Schlabach resignation accepted, prayer instituted at meetings

MONTE VISTA— Monte Vista City Council met last Thursday, April 5 for their first regular meeting of the month. Mayor Dale Becker was excused, and with Joe Schlabach’s resignation, council barely met a quorum with three members and Mayor Pro-Tem Victor Sigala leading the meeting.

After approving the agenda  and financial reports, council read Schlabach’s resignation. Council wanted to remind the community that the rest of council doesn’t support “his personal attacks” or condone his behavior, seemingly referring to the remarks Schlabach made to former City Attorney Gene Farish following his interview for the position in February. When reading his letter, Councilor Kathy Ellithorpe emphasized points about his personal responsibility and hopes for the future success of council including, “I started the sequence of events that led to this point and for that I hold myself responsible. As long as there is disruption in the council chambers, the city will not be able to effectively conduct business. I am hoping with my absence the council chambers will quiet down and business can be conducted more effectively. I sincerely apologize to the entire council for the position I have put you in and wish all of you the best moving forward. May you bring peace and prosperity to Monte Vista once again.”

Ellithorpe also indicated council had heard community members’ suggestions about involving the community’s youth in city government and introduced Zoe Doyle, a senior at MVHS, to the community as their new student representative. “High school kids are the future of Monte Vista and we need to include you,” Ellithorpe said.

The El Pomar Board of Trustees were also in attendance, announcing with Police Chief John Rosecrans they have made a $15,000 donation to the MVPD Canine Program, helping them obtain and train Jake, a black lab narcotics tracking dog, who will be working with Corporal Heath Heart. The two were out for a relevant training and could not be in attendance at the meeting. El Pomar SLV Regional Council member Kathy Rogers explained how the foundation looks for programs they see are important, and they were informed about the need by District Attorney Crista Newmyer-Olsen. Newmyer-Olsen discussed the importance of dogs to prosecution, “they don’t have the same credibility issues as witnesses like confidential informants,” she cited as an example. The Ralph Outcalt Foundation will also be assisting with some of Jake’s training as well.

Years of service

Public Works Director Rob Vance presented 20 years of service awards to Bobby Abeyta and Arnold “Buff” DeHerrera, who he thanked for their extra efforts in getting certifications and their dedication to the community. Ellithorpe also requested an extra thanks for the public works staff and acknowledged how adaptable and hard-working they are and driven to keep the community looking great. Vance also announced the one-year of service award for Bryan Howard, who was not present, but Vance added “He’s moving up and doing well.” City Clerk Unita Vance was also presented with recognition of her first year of service to the city by City Manager Forrest Neuerburg.

Council unanimously approved Burris and Sons Bucking Bulls use of Ski-Hi for the Spring in the Valley Rodeo Series and Bull Riding School. The school is April 26-28 and the rodeo series begins April 29, with a rodeo every Sunday through May 20 and Bull Futurity on July 7. Councilor Gary Johnson praised Burris’ working with local youth and noted “As long as I’ve been around, it’s [the rodeo series] been phenomenal.”

Prayer in meetings

Council held a discussion about opening meetings with prayer following the pledge of allegiance, in a follow up to Calvary Baptist Church’s Pastor Bob Galey’s proposal at the March 15 meeting. Ellithorpe noted “I think it’s a good idea... I think we should get it out to more than one church.” Johnson added “ It’s been a standard practice through the centuries” and noted it’s practiced at the federal level in the House of Representatives and Senate as well as locally at the Board of County Commissioners meetings and would effectively remind council they “not on our own” in decision making and “It’s time to bring back what belongs in the city.”

Sigala opened up about his background, “I used to run the streets, vandalize and encouraged my friends to do the same thing…My life changed in 1997, I’m very open about my faith…If you put God first he will set your path straight.” First Christian Church Pastor Wayne Wittner indicated the use of God in a prayer should cover nearly any religion, “You’re not going to offend anyone but the atheists, but God’s been offending the atheists for centuries.” Resident Margaret Hurd noted Galey had suggested the use of the “newly formed ministerial alliance” on a rotation so multiple churches are represented. Ellithorpe agreed the prayer should be non-denominational. A motion for approval was unanimous.

Council reports

During council reports, Councilor Gary Johnson discussed recently attending conferences on hemp and praised the economic potential of hemp for the Valley, if it can overcome its classification as a controlled substance.

Johnson also praised the efforts of Ron Douglas, who the city has contracted with to help build current businesses through his website, and bring new businesses to the city. The program “is by far what this area needs…the city and the citizens themselves need to get behind it and heaven forbid talk positively about it.” Ellithorpe also stated Douglas is “an investment council and the city made in you” as business owners and the community at large and encouraged business owners to reach out to him.

Douglas is being paid $4,125 per month on a six month contract. Douglas has held two meetings to inform the community of the program’s benefits where he also indicated he would bring in national chains to compete with existing businesses.

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