City council contemplates solar future

© 2017-Monte Vista Journal


MONTE VISTA—The Monte Vista City Council met for their first July meeting on Thursday, July 6. Council had a full agenda with citizen comments, liquor license renewals (see related story), contracts and staff reports.
John Hereford with Oakleaf Energy Partners spoke during citizen comments about their solar garden currently planned for an eight and a half acre lot of land on the Co-op Road in Alamosa. Participation in the solar garden is only for Alamosa and municipalities and counties adjacent to Alamosa. If the city decides to participate in the solar garden, they will get “locally sourced energy, consumed locally” according to Hereford. The city will pay a subscription fee of 6.4 cents per kilowatt-hour but will receive a bill credit from Xcel of seven cents per kilowatt-hour. “Nothing will change in your relationship with Xcel,” Hereford stated, adding the benefits for the city are cost savings and advancing sustainability. It will take a 20-year subscription term to get a total return on the city’s investment. Over that term, if the city subscribes to 40 percent of the annual load of the solar garden, they will save $350,000 and 25,000 tons of CO2 emissions.
Hereford added Oakleaf Energy Partners manages and maintains the land the solar garden is on; the city does not have to commit to any rooftop space or upfront capital costs and the garden has the potential to generate 3.7 million kilowatt-hours of solar power annually.
City Attorney Karen Lintott informed council their contract seemed to be in order and Public Works Director Rob Vance is still calling some of the municipal references provided by Oakleaf but agreed with Lintott’s assessment so far. Council members decided to look into the project in greater detail at their work session on July 18 with a final motion to approve or deny joining the solar garden at their next meeting on July 20.

Staff reports
During the contracts, agreements and leases portion of the meeting, council approved a proposed bid of $57,620 from RMS Utilities for the Pintada Drive storm sewer improvement project. Vance stated this is necessary because the drain leaking has led to damaged property. Council also discussed a contract with Adams State University and the US Department of Agriculture for a Rural Economic Entrepreneurship program. The city agreed to facilitate stakeholder meetings for the program, which will put workshops and instructions together to encourage rural entrepreneurs to start and build local businesses. City Manager Forrest Neuerburg explained the program does not cost the city anything in matching funds, and if the program brings two or three businesses to the city “it’s only for the greater good” and added “anything that helps with economic development is a good thing and I applaud ASU for taking this on.” Neuerburg added the program was partially inspired by the last economic summit hosted by the City of Monte Vista and is modeled after a similar program in Nebraska.

City manager’s report
During the city manager’s report Neuerburg encouraged council to consider pushing their Annual General City Estimate date from Oct. 1 to Nov. 10. Neuerburg stated this would make working on the budget for the following year easier because three quarters would be closed and could be analyzed and would give the council a better idea of what sales tax revenue to expect. Neuerburg stated work sessions on the budget could still begin at the same time but having the preliminary budget approval pushed forward would “provide for more accurate forecasting of current year and future expenditures.”
Neuerburg also shared the good news the URA grant contract with the state has been completed and work on the URA projects can begin shortly. The URA hopes to have two demolitions done this year so they can begin demolitions and rehabilitations next spring.

Kids Connection
Anika Velasquez with the Monte Vista Kids Connection reported they are six weeks into their 11-week summer program and have taken field trips to the sand dunes, Hooper Pool, Big Meadows and the Fort Garland Museum, which she and the students were very impressed by. As of May 30, the Kids Connection had 152 enrolled summer students with 126 of which attending at least one day so far, and 97 under the age of 10. They are planning a field trip for the older students to Penitente Canyon, another trip to the sand dunes, La Jara Park and a camping trip in the second week of August. Velasquez stated they are also currently hosting a T-shirt fundraiser and are moving the Stampede pancake breakfast to the Kids Connection building to raise awareness about the building’s improvements and the program goals, noting they have still had “people coming in thinking it’s the post office” so more community awareness is necessary.
Notov also spoke briefly with Velasquez, adding Three Guys Farms is exploring the possibility of hosting a charity poker tournament to benefit the Kids Connection.

Recreation update
Recreation Director Jaime Hurtado updated council on the spring and summer sports events, stating the end of the season baseball tournaments are coming up, and registrations for youth volleyball and football are open now through July 31. Hurtado is also trying to get more interest in an adult softball league this fall; there weren’t enough teams last year to get it going but if at least five teams register this year it would be possible for a local league to be formed again. The recreation department will also be hosting a youth soccer camp from July 31 through Aug. 4, and they have about six kids signed up so far.
Hurtado also presented council with a request from the Monte Vista High School Class of 2018, who want to host a softball tournament fundraiser on Aug. 12 but requested council waive the facility fees. Council approved waiving the fees unanimously but Garcia added she hopes the school takes note of the city’s generosity. “As a city we’ve been very generous with the schools with our facilities,” she stated, adding the schools don’t reciprocate when the city requests uses of their gyms and other facilities, requiring normal usage fees, utility fees and insurance. “ I would like to see the schools be more forthcoming” with an equal, two-way exchange, Garcia explained. Hurtado agreed, noting they serve the same students and both the recreation department and the schools benefit from equal cooperation for the betterment of the community.
Hurtado concluded his report by explaining he has been working on a positive coaching alliance workshop project, designed to get parents more involved in recreation and building better relationships with parents and coaches. “It all starts with the parents” and recreation wouldn’t be possible without the parents’ participation, Hurtado noted, so it is important to build positive connections and keep parents involved.

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