Council continues to discuss budget

Supporters in favor of backyard chickens in Monte Vista spoke during last Thursday’s meeting. Photo by Ruthanne Johnson

By Ruthanne Johnson
MONTE VISTA— The proposed 2019 budget continued to be a bone of contention at the Nov. 15 Monte Vista City Council meeting. Though the budget had been reworked from reflecting a deficit in the general fund to a surplus of over $1,000, it still did not hit the mark for city councilors and Monte Vista residents in attendance.
Monte Vista citizen Margaret Hurd implored councilors to plan wisely with the city’s finances and voiced her concern about hiring an economic developer when the city is looking at excessive water and sewer expenses in the near future. Hurd recommended getting the PTA (Parent-Teacher-Association), business owners and other citizens to come together for a town vision and monthly roundtable meetings to discuss ideas and strategies to help grow the town’s economy.
Former businessman Charlie Spielman offered budget-cutting ideas such as increasing income from grants and other “free loans” and decreasing expenditures---but not by cutting staff or salaries. Among his recommendations were leasing the golf course to a private party that would operate it as a private enterprise, obtaining a grant to pay for the Ski Hi Capital Improvement Program and a detailed study of Ski Hi income and expenses, aimed at making the venue profitable. He also recommended turning Kids Connection over to a separate entity that operates on a separate budget as well as a volunteer-type of business development program in lieu of paying an economic developer.
Middle school teacher John Camponeschi offered his grant-writing services. “As a teacher, I try to teach my kids that volunteerism is really important in today’s society,” he said. “You cannot expect a paycheck for everything you do that is good, that is wholesome, that is meaningful to our communities and also to ourselves. Sometimes, you do what is right because it’s right---and that’s why I want to offer my services to help with grant writing. I want to help my community grow a little bit.”
City Councilor Kathy Lorenz spoke just before the council was poised to likely pass the amended budget. Her comments in a later conversation detailed her concerns:
“By spending amounts greater than our cash flow we are spending down reserves, which is not sustainable over the next few years. A large portion of that is being used to water and sewer infrastructure [improvements], but some fund monies are also being used for parks and recreation. Parks and rec is my concern looking at 2021.”
The barrage of concerns prompted the council’s turnabout in a 4 to 1 vote against passage, and the proposed 2019 budget was put on hold until another work session could be held to hash out additional cuts. The work session is slated for Nov. 27 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.  
The city council also tabled the second reading of Ordinance 891, which would allow for the creation and operation of RV parks within city limits. Lorenz noted the absence of a time limit for RV’s renting space, and council voted to table the ordinance until an amendment was added to address a maximum time allotment, such as four to five months.
But the council did unanimously pass the first reading of Ordinance 892, which would allow for backyard chickens in Monte Vista. People in favor and against the proposed ordinance were invited to speak before council voted.
Monte Vista resident Zoë Rierson thanked City Clerk Unita Vance for putting together the ordinance and city council for considering the proposal. She also cited the many benefits of backyard chickens, from connecting people more to their food to better nutrition, educational value for children and food security for financially-challenged families. “Chickens also provide a high-quality fertilizer,” she said, “and they keep away pests such as mice and mosquitoes and are essential in lessening landfill waste through recycling kitchen food scraps back into an edible food source.”
Rierson addressed previously-voiced concerns about noise and property values. Chickens spend hours dust bathing, which helps them stay clean, she said, and the ordinance would allow only hens, which make about the same decibel level of noise as a human conversation. “It’s also interesting to note that of the top 10 U.S. housing markets appreciating in value, all permit backyard chickens.”
Monte Vista residents Tim Cardon, Wanda Hawman, Jim Poston, Mary Solano and Jim Camponeschi also spoke in favor of backyard chickens---while no naysayers stepped up to the podium.
The city council will hear a second reading of Ordinance 892 on Dec. 6.
Monte Vista city manager Forrest Neuerburg reported to city council that a Request for Proposals (RFP) notification was issued on Nov. 9 for the Ski Hi Park Master Plan. The city has already been in contact with potential respondents, and proposals are due back to the City by Dec. 12. The city is conducting a site walkthrough on Nov. 27 at 2 p.m.
Neuerburg also reported that the city is looking for members for the Airport Master Plan Advisory Committee, in conjunction with the launch of the Airport Master Planning effort. The commitment is fairly small, he noted, with two major meetings set for April and
December of 2019. “It would be very useful to have a City Council member participate,” he said. Mayor Dale Becker volunteered for the committee.
Neuerburg noted that in October 2016, the council adopted Ordinance 872 to address the nuisance of stored railcars one block north of the intersection of Broadway and 1st Ave. While 17 railcars have since been removed, the City has been pursuing a course of action to deal with the remaining train cars. Neuerburg met with the property owner along with the city’s mayor and code enforcement officer to discuss the issue and it was determined that the remaining train cars are grandfathered under Municipal Code as nonconforming structures. The property owner, however, is currently working to sell the remaining railcars.

The Nov. 15 city council meeting discussed several additional topics, which will be noted in a part-two report next week.  

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