by Lisa Cyriacks
After two hearings and months of debate and deliberation, the Secretary of State’s office has decided that “Colorado’s Smallest Town” Bonanza City, population 1, will remain a town. Despite the town’s only remaining full-time resident, Mark Perkovich supporting the abandonment of the town government, there are other summer residents who wanted to keep the town status.
Under state law, a town will become a “ghost town if it fails to hold elections and/or operate a government for five years.
Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert said, “I applaud the passion and civic engagement of individuals on both sides of this issue.” Staiert presided over the October 14th hearing held in Saguache where proponents and opponents of abandonment presented their evidence and arguments.
According to the decision presented by the Secretary of State’s office, the decision is partially due to a 2009 election in which Bonanza’s residents voted to dissolve the town by a vote of 11 to 10. Ironically, that margin, however, did not represent the two-thirds majority required by state law to dissolve.
The special election came to light after the hearing. In Saguache District Court documents, listing Ben Gibbons as the attorney for the Town of Bonanza in a 2006 successful election contest filed by candidate Gail Holbrook. Holbrook, now deceased, had served as both mayor and town clerk in the past.
Ben Gibbons, currently the Saguache County attorney, had filed for Bonanza’s abandonment in October 2013 on behalf of the Saguache County Commissioners. Saguache County Commissioners argued Bonanza hadn’t had an election in a long time and that it didn’t have any elected leaders. That’s why they wanted to strip its township title.
In a brief submitted on behalf of opponents, Stuart Anderson (Salida law firm Anderson and Hughes, P.C.) argued that, “The county, through its attorney, knew there had been an election in 2006. By failing to disclose what it knew and by taking a position contrary to what it knew to be true, the County introduced error into its own application.”
The decision from the Secretary of State’s office also found that a town government existed for some of the five-year period immediately prior to the application. In the court order resolving the 2006 election dispute (dated January 7, 2007), the court installed three individuals receiving the next highest votes as trustees. Evidence was also submitted showing that Saguache County Road and Bridge continued to receive payment for services provided.
While the evidence supports preserving the town, the future of Bonanza lies with its only resident. Other testimony indicated several seasonal residents interested in maintaining what they love about Bonanza, but it is unclear what role they can play in forming town government.
Nostalgia for days past has won the day. Bonanza had its heyday in the 1880’s when silver was discovered. Population peaked at 1,000. After a catastrophic fire in 1937, little remains of the original town, but what is there is precious to some.
For now, Bonanza will continue to be called a town as well as holding the title of “Colorado’s Smallest Town”.