Ignacio needs planner, trustees say

Trustees approve agreement for stoplight work

Ignacio town trustees want to hire a professional planner instead of having that as part of the town manager's duties.

It took them three votes to enact that consensus at their July 2 meeting, after two executive sessions that occupied an hour and 15 minutes. The first closed session with Town Manager Lee San Miguel was to discuss his performance evaluation. Then trustees met, absent San Miguel, with town attorney David Liberman for legal advice.

San Miguel started work for the town late in 2013 after previous manager Mike Lee resigned. Town planner Miriam Gillow-Wiles also had resigned to become executive director of the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments.

Back in open session, trustee Alison deKay made a motion not to approve a $4,000 pay increase for San Miguel to continue planning duties, to have him continue current duties at current pay while the town tries to hire a planner. "When that happens, the manager's salary will be decreased by $6,000 to pay the planner," she said. Her motion also stipulated an improvement plan for San Miguel.

That motion failed on a tie vote. Trustee Lawrence Bartley was absent. Yes votes were deKay, Dixie Melton, and Linda Moore. No votes were Tom Atencio, Edward Box III, and Mayor Stella Cox.

Atencio followed with the same motion except that the manager's salary would decrease by $6,000 right away. That failed on another tie vote, with the votes switched.

"I think it's obvious we want to hire a planner," deKay said. "The raise of $6,000 in February was for planning duties."

Atencio agreed. "When we hired Mr. Lee (the board's common reference to San Miguel), we hired him at the higher salary, higher than the previous manager with more experience. I think we should put all the money toward the planner. Have Mr. Lee manage."

DeKay countered, "We can't expect anyone to do something they aren't being paid for. As long as he is still the acting manager/ planner, he should be paid for that."

Melton commented, "We could get a planner in a week or three months. You never know."

Atencio agreed to change his vote on deKay's motion. She repeated the motion with an addition to advertise as soon as possible for a planner. Trustees approved that unanimously, then continued discussion on the need to hash out their goals and the improvement plan for San Miguel.

They will do that in closed session before the next board meeting on July 22, postponed from July 16.

Also on July 2, trustees approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Colorado Department of Transportation for the stoplight project at the Highway 172/ 151 intersection.

The revised version eliminated a concern expressed by the town attorney last month that the town would be liable if it was unable to collect project cost shares of $180,000 each from the county and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. The town's cost share is $10,000, which can include in-kind services.

The project preliminary budget is $1.8 million, with $1.43 million to be paid by CDOT.

As reported in the Times on June 27, CDOT was planning a project kick-off meeting with town staff for July 11, with an expectation for the project to go to bid in 2015.

In other action on July 2, trustees got a report on the 2013 audit, and trustee Atencio debated with San Miguel the safety of the method town employees are using to install metal to plastic adapters in gas service lines.

The employees are trained and certified in the method they are using, San Miguel said. It's a standard process in the industry, he argued. Atencio disagreed and argued that even a small gas release during the process is a hazard, either for ignition or from the employee inhaling it.

San Miguel said he would ask the town's gas system consultant about this.

Auditor Chad Atkinson announced a clean (unqualified) opinion on the town's financial reporting, with three problems from 2012 corrected and no new problems with internal financial controls or compliance in 2013.

The audit cites the town for spending more than was budgeted in the irrigation, gas, and sewer funds. Atkinson said cash flows improved in the water and sewer funds in 2013, while the irrigation fund lost $23,000.

Finance Director Lisa Rea said an irrigation rate this year should improve the situation.

"Things are looking good, trending in the right direction," Atkinson said.

Atencio commended Rea for the job she has done sorting out town finances since she started in 2012. That's when the town took a big hit to fund balances when it was discovered that a previous treasurer had listed capital assets as if they were financial reserves, and that mistake carried forward for several years.