benefit the future for citizens of Saguache.
Dwayne Jett – Dwayne Jett is running for Mayor. He feels he can bring much needed revenue to the area by focusing on the Vista Grande Recreational Area development. Having been in the rodeo and entertainment business has provided him with contacts he can utilize to book engagements that will draw tourist dollars. He is interested in revitalizing Saguache for the sake of his kids and grandkids as well as the community. The Jett’s have been in Saguache County for many years. When his children were growing up, he organized and ran a rodeo ring on his ranch in Villa Grove allowing the local teenagers a place to learn and practice the various skills necessary to become successful ranchers.
David Chavez is the other candidate running for Mayor. His statement and photo will be added to this report when it is received.
Saguache Today will be reporting the April 5 elections results live as they become available from the Town Clerk. For additional information about the Town of Saguache elections, call the Town Clerk’s Office, 719-655-2232, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Saguache Town Hall is located at 504 San Juan Avenue.
Residents to Vote on Tax Increase for Law Enforcement
By Kathy Bedell © Saguache Today
“You’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem,” stated Saguache County Sheriff Dan Warwick at a special work session with Town of Saguache Trustees and residents on January 21.
More than 30 residents attended the meeting to address growing concerns over an increase in criminal activity, ranging from residential break-ins, to car thefts, to speeding issues through town. In the end, the solution for local officials is to present a one percent sales tax increase to Saguache voters on the upcoming April 5 ballot, dedicated to providing additional law enforcement within the town.
Saguache Town Trustees Kate Vasha, June Savage, Luana Lovato, Andrew Virdin, and Tony Sandoval along with Town Clerk Therese Garcia were present, in addition to Saguache Mayor Greg Terrell and Sheriff Warwick, to discuss growing concerns regarding the town’s lack of regular patrols. Initial discussions during the regular town board meeting on January 19, led officials to call a special work session to discuss ways to curtail a recent spike in crimes within Saguache. Foremost in many residents’ minds was the need to reinstate a dedicated law enforcement officer to provide more regular patrols in town, as well as quicker response time from county deputies.
In the past, Saguache did have a town constable, but budgetary constraints and personnel issues saw that position eliminated. However, most in attendance at last Thursday’s meeting were willing to revisit the situation. The end result was to present town voters with Resolution No. 2016-D which would increase sales tax in the Town of Saguache by one percent, thereby generating “at least $30,000, which would provide needed funds for law enforcement.”
While the increase, if approved by voters, would not go into effect until January 1, 2017, the Board of Trustees also made the commitment to accelerate the process by committing $50,000 from the town’s reserves to initiate securing a dedicated officer as soon as possible. Ultimately this decision would cover the costs through 2016, even if local residents decide against the ballot measure next Tuesday, April 5.
During the meeting Sheriff Warwick presented the nuts and bolts of hiring a “mid-range” deputy and what the time line would be to hire and train an additional officer. The salary, which would include benefits, amounts to $50,000/annually.
“I’m short man power and I can’t take someone and put them in town, thereby neglecting other parts of the community,” said Sheriff Warwick. He went on to explain that as things stand now the county department falls short of personnel and resources compared to other counties with even smaller territories and populations. Currently the sheriff’s department has eight full-time deputies, although between one officer being out for medical issues, as well as juggling schedules and vacation time, the staff basically operates with six officers.
This stark reality led town officials to take matters into their own hands and move forward with an intergovernmental agreement between the Town of Saguache and the Saguache County Sheriff’s office to pay for dedicated patrols and law enforcement for the community of about 500 residents. It was during this point in the meeting, when former agreements were re-visited, that Sheriff Warwick expressed his strongest opinions in the matter, declaring that the past arrangement put a burden on every single deputy in the department. It seems in the past, a dedicated Town of Saguache patrol car, which was not always well-equipped, complicated the situation.
“I’m not going to have an officer needing help and have the town board dictate that the officer can’t take the patrol car that far – tough crap! If an officer needs help, another officer is going to back him up, I don’t care what the cost,” said Sheriff Warwick.
Current town officials agreed, indicating that the scheduling and training of an additional deputy would be left to Sheriff Warwick’s discretion and experienced leadership. In addition, Warwick expressed that he would also look into available programs that could help defray some of the expenditures associated with an extra deputy.
After the work session, the Town Trustees went into special session where they voted unanimously to put the resolution to voters on next Tuesday’s April 5 Saguache Town Election.
Because the sales tax revenue would not kick in until January 2017 the trustees would have to go into the reserves to make up the difference. “We don’t like to go into those reserves,” stated Trustee Kate Vasha, “but I feel like it’s kind of an emergency situation.” She added that if the sales tax measure does not pass next Tuesday, then the town will have to figure out where to get that money. At present the Town of Saguache sales tax is at 3%, the increase would bump that up to 4 percent.
Town Trustees Clarify Language for Ballot Initiative
The Town Board of Saguache would like to clarify some information relating to the proposed 1% sales tax increase which will be voted on at the April 5 Election.
The Trustees provided the following statement to be posted on Saguache Today:
The Proposed Sales Tax Increase on the Ballot for the April 5, 2016, election is a one-time increase.
Town Board members and staff have been getting questions about whether the sales tax increase that Saguache residents will vote on at the April 5 election is a one-time increase, or whether it will go up every year. The answer is: It is a one-time, 1 percent increase. It is expected to raise about $30,000 a year, and that money can only be used to fund law enforcement. The Town could not increase the tax amount again without going back to the voters for their approval.
As most people know, over the past months many citizens have come to the Town Board concerned about lack of law enforcement presence in town. At a special meeting held in January, Board members and concerned citizens alike learned from the Sheriff about how under-funded his office is. Because of citizen concerns, the Trustees voted to sign a contract with the Sheriff to fund the cost of hiring one deputy, to patrol and uphold the law in the town of Saguache.
This has been good news for the crime rate in our community. However, in the long run, the current Town budget cannot stretch to keep up this funding. So the Board looked at ways to raise more money. The options were limited: Figure out if there is a way to help fund law enforcement from monthly fees paid by citizens, or look at sales tax revenue. The Board with the support from concerned citizens opted for sales tax, because a good portion of that would come from people passing through Saguache.
People have also raised concerns about the ballot language itself, saying it is not clear. Under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR), passed by voters in 1992, ballot language has to be written in certain ways. However, the Town could have done a better job of explaining the language for voters – and for that, the Trustees apologize.
If anyone has additional questions, please contact the Saguache Town Hall. 719-655-2232.