Monte Vista 2018 in review

Photo by Anthony Guerrero City Finance Director Heather Hixson

MONTE VISTA— The following is a compilation of many of the top stories that graced the pages of the Monte Vista Journal throughout the last year.
January 2018
An artifact from the Monte Vista Historical Society and Museum was one of 10 voted by the general public throughout the state to be Colorado’s 2017 Most Significant Artifacts.
A new mayor and two new councilors took the oath of office at the Jan. 4 meeting of the Monte Vista City Council. Dale Becker, took seat as mayor, and Victor Sigala and Gary Johnson took seats as councilors. Sigala was unanimously appointed mayor pro tem.
The city of Monte Vista is plagued with improper use of resources, misspending, nepotism and unethical conduct. That is according to allegations made by City Finance Director Heather Hixson when she presented her end of year report to the newly elected city council on Jan. 4.
Daniel Lee Coblentz, first San Luis Valley baby of the New Year, was born on Jan. 1 at 11:35 p.m. Their first child, Daniel is the son of Melvin and Mary Coblentz of rural Monte Vista.
Kicking off their midterm election battle the Rio Grande County Democrats hosted “Democrats! at the Theater” on Jan. 6 at the Vali 3.
Joe Schlabach, councilman for the City of Monte Vista, announced his intention to run for Rio Grande county commissioner in district two.
Christopher Crown, undersheriff for Conejos County, declared his candidacy for Rio Grande County Sheriff in the upcoming election.
Monte Vista Public Works Director Rob Vance gave a passionate defense of himself, the city and his hardworking crew at the Jan. 18 meeting of the Monte Vista City Council. He was supported by the large presence of his city crew in the audience. Vance’s address was in direct response to allegations made by Finance Director Heather Hixson at the Jan. 4 meeting.
Kathleen Ellithorpe was appointed to fill a vacant seat on the Monte Vista City Council at the Jan. 18 regular meeting.

February 2018
The 2018 Southern Rocky Mountain Agricultural Conference kicked off; the three-day event was filled with special presentations and a trade fair. The conference is a special look into the agricultural industry which is the backbone of the Valley’s economy.
 “I want to continue to serve the residents of Rio Grande County,” said Karla Shriver announcing her candidacy for a third term as commissioner for District 2. “I would be both humbled and honored if the people of Rio Grande County would see fit to elect me to this position again.”
Interviews for a city attorney turned into a spectacle at the Feb. 22 meeting of the Monte Vista City Council. The two applicants under consideration were current city attorney Karen Lintott and previous city attorney Gene Farish.

March 2018
Ron Douglas, a star of Discovery Channel’s “Blue Collar Backers,” moved to Monte Vista last year with the intention of laying low. After meeting the people of the community and seeing the struggling downtown area he came to the city council with a big plan and vision to revitalize the local economy.
Balmy but pleasant weather greeted the herds of artists, birdwatchers and Sandhill Crane enthusiasts who flocked to Monte Vista for the 35th Annual Crane Festival. Attendees enjoyed a plethora of events, educational talks and well organized business specials throughout the San Luis Valley from Alamosa to Del Norte. City Attorney Karen Lintott resigned her position effective immediately on March 15, leaving council without legal representation for that evening’s meeting. Following an executive session, council selected local attorney Michael Trujillo to be the interim City Attorney by a 4-to-1 secret ballot vote.
About 20 Monte Vista High School students participated in the national walk-out against gun violence on March 14. The walk-out was a national movement in schools of all levels to commemorate the one-month anniversary of the school shooting at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which claimed the lives of 17 student and staff members.
Following what had been a contentious few months with the old versus the new, Monte Vista City Councilor Joe Schlabach resigned, effective immediately.

April 2018
Monte Vista resident Telesforo Joseph Dominguez filed a complaint in U.S. District Court on Feb. 2, 2018 seeking $75,000 in damages from the City of Monte Vista, City Manager Forrest Neuerburg and current and former employees of the Monte Vista Police Department related to incidents dating back to December 2015.
Teaching is often a thankless job, however 14 educators from around the San Luis Valley were recognized for their hard work and dedication on April 25. During the 33rd Annual San Luis Valley Outstanding Education Recognition Banquet, the San Luis Valley Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) gave Monte Vista School District’s Tracy Simon the top honors of being the Outstanding Educator of the Year.
May 2018
The Ski Hi Stampede will welcome Gary Allan on Thursday, July 26. Opening for Allan is country music’s hottest rising duo “Smithfield.”
Monte Vista City Council held interviews for the two candidates for the open council seat on May 2. Two people submitted letters of interest, John Camponeschi, a history teacher at Monte Vista Middle School and Kathy Lorenz, Neighborhood Watch President and spouse of former councilor Jason Lorenz, who did not seek reelection in 2017. Lorenz was named to the council.
Monte Vista School District conducted their annual Pirate Pride Day on May 10. MHVS students and staff were found throughout the community participating in volunteer projects and beautifying public spaces like the Monte Vista and San Luis Valley cemeteries, Carnegie Public Library, the visitors center, Monte Vista Golf Club, Conour Animal Shelter and in many other parking lots and residences.
The Monte Vista City Council’s recent decision to implement prayer at council meetings following the Pledge of Allegiance has led to criticism from national organizations, concerns about discrimination and disagreement between council and city staff.
In a May work session the Sargent School District Board of Education delayed the vote on arming personnel in the district due to the potential hire of a private security guard.
Following eight months of treatment at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, Urianna “Uri” Acosta was welcomed home by Al Kaly Shrine members at a noon luncheon provided by Mountain View Restaurant on May 29.

June 2018
The first annual Thunder in the Valley Rally was held on Jefferson Street in front of Stars and Strikes Bowling on June 16. The event was hosted by Brothers Keepers Motorcycle Club Chapter 19 to benefit the Veterans Coalition of the San Luis Valley.
This June marked the 100th anniversary of the Sargent Community Church north of Monte Vista.
Rio Grande County primary election results showed Republican candidate for commissioner, John Noffsker defeating Republican Karla Shriver, 939 votes to 867 votes. Sheriff candidate Don McDonald defeated candidate Chris Crown.
On June 30, hundreds of people attended Monte Vista’s first annual Taste of the San Luis Valley, despite the hot weather and haze from the 416 and Spring Creek wildfires.

July 2018
Joe Schlabach— the 2018 democratic candidate running for Rio Grande County Commissioner— announced on July 15 that he is withdrawing from the county commissioner’s race.
It literally takes a village to pull off Monte Vista’s Ski Hi Stampede, some 150 volunteers and a year-round committee of almost 20 people, said Stampede committee president Karla Willschau following the 97th annual event.

August 2018
This year’s San Luis Valley Area Fair featured a number of special 4-H contests, including a fashion revue, cake decorating contest, cupcake decorating contest, and robotics competition. A diverse group of 4-H youth, from around the valley competed in these contests and a select few took home top honors.

September 2018
An investigation by Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers into the poisoning of bald eagles in the San Luis Valley ended with the conviction of Rio Grande County’s John L. Divine, 77.
This year’s Annual San Luis Valley Potato Festival likely broke all attendance records, easily reaching around 1,000 festivalgoers. And from the festivities at Chapman Park to the potato harvest tours and extreme motorsports event, everyone had a blast.
A new random drug-test policy went into effect this year for athletes at Monte Vista High School.
Rio Grande County and the City of Monte Vista have agreed to pay more than $290,000 to settle a lawsuit over a 2016 incident at the Delgado resident in Monte Vista, according to Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP, who represented the family in the lawsuit.

October 2018
A seven-hour standoff ended in the arrest of a wanted fugitive shortly after midnight. The Monte Vista Police Department was dispatched to the 700 block of Washington Ave. on Oct. 22 at approximately 5:11 p.m. Officers had received information that Christopher Archuleta— a wanted fugitive with a felony warrant from the Alamosa County Sheriff’s Office— was inside a residence on the block. Monte Vista police had also received information that Archuleta had stolen a vehicle and firearm earlier that morning.
Monte Vista City Council discussed whether or not to retain entrepreneur Ron Douglas. A work session was convened to dispel growing concerns among a small number of local residents that Douglas is not fulfilling his economic-development obligations. The meeting was also to help the city decide whether to renew Douglas’ six-month contract, which was on a month-to-month basis at the time.

November 2018
At the Nov. 1 meeting, Monte Vista City Council voted 3-2 to renew a six-month contract for consultant Ron Douglas. Douglas is the owner of Local Business Assist (LBA) and has been working with the city since March to develop existing businesses and recruit new ones for the city, for $4,125 per month. The renewal was the topic of public commentary and criticism.
Preliminary results came in for the 2018 Rio Grande County election just after 8 p.m. on Nov. 6. In the Rio Grande County Sheriff’s race, Don McDonald, South Fork police chief, is the unofficial winner of the November election with 2,380 votes; write-in candidate Brian Norton received 1,877 votes. A third write-in Susan Christine Wolfrey received two votes.
A few hundred folks came out to observe the fifth annual Veterans Day parade as it wove through downtown Monte Vista in honor of military veterans. A poignant tribute followed at Faith Hinkley Veterans Memorial Park.
December 2018
The latest word in Monte Vista’s Neighborhood Watch program is that citizen participation is helping to take a bite out of crime in the city, as reported by Monte Vista Police Chief John Rosecrans during Neighborhood Watch’s last meeting of the year on Dec. 3.
The Monte Vista City Council meeting on Dec. 6 was once again fraught with discussion over the 2019 proposed city budget. This time, however, the push was for passing the budget and then tweaking it in future months as more information becomes known about the potential need for a new water treatment plant. The budget was passed in a four to one vote.


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