Willard Behm is pleased with transparency progress with Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District Management and Board

Willard Behm has served since spring of 2017 as a Director on the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, completing the unexpired term of Wayne Whitaker. Since the beginning, Behm has taken the lead in asking for more transparency in the business of the LAVWCD. He is happy with the recent conference involving Manager Jay Winner, Secretary Melissa Esquivel (also the attorney serving on the board), and himself in deciding which operations of the LAVWCD may be open to public viewing. They came to agreement on the following items, and he is pleased that some of the matters to which he was not privy at the first of his tenure are now disclosed on the website. LAVWCD agreed to the following: 1. Publish on website the minutes of all meetings: regular, work session, special, and all committee meetings. Post within five business days and mark “not yet approved” on any not yet approved, and remove this caption when approved. Publish as a PDF with the date of posting on each post. 2. Post at least the four most recent audited financial statements. 3. Publish all credit card statements with a memo line, and publish each employee’s and contractor’s expense account as a monthly total. List the most common categories of expenses that are likely to make up the total. 4. Make available to any board member within five business days of request, or within a reasonable time, any public record held by the district. 5. Where possible, give three days posted notice of meeting times. Include a purpose or an agenda for each meeting. Anyone requesting individual notice of meetings should receive the same by email. This should include the purpose or agenda for the meeting. 6.For any legal entity in which the district is the majority owner, including Larkspur, Inc., and in lieu of a professional audit in the latter case, publish all meeting minutes and publish at least semiannual fiscal cash registers. Minutes will be published within five business days of the meetings, and the semiannual cash register within 30 calendar days after the middle and the end of the fiscal year. Currently that is by Oct 30, 2017 and then April 30, 2018. Publish past years’ registers starting with fiscal 2012. Credit card and expense account records are to be published in the same way as the district’s, except semiannually. 7. Republish the district minutes for the period before January, 2017, that is, at least replace those removed from the website about Sep 1, 2017. Keep these up as a permanent record. 8. Publish the monthly board packets without the traditional Peter Nichols legal report.

The LAVWCD board did decline to make public a list on cases in which LAVWCD is involved, but Behm is happy with the agreement at the present time. The commissioners voted to recommended he be retained on the LAVWCD board.

Several Line Item Transfer requests were approved, as well as a supplemental budget request by Sheriff Shawn Mobley for the Jail Department. Otero County houses inmates for other counties when their cases come up on the judicial docket. The highest number held at one time was 50, and the facility only has 32 beds. They were forced to board the extras in other facilities that had bed space. An overtime budget for the transport of inmates for their docket day is necessary, with transport times of seven hours not uncommon. The requested amount for overtime is $17,885. Also, $38,200 is requested for boarding of prisoners. Mobley wrote, “Throughout 2017, we have had the highest jail population on record, boarding our limit of 12 daily prisoners at the Bent County Sheriff’s Office, and being forced to also house what overflow we can in Washington County, which has a seven hour transport time.” The Total Supplemental Budget Request for the Jail Budget is $56,085. The request was granted.

Emergency Management Director Danny Chavez presented the Emergency Management Program Grand Local Emergency Manager Support Program Funding Application, which was approved by the commissioners. Total request is $20,291 and the eligible federal reimbursment (approximately one half) is $10,145.50.

The Colorado Courthouse Security Grant Contract was funded at $67,020, said County Administrator Jean Hinkle. This pays the salary of two part time officers and equipment for 2018. The amount is about the same as that granted last year.

The November sales tax is up again from last year: 2016, $122,953.34; 2017, $125,887.10. Notably, this is also above the previous high year, 2015. Over all, the sales tax is up 2.39 per cent for the month and a cumulative 2.99 percent for the year. Hinkle is sure the budget amount o $1.5 million will be reached, and possibley $1.6 million.

Otero County Assessors’ Certification of Levies and Revenues was approved. Total to be collected is $9,480,874. The total value of the county is $746,203,285. All the figures will be posted for public perusal on the Otero County website by the end of the week, said Assessor Ken Hood.

Otero County Economic Developet Director Danelle Berg is helping the new La Junta Urban Renewal and Economic Developmet Director Cynthia Nieb get settled in her Otero Junior College office. She is working on an Enterprise Zone for the Plaza Block building and hopes to have approval by the state in January 2018. Berg is busy with housekeeping matters from the Southeast Colorado Economic Development latest meeting. She is looking forward to STEM day at the college, when local elementary and high school students will get to work with some high-tech equipment from the nursing department at OJC.