Holly’s New Mayor, Trustees View Well Repair Options

New Line-up for Holly: Corey Stephens, Josh Reinert, Tony Garcia and Larry Sitts

New Line-up for Holly: Corey Stephens, Josh Reinert, Tony Garcia and Larry Sitts

Tony Garcia, Josh Reinert and Corey Stephens dealt with a full agenda during their first meeting, serving as Holly’s new mayor and trustees, respectively. Tony Garcia was the lone write-in candidate for the mayoral seat on April 5th, ballot day for the town.  Garcia has held the position before.  Reinert and Stephens replaced Marty Campbell and Frank Vazquez on the trustee’s board.  Vazquez was term limited.  Jerry Jones will remain as trustee/mayor pro tem, a position he held following the resignation of former Mayor Brad Simon at the start of the year.

Departing Trustees: Campbell and Vazquez

Departing Trustees: Campbell and Vazquez

The cost of repairing or replacing the town’s north well was discussed at length, a topic that has been addressed for the past several months. Records show the last time the well had any repairs was fifteen years ago.   Now, a cracked casing at the base of the well is one of the reasons believed to be causing a dramatic increase in sediment in the town’s water system.  Town Administrator, Jerry L’Estrange, described the situation as being between a rock and a hard place as one option for repairs is estimated at $20,000 with no guarantee of success and drilling a new well is estimated at $200,000.  L’Estrange said the town’s budget is strapped to meet those costs, even on an 80/20 matching fund if grants could alleviate the costs.  There’s also an issue of where to drill a new well that doesn’t bring up water with trace amounts of radium, as some wells in the community have registered at the bottom end of the scale.  The well is not in production at this time and time is another factor, as L’Estrange pointed out that a new well would take at least six months for the permitting process and a new water augmentation formula would need to be developed for the town’s new water source.  The trustees will learn more about their options from a project manager who has been consulting on the repairs.

The trustees were provided with an overview of services that would be provided through an agreement with SE Colorado Power for operations and maintenance of the town’s power facility. This would require a break with Lamar Light and Power.  Jack Johnson, Chief Executive Officer, told the trustees the Holly agreement would basically duplicate the one his company provides for Granada.  This includes handling repairs and replacement for major electric problems such as downed power poles or transformers.  “We may need some time in a learning curve to get adjusted to your power system in Holly, but we can learn as we go,” he stated.  Tree trimming would be outsourced and examination of the power poles below the ground would also require a separate fee rate for another provider.  Johnson said, the company would basically work on an hourly rate and a 10% cost-plus arrangement on replacement parts.  Mayor Garcia, noting that he was being officially acquainted with the proposal, as well as two new trustees, suggested they have some time to review the proposal before taking action.

L’Estrange noted he’s received calls from residents who are critical of some electric interruptions in the town. He said a check of the power plant did not bring up any reason why these outages should be occurring.  One in particular shut down operations at the Reyman’s grocery store for over nine hours which represented a financial loss to the owner who has requested some form of redress to their loss.  This will be given further study before any action, but the Administrator said this also needs to be addressed, especially if it becomes more frequent.

The first reading of the franchise agreement with Atmos Energy was read by company representative, Aaron Bishop, before adopting the ordinance renewing the ten year contract. That is expected to be voted on in May.  The Town of Holly receives a 5% franchise fee from the natural gas purchased from the supplier.

The trustees will meet on April 27th for a work session to review recent applications for a new Field Supervisor for the town and to set up a timetable for discussion of re-establishing a Holly Police Department.  This was a matter brought before the trustees late last year and had been considered by the town several years ago when Marsha Willhite was Holly Administrator.  At that time, she provided financial information during a September 2014 meeting that showed average annual costs between 1995 and 2000 for the local police force at $90,000.  The staff during that period included one marshal, two patrol officers and one person in administration.  Figures provided by then Prowers County Sheriff, Jim Faull, estimated the town would have to spend $137,000 to re-establish a 24/7, 365 day a year police force for 4.7 officers.  The local force was disbanded in 2001 when Holly contracted with the Sheriff’s office for coverage.

Stephanie Gonzales, Executive Director of SECED, Southeast Colorado Enterprise Development, outlined some of the lending services her agency provides to residents and business owners in a five county region in Colorado.   She explained that SECED provides ‘gap’ lending to help make up the difference for a loan that wasn’t completely covered by a bank or other lending agency.  “SECED is scheduling town hall meetings to get input from residents on what they see as pressing issues for the county,” she explained, adding that no date had been set but if there was enough local interest, one could be scheduled for Holly.  Gonzales said SECED can also provide assistance with grant writing if an organization or community required some help.

By Russ Baldwin

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