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Lightning continues to start area wildfires
7/12/2013 By: Times staff report
Thursday's Mancos Canyon Fire on the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation is estimated today at 1-¼ acre with engines and a fire tender at the scene. Yesterday’s Pine Tree Canyon Fire on the Southern Ute Reservation was contained last night at 3/10ths of an acre. Yesterday's Captain Beal Fire near the New Mexico state line was contained last night at 1/10th of an acre.
Today firefighters are responding to several new lightning strikes on the Southern Ute Reservation, including the Madrid, East Black Ridge and Spring Trail fires, each estimated at 1/10th of an acre. Also on the Southern Ute Reservation, firefighters are currently hiking into Sam Borito Canyon to check out a smoke report.
To report a fire on public lands, please contact the Durango Interagency Fire Dispatch Center at 970 385-1324 or call 911.
Photo courtesy Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum
Above: Scavenger Hunt Tuesdays will take place at the Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum in Ignacio during the month of July. There will be a Tuesday morning scavenger hunt at 10 a.m. and one in the afternoon at 2. The activities will vary for all ages and age-appropriate prizes will be provided for children and adults. This is a fun and educational way to explore the museum.
On Thursdays in July visitors can explore a series of educational trunks at the museum. Trained docents will present the trunks covering a range of cultural aspects including the medicine pouch, tee pees, and the horse and buffalo. This also takes place at 10 a.m. and again in the afternoon at 2. Some of these trunks will have a project for visitors to complete. These presentations are for all ages.
Regular admission fees do apply. Tribal members, active military and veterans have free admission to the museum. More information can be found at www.succm.org or by calling 563-9583
This week's front page:
Audit sorts out Ignacio budget issues
Sewer, water services operating at a loss
Money-losing water and sewer services were the big issue in Ignacio’s 2012 budget audit, presented to the town board in a special meeting on July 2.
“We recommend that the town’s governing board and management give their highest attention to the financial condition of the water and sewer funds,” the audit says. “Cost saving measures should be employed as well as water and sewer rate adjustments to address the issue.”
Town trustees raised water rates effective this past January as part of that effort. They also raised natural gas rates, because the money-making gas system has been used to subsidize the other utilities.
Chad Atkinson from the Hinton Burdick auditing firm made the July 2 presentation. He cited multiple years of operating losses and negative cash flows in the water and sewer funds and said, “You need to cover your costs for operations.”
The town’s situation is complicated by the fact that it buys treated water from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and sends sewage to the tribe’s sewer plant. The tribe sets those prices.
General fund revenue was just under $1.4 million in 2012, including just over $1 million from sales and property taxes. That was almost $46,000 less than had been budgeted, mainly because sales tax revenue was below expectations.
General operations spending in 2012 totaled $1.1 million, resulting in an end of year unassigned fund balance of $227,598, a decrease of $542,874 from the start of 2012.
But that’s because the town’s general fund transferred $865,326 to other funds, including $105,991 to the economic development fund, which is dedicated to development of the Rock Creek 3 affordable housing project.
The audit reports that $556,173 of the total transfer reflected a board decision to convert earlier loans to the water and sewer funds to permanent transfers with no expectation of repayment.
The audit says, “Significant budget errors in the 2012 budget were discovered by the town’s newly appointed management. The errors by the previous management caused large reductions in ending balances for 2012.”
Town Manager Mike Lee and Finance Director Lisa Rea started in 2012. The town had no town manager when the 2012 budget was prepared in late 2011, and trustees were debating whether a manager was needed.
The audit continues, “Previous budget managers were including capital assets in the beginning balances for the general fund, water fund, and gas fund. In addition, a loan repayment to La Plata County was being made from the economic development fund in a prior budget year, which put this fund in a continuous deficit position. To correct this problem, a transfer in the amount of $105,991 was made from the general fund to the economic development fund.”
Those issues were subjects of heated board debate when the 2013 budget was approved last December. According to discussion then, the improper inclusion of capital assets in fund balances traced back to an audit several years ago.
The audit reports that the economic development fund ended 2012 with $156,505 after the transfer from the general fund and after construction of off-site infrastructure improvements for the project access in 2012.
At the end of 2012, the town had $546,045 in general government debt and $777,824 in utility system debt. Total debt decreased by $150,844 during 2012. No new debt was incurred.
But the audit says, “However, the town has been deferring needed capital outlays such as vehicles, street sealing, and other equipment needs that will probably have to be accomplished through some additional debt. The town has been able to avoid more debt also because of success in obtaining state grants.”
The audit recognizes the water and gas rate increases that took effect this year. It says, “The sewer rates were considered to be too high for any rate increase and will continue to be subsidized by the gas fund and/ or the general fund. It was also anticipated that the water fund will continue to lose money and will also continue to be subsidized by the gas fund and/ or the general fund. Rates need to be continually analyzed and reviewed for increases in order to not only reach an operations and maintenance break-even point, but also to build up a plant replacement fund.”
The water system had an operating loss of $65,779 in 2012, plus a net $15,919 in interest expenses.
The sewer system had an operating loss of $38,053 plus interest expenses of $15,295.
The gas system had net income of $64,626 in 2012 but transferred $65,000 to other funds, including $35,000 to the sewer fund.
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