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Hotchkiss OKs 2016 budget

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The Town of Hotchkiss passed a balanced budget for 2016 and related ordinances at the Dec. 10 public meeting.

Last-minute changes to the budget included an inter-fund transfer of $459,516 from Water Fund Expenses to the Sanitation Fund to cover debt services. In addition, $50,000 was moved from the Capital Project Fund Expenses street expenses to the newly-created line item, Capital Project Fund Expenses - broadband, to pay for the town's anticipated cost share of bringing the service to the town.

Neither change affected the town's projected income or expenses.

Council adopted the 2016 mill levy of 7.3 mills, as certified by the county, allowing the town to collect a projected $67,220 based on total assessed property valuation of $9,208,232.

Ordinance 2015-08, to appropriate sums of money to defray expenses and liabilities for the town, was adopted as an emergency ordinance. This allows the ordinance to go into effect 10 days from the date of publication, which was needed in order to allow the town to spend money as of Jan. 1, 2016, said town clerk Marlene Searle.

No citizens were present to speak on passage of the ordinances or the budget.

Council also passed a motion to give City Market gift cards in the amount of $250 each to town staff members, and $50 to town trustees. Mayor Wendell Koontz said he appreciates everyone's efforts to keep costs down while continuing to provide quality services.

Council also voted to retain town attorney Bo Nerlin and the firm of J. David Reed, P.C., through 2016, and to extend the contract three years, through 2019. Nerlin was retained as town attorney in 2014 following the retirement of longtime attorney Jim Briscoe.

"We've really enjoyed our relationship with the town," said Nerlin. The contract extension is appreciated and "helps with our own long-term planning."

"We've done well with (the cost of) legal fees," said Searle.

A rate increase of $10, to $185/hour, was also approved for 2016, with a cap of $200/hour through 2019.

The legal firm does not charge for Nerlin to attend monthly council meetings or for his travel time, although it does bill for additional meetings and pre-meeting review time, said Nerlin. In addition, the contract allows for either party to terminate the agreement with a 90-day notice.

"That's good," said trustee Tom Wills. "I don't want to take away choices from future councils."

Council also approved a draft letter by Mayor Koontz and addressed to Daniel J. Jiron regarding the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement comments for the North Fork Coal Mining Area Exception of the Colorado Roadless Rule. The letter requests that "Alternative B" of the draft EIS be reinstated, which would allow for temporary road construction for coal mining-related activities.

"I think it reflects the wishes of the citizens of Hotchkiss," said Wills, a proponent of alternative energies. "My personal opinions may be different, but I'm here to represent the citizens of Hotchkiss."

Documents related to the draft EIS are available at http://www.fs.usda.gov/roadmain/roadless/coloradoroad

lessrules.

The U.S. Forest Service announced this week that the comment period has been extended by 11 days. The extension gives interested individuals and groups the opportunity to provide comments until Jan. 15, 2016.

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