Property tax settlement may have wider value

Dear Editor,

As many are aware, the Saguache County property tax case was settled two days before the trial date.  Saguache County agreed to give each of the plaintiffs exactly what they would have sought from a judge.

Unfortunately, under Colorado law, there can be no automatic changes in property values for those who were not plaintiffs.  The law is very favorable to taxing authorities and creates a number of technical steps that must be precisely followed.  A failure, at any step, prohibits an owner from becoming a plaintiff.  We remain hopeful, however, that the settlement we reached will be of value to other property owners.

If the case had proceeded to trial, the evidence would have proven that the Division of Property Taxation of Colorado, and not the Saguache County Assessor, conducted the valuations and assessments.  This is in violation of the Colorado Constitution.  The citizens of Saguache County were deprived of a constitutionally protected right to have a local, duly elected official conduct the valuations and make assessments.

The evidence would have shown that the valuations themselves were conducted in violation of Colorado statutes.  These values resulted in a 370% increase in residential values ($7000/50’ lot) and a 1058% to 2116% increase in commercial values ($40,000/50’ lot).   In the settlement, based upon substantiated calculations, residential lots were valued at $910 to $3,637 and commercial lots were valued at $3,125 to $12,500.  Plaintiffs who had properties in the Baca would have proved that there was discrimination in that these property owners were treated differently from others who had the same or similar properties.  The county agreed to reduce the values and change designations of property for these owners.  In total, the land values for fifty-one (51) lots were reduced by $325,619.00.

As I have learned more about and participated in this process over the last year, I am astounded by the lack of rights for taxpayers and the manner in which the Colorado Division of Property Taxation handled the valuations and assessments in Saguache County.  I am disappointed beyond description that the Saguache County Commissioners, who have a legal duty to protect us in this process, chose to stand by the Colorado Division of Property Taxation over their friends and neighbors in this community.  Our town remains in a critical situation where businesses are closing and long-time residents will be forced from their homes.  When it comes time to cast your votes, please remember that when it comes to a critical decision, we aren’t the ones that matter to our county commissioners.

Elaine Johnson


Opinions on education sought

Dear Friends,

Please take a moment to share your opinion about of an ideal education. Your ideas are important, whether you have children or not, whether you are a home school advocate, a Moffat or Charter School supporter, or embrace other educational paradigms. I am hoping to compile our top 5 priorities community-wide. Read on for why!

My three children have attended the Moffat and Charter schools and been home schooled.  We were involved in the nascent years of Charter School and my youngest graduates from Link Charter High School in May. My middle child graduated from Moffat as valedictorian. I have taught at both schools, been route and activities bus driver for Moffat School, and organized our community soccer program, cooperatively involving kids from all over the northern valley, from three schools and home schooling families. I have collaborated with many parents, teachers and community members without children.

I believe the attention and diverse input from all these adults has made all our children’s community and educational experiences rich and supportive. A part of the original concept forming the Charter School was that parents and community members would be included in visioning, governance, activities and education. This makes a powerfully effective program, where our place becomes the school room, our students are each and every community member, and the benefits of knowledge gained and forged into wisdom in daily life are available to all.

Some of the many changes at the Crestone Charter School are: a new location creating more community interaction; funding and taxing impacts community-wide; a new director; and a renewed focus from parent participants on governance and policy.

Community input is wanted to assess shared values and goals, and use them to vision a dynamic program that allows students to develop the tools to thrive in the adult world.

Please reflect and write a description of your educational ideals. Ask, What should we learn in school? Why? Maybe write down the most important thing you learned. Perhaps the best stuff you learned happened out of school. Write that down! Have an opinion about how teachers should role model or guide?  An innovative curriculum idea? Imagine the ideal education for today, and write down 2 to 5 points.

And by the way, if this opportunity to think on education inspires you to get involved in our local school programs . . . by all means, join in!

Thanks so much,

Robin Blankenship

Please send your feedback description to:

Thanks to the Elephant

Dear editor,

I would love to express my deep gratitude to Benji, Michelle and all the wonderful folks at Elephant Cloud Market.  How very blessed we are to have your sweet new store in our midst!  Your dedication to natural health, to our Crestone/Baca community and to our precious Mother Earth is so very beautiful.  Thank you!

Kathleen Willow


Rapid response

Dear Editor,

I want to express my thanks to the new Baca Fire department for their quick response to a carbon monoxide scare at my home at 4am in the morning. From the time I called 911 until someone was at my house was 15 min., in spite of the fact that the 911 operator gave them the wrong address. Three additional people were there 5-8 minutes later. They had the proper equipment and I felt very confident in their expertise at handling of situation.

I feel very safe with the new members of The Baca Grande Fire Department and see no reason to change to a special fire district.

Juliana Quinn


Later for litter

Crestone Eagle,

This is to people who like this area, but not enough to save their trash in their cars until they can dump it proper!

To these litter-bugs, I give this message: Since I don’t know who you are, I crush your cans in remembrance of you, and stomp them flat, since you don’t care enough to.

Save this beautiful place, and keep your litter ‘til later!

Mark Townsend


BGPOA compromise affirms fair elections

Dear Editor,

While the divided BGPOA board cannot agree on much, in the recent settlement signed as a result of court-ordered mediation, they did agree on a detailed process for the 2014 director election and subsequent elections which is consistent with applicable law; and also in accordance with the association’s governing documents.

This election process will reduce further disputes regarding the secret ballot requirement and other disputes regarding the 2012 BGPOA election. The plaintiffs have also asked for two declaratory judgments about indemnification issues and conflicts of interest, ongoing sources of debate and confusion for the current POA board.

The agreed-upon election process affirms the right of BGPOA members to fair, transparent, and verifiable elections. It is important for the peaceful governance of a community association to make sure there is always a validly elected board of directors.

Voting is the first act of building community. The second act is to get more involved, rather than giving up. It’s our government, and the most important thing we can do for ourselves, our family, our community, and the future, is to make it work for all of us.

Real community happens when people tell the truth to each other, and they don’t always have to agree.

Many thanks to the POA board members (Treat Suomi, Russell Schrieber, Matie Belle Lakish), the plaintiffs (Janie Thomas, Nigel Fuller, Bruce McDonald, and Diane Dunlap), and Robert Garnett for spending the sixteen plus hours on the difficult task of hammering out an agreement and settling the lawsuit.

Lisa Cyriacks


Why go to a POA board meeting?

Dear Editor,

Board meetings are notorious for having the double entendre of board/bored meetings.  Well, make of it what you will but they don’t have to be boring . . . controversial, yes, and in this community (and I would dare say others, too) confrontational, but nevertheless quite consistently—informative. But boring, no.

The Baca Grande POA is facing some pressing issues: fire department budget cuts and staff reductions, a possible restructuring of dues assessments for consolidated lots and other properties, requests for dispute resolution hearings and, now with the lawsuit settled, a new election in November.

In my limited forays into self-help jargon one thing I came away with is to make note of the worse thing that could happen if you didn’t take action. In this case, imho, without an engaged community we could have a failed POA (limited services, a financially unsound organization, a place where not only would property values go down, but where you would no longer want to live).

But as the Woody Allen quote goes, 70% of life is just showing up.  You don’t have to “do” anything.  Just your presence to show you care (and I know you do).  And then see what happens . . . you just might surprise yourself.

Sugandha Brooks


Let somebody else do it

Dear Editor,

When Mary and I lived in Oklahoma we attended a Community Building week end with Scott Peck. After returning to our community we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. It took a long time and intense effort, but it was very satisfying and well worth it. Consensus works! When we arrived in Crestone we found board members of the POA throwing chairs at each other. Now they are throwing lawyers at each other.

To form a strong Baca community it takes three or four board members with good will, common sense, and a dedication to the common good. At the same time! Five would be great, one or two won’t cut it. I believe there are more than that here, but the attitude seems to be “let somebody else do it”. Complacency reigns. Well somebody else showed up, without good will, and certainly without common sense and wrecked the fire department in addition to stirring up a lot of trouble and animosity. It will take a great deal of time and effort on the part of many well intentioned community members to unravel this awful mess. But, it can be done if there is enough good will and sustained commitment. You gotta be in for the long haul. Participate. Somebody ring the bell.

I and a committed group worked our butts off for the fire district only to see a handful of opponents bring it down by two votes. All the while we were and still are sitting in a self-evident tinder box. Our pants are down and we are in serious trouble. We could get our butts burned badly. And the fire district isn’t the only thing needing fixing.

We all have stuff to do. But for me, I’m counting on enough people with good will to change the attitude of “let somebody else do it”.

Vince Palermo


Mud puddles

Dear Editor,

I’ve been experiencing and participating in the recent crises at the POA board meetings (recently summarized at

Having observed the “emotional density” and “abysmal lack of clarity” at the POA (as reported by others) I ask myself this basic question: What is the “balance of power” relationship between the members and the board of directors?

The answer, simply put, is that the power of the members, like any proactive democracy, lies in the elections and voting process, while the power of the board lies in the freedom to represent and act upon the “best interests” of the community as a whole.

However, this ideal balance of power relationship works only among mature adults who can demonstrate clear thinking, openness to the needs, values and interests of others, emotional intelligence, and big-picture vision. This applies equally to the board and to community members.

The board is actually a projection of the membership. So when we blame the board we are blaming ourselves.

When we allow people who behave like “adult children” to run the board, then we also act like adult children ourselves for not seeking out, electing and supporting mature board directors.

To that end, some people are talking about organizing a members’ forum of 8-20 people, a sort of committee or political party, who will identify, seek out, recruit and promote mature and vetted candidates . . . and pledge to support them through their board service as our professional representatives. Another suggestion is to change the number of board members from five to seven or nine in order to reduce precipitous turnover and increase institutional memory.

If these or other proactive ideas speak to you and spark your interest then talk them up and let’s see if a positive forum can gel for supporting responsive and mature board members. What do you think?

When members exercise our full power during elections and voting, we might avoid emotionally dense mud puddles in the governance arena. Such happiness, kindness and clarity are possible when you decide what’s important to you, and act on it. Complaining is not democratic, helpful or healthy.

“The revolution is not about putting a different kind of person in power; it is about awakening a different kind of power in people.”    —Stephanie V. H.

Paul Shippee


Long running soap opera

Dear Editor,

Every month when reading the “letters” section of the Eagle I’m reminded how long the Baca POA melodrama has been running . . . 15 years since I’ve been here and counting. Nothing essentially ever changes. Just different people doing battle over an assortment of silly, mindless issues. The POA is a flawed organization that’s never really had the support of the membership or the community as evidenced in part by numerous realty ads quick to state as a positive selling point “Not in the POA”. The POA is little more than a continuing bad habit and an irritant, like a zit on our bottom-side, and together with all the chronic headaches it provides to the membership needs to delegate to other appropriate agencies the few real services it provides and just quietly go away.

Chad Harris


A commission form of government

Presented at the Baca Grande Water & Sanitation District Board meeting March 21.

Given the difficulties happening with the present POA board, and the frustration at the lack of a cordial, democratic situation, I offer this proposal for your consideration.

Historically there are five forms of municipal government: council-manager, mayor-council, commission, town meeting and representative town meeting. A current trend is that local government services are increasingly being supplied by special districts which expand to take on more civic duties. Often a commission government begins with a district such as our Baca Water and Sanitation District (BGWSD), which enlarges its responsibility through a tried and true process:

• Voters elect individual commissioners to a small governing board, typically five- or seven-member.

• Each commissioner is responsible for one specific department, such as fire, water, police, public works, finance, etc.

• One of the commissioners is designated as chairman or mayor, who presides over meetings.

• The commission has both legislative and executive functions.

The commissioners perform a variety of functions which may include roads, fire protection, conservation, sewerage, solid waste, water, utilities, and finance; in short, a commission form of government evolves.

The commission plan of city government is the oldest form of government in the U.S. It is utilized in 3,000 local governments in 35 states mostly with populations below 100,000, but even Portland, OR uses the commission system of government. Portland is very cooperative in making information available about the process it used to form its commission government which functions as a direct democracy providing for initiative, referendum, and recall.

The Baca has grown beyond the scope of a property owners’ association. While the present mission of the (BGWSD) does not encompass this type of governance, it is a logical point from which to begin to establish a commission form of government. It has earned the trust of Baca residents because it functions in a productive, positive, and transparent manner. After their election in May, we can urge them to explore the possibility of becoming the nexus of a commission form of government as the next evolutionary step in our growth.

It’s a worthy, doable goal which will provide a positive alternative to the present untenable government. It’s spring. We can begin with the first step of planting the seed, the idea. Way leads to Way. Let the conversation begin.

Sandia Belgrade


Nelson-Cox announces for assessor

Dear editor,

Hi, my name is Janet Nelson-Cox. I am announcing my candidacy for Saguache County Assessor in the upcoming 2014 election.

I moved to Saguache County after getting married to Shane Cox in 2009 and have been privileged to call the Cochetopa my home for the past 5 years.  I have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business from University of Colorado with an emphasis in marketing. I was fortunate to have worked my way through college without loans.  I have worked since I was 14 and believe that working for what we need and want is key to self worth and purpose.  I believe in continuing education and training at all stages of our lives and believe that we can learn something from everyone we meet.   It is a good day when we learn something new.

I am the mother of a son who works in landscaping and snow removal in Manitou Springs and a daughter in her second year of college in Alamosa.  As a family growing up, we were involved in 4-H, FFA, Boy Scouts, school activities, and church.  I worked at a busy doctor’s office in Castle Rock, while running a horse boarding and riding lesson business out of our home.  None of those things would have been possible without the help of a great community of people working together for the common goal of making things better for our kids and community.

I believe that Saguache County is such a community and I would like to serve as your assessor.  I can promise 100% effort and hard work.   I am actively reaching out to learn the job and its importance to the county residents.  The assessed property values assigned by the Saguache County Assessor are an important part of creating the Saguache County budget.  This is why it is necessary to get all of the property in Saguache County on the tax rolls, so that we all pay our fair share. I have homework, from surrounding assessors, to start working on and I will be attending training classes recommended by those folks early this summer in preparation for the position.  I look forward to serving Saguache County and ask for your vote for Saguache County Assessor.  Feel free to contact me at 720-341-1177 or

Thanks for your support.

Janet Nelson-Cox


Tristan VanZalinge Sheriff candidacy


Dear Editor,

I am announcing that I will be running for position of Saguache County Sheriff in the 2014 election as a Democrat.

He graduated from Trinidad State Junior College Law Enforcement Academy in September, 2005, with honors. He went to work as a police officer with Center Police Department in February, 2006. He was hired by the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office in March of 2007. While working with Saguache County Sheriff’s Office, He served as a patrol Deputy for four and a half years and was promoted to Patrol Sergeant. He served as Patrol Sergeant for approximately 9 months and was appointed Undersheriff on July 6, 2012. He continues to serve as Undersheriff. His duties as Undersheriff include scheduling and supervision of all the patrol Deputies, jail, approving reports, administrative duties, making forms, etc. As well as carrying His own case load.

He has advanced computer skills which hasve enabled him to convert almost all of the Sheriff’s office forms and paper work to a computerized format for better efficiency. With those skills he has converted their criminal filings to a computerized e-filing format required by the 12th Judicial District. He has changed the filing process to be more efficient along with helping receive trainings, equipment, and multiple other responsibilities which will help their agency and community on a higher level.

He has and continues training in the budget process, trainings within the county and has a good understanding of the administrative duties of the Sheriff.

He has a dedicated work ethic and wishes to continue his law enforcement career as Sheriff of Saguache County. He would appreciate the support of the citizens of Saguache County in his endeavor to become the next Sheriff of Saguache County. He will work “With the Community”.


Tristan VanZalinge


Mountain biking impacts on trails

Dear bicyclists,

Use of bicycles on hiking trails causes rapid soil erosion especially during the spring mud season, which is already here. So, mountain bikers, please take pause to think about your impact. Although bicycles are clean and green, here’s what happens to hiking trails when bicycles join the fray: the sharper curves in the trail can widen and become banked and gouged out. Sometimes when a rider is unable to maneuver over an obstacle, especially with our rocky outcrops, he (she) goes around it, often onto fresh ground. Early or late in the year, snow and ice may be present. To avoid the ice or sometimes deep mud there are more detours. In a relatively short time, and depending on how many bicycles pass through, a small footpath can become a small road. Deep tire marks and an eroded path are an enduring reminder, which touches more on aesthetics.

Mountain biking is a mixed bag with respect to environmental ethics. I have seen it in many places over the years, as I too am a cyclist. Most popular “singletrack” areas, places where bicycles can ride on hiking trails, I think of as sacrifice zones, or soon to become. Maybe this is one reason I am not such an avid mountain biker these days. In the summer, Crested Butte is a mountain biking mecca. In CB most local hikers avoid areas where off-road vehicles are allowed access, which on some trails also includes motorcycles. So far, Crestone is less attractive to these tourists. Being a bicycling enthusiast myself, I know that no matter what we do, there is an environmental impact. On the small scale, Crestone scale, hiking along a trail one notices the small changes to this special, natural place that is our backyard. So, if you insist on riding your bike using the hiking/horse trails in the Baca, especially the South Crestone Creek trail, please stay tightly on the existing trail even if it is rocky and difficult to navigate. This is an outstanding, aesthetically beautiful trail which deserves to be taken care of.

Respectfully yours,

Wade Lockhart