This is your Chief speaking

Dear Community,

Vote No on Tuesday, March 5 to maintain better future options for our community. The outcome of this vote will cost you nothing but the time it takes to cast your ballot. We need your vote.

My support of the Crestone Emergency Services District remains strong and steadfast. This resolve on the benefits of a unified special district has developed from the past thirteen years of providing emergency services to this community.  As Fire Chief for both the Baca Grande and Crestone Fire Departments, I see the very real challenges that threaten our ability to serve the community effectively and put volunteer responders at undue risk. From a heart of service and front line knowledge of our department’s strengths and weaknesses I encourage this community to retain our future options for unified community protection by voting No on Tuesday, March 5.

In the face of our opposition’s attempt to undo what voters have already approved, the following statements have been included to clarify points pertinent to making an educated choice for our community.

Among other transgressions, the misinformation campaign has erroneously stated; “POA Fire Chief Ben Brack has confirmed over and over again in board meetings that all Mutual Aid Agreements are functioning splendidly and that whatever communications-dispatch issues they claimed existed were now resolved.”

This is a paraphrased statement taken out of context as a means to downplay the challenges our services face and the subsequent increase in risk exposure to the residents. The truth of our mutual aid situation is that we have been excluded from the valley-wide intergovernmental agreement with all the other fire departments in the valley. Their lawyers advised them not to renew an agreement that included the Baca Grande POA because it is a private entity. We currently have only one mutual aid agreement with our neighboring Northern Saguache County Fire Protection District.

The reasons for forming CrESD in the first place still exist. The Crestone Fire Department is still dispatched from the sheriff’s office. This causes delays because 911 in Alamosa must relay this information by telephone to the sheriff’s office before dispatch can occur.

I also want to address the misinformation that fire department volunteers would become paid staff if CrESD were funded. This is incorrect.The same people would have approximately the same jobs and pay as they have now.  I have no idea where an $80,000 salary figure came from. No one makes near that.

As my introduction to politics, the process of creating a fire district as an opportunity for community improvement has not been an easy or pleasant undertaking. However, I believe firmly in the greater good, the volunteer responders believe in that good and so did the majority of our voters that approved CrESD. Don’t let the opposition throw away our options for the future with a fear-based misinformation campaign.  Claims that volunteers are taking advantage of the community they serve daily are asinine, hurtful and not conducive to maintaining a willing base of volunteers. Truth is, the outcome of this vote will not cause an increase in your taxes, and voting No to dissolution on Tuesday, March 5 will maintain a viable option to emergency services and community challenges that are not currently being resolved.

So please get out and vote on Tuesday, March 5 at the Crestone Community Building. Renters—you can vote too! If you live in the district you don’t have to own property to vote.

In service on the front lines,

Ben Brack

 

Thank you!

Dear Editor,

On Saturday, February 16 the Crestone Charter School was proud to host its second annual community Valentine Dance.  This year’s event featured Red Bandana, the amazing all-girl band from Salida.  Red Bandana, whose members range in age from 12 to 14, inspired kids and grown-ups alike with their musicianship, their stage presence, and their positive energy.  On behalf of the Charter School, I’d like to send out a huge thank-you to Tom Dessain and Crestone Performances, Inc., who were generous enough to sponsor Red Bandana.  We are so grateful for all the wonderful music you bring to Crestone!

Sincerely,

Daya Scheide

 

2013 Crestone Energy Fair on or off?

Dear Editor,

Judie Rose will not be heading up the Crestone Energy Fair this year. If the Crestone Energy Fair is to happen in September, 2013, someone will have to step up to the plate and get it going.  If you are interested in taking on this 23-year-old event, call Judie Rose at 256-5110 for the info/notes you will need to make this event happen.

Thank you,

Judie Rose

 

Inclusiveness of Charter School leadership

Dear Editor,

As the charter school approaches critical leadership decisions, some wish that the school would be more open to input. There is a time and place for complaint, but life and psychology classes teach that it’s typically more effective to praise behavior you want to see and mostly ignore behavior you don’t want to see. Without claiming to know all the issues, in my view the school deserves an A in community inclusion. I hope we will engage in the official decision-making process, which is more useful than talking among ourselves about what we disagree with.

The governing council posts meeting times so community members can attend and speak. Sensing the commonality of basic values in those who volunteer long hours to complete projects, I believe they do the best they can with limited resources. I don’t expect to be given an equal voice for issues that I haven’t taken the time to fully inform myself on. They can’t in one brief session thoroughly explain complex issues that have been ongoing for years. I anticipate opportunities for cooperative involvement with the planned PTO.

The administrators make difficult decisions for which they know they will be criticized. I trust their intent of ultimately providing for the best interests of the students as a whole and considering individual needs as much as possible. They balance issues of confidentiality with giving adequate explanation to those outside a situation—a difficult task. I’ve heard briefly of the drama of comings and goings, and I don’t consider it my business to know the details. There are always two sides to a story; the truth is often somewhere in the middle.

Teachers have a challenging profession. I’m grateful for (a) the energy and dedication they bring to the classroom; (b) the loving, creative, and safe environment they provide; (c) parents welcomed into the classroom to contribute, at a time in which most public schools seem to have few resources or time to spare beyond bolstering standardized test results.

My work involves the field of education, so I’m constantly exposed to the political tides and the latest research in the field. The charter school is exceptional, due to the effort of many seen and unseen. I consider it a privilege that my child may attend. Let’s focus on our personal responsibility to make a positive contribution. This will get us further in improving the school.

Ardell Broadbent

 

GMO alfalfa

Dear Editor,

GMO alfalfa is being propagated in our valley, and according to Monte Vista agricultural engineer Patrick Oneill, it is common practice to spray the alfalfa with Roundup immediately prior to being baled. This is purely insane and one only needs to think for one moment to grasp the horrific ramifications of such a practice.  We must do all we can to stop this now. Please sign the petition on MoveOn.org to stop the propagation of GMOs in this sacred valley. Thank you.

Narayan Khalsa

 

Food donation

Dear Generous Donor(s) of Food Boxes:

I could not find out who you are, but wish to thank the generous soul(s) who gave me #7 a full box of organic food good for 40 days of eating last month.  I know you also  donated a number of boxes as a much higher number than mine stood behind me to collect her box too. It is a handsomely generous way to remind me and us of how we need to prepare for times when food and supplies are cut off.

Thank you so warmly,

Jacquelyn Zoe de Bray

 

No gas at POA

Dear community,

We regret to announce that the POA maintenance shop cannot sell gasoline. We understand the inconvenience we are all experiencing with the closure of Curt’s station and the void that closure created in purchasing gas locally. Unfortunately, the maintenance shop would be violating state laws, as well as incurring huge liabilities, should we pose as a retail outlet for gasoline sales.

I personally apologize for this, especially since I just became the new community manager and must deliver this message. Hopefully the inconvenience will be short-term in duration.

Thanks for your understanding,

Lonnie Nichols,

HMI Community Manager

 

Wells & water systems

Dear Crestone Town and Community Residents,

On February 11 the Town of Crestone Town Council decided to set a “current” policy of not allowing granting of new well permits by the state, in the Town of Crestone. This was done without any notice, hearing, ordinance or other process that truly included the citizenry affected. The reasoning behind this is that there is insufficient funding for the potable water system that was put in in 2007. Predictions at that time the system was planned were that the system was financially unsustainable, but it was installed anyway as a “matter of faith” that funding would appear, which it has not. Many town residents asked at the time if they would be giving up the right to put a new well on their property, and are told “no”. Now that the town is having the (predicted) difficulty paying for the system, they have decided to strip the citizens of their right to drill a well by not allowing the State of Colorado to issue them (the state asks the town to verify the resident’s right to have a well). The State of Colorado has a “guideline” that they do not approve well permits in municipalities that have a water system unless the town approves it, which is the towns’ choice. The Board of Trustees, headed by Mayor Kairina Danforth, have recently repeatedly referenced this guideline as a law, which is false. When objections were raised as to the promises made in 2007 regarding the water system not removing the residents’ right to have a new well, the response was, “it was not put in writing”.

Is this what the Town of Crestone has come to? “Put it in writing”?! What happened to integrity? The fact that the town government could so cavalierly remove a significant citizen right in a paternalistic manner of “we know what’s best”, disempowers the citizens. It is true that there may be no alternative to funding the water system than forcing people to connect to the town water system, but before promises are broken, I would like to see more interaction on this matter. We have a lot of smart people in this community, who might have a solution if informed and engaged.

I was one of the trustees in 2007 who told residents that they would not lose their right to a well, and now I feel my integrity is at stake in the absence of that. There is still no ordinance on this issue, and for citizens that have any ideas on it, I encourage them to contact the Town of Crestone Board of Trustees. Do not  assume that they will contact you.

Thank you,

Debra A. Irizarry

 

Response to wells & water—guidelines

Dear Editor,

The “Guidelines” discussed at the February 11, 2013 Crestone Board of Trustees meeting were created by the Colorado Division of Water Resources in 2003 to help its staff provide consistent review of well permit applications pursuant to Colorado Revised Statutes 37-92-602(6), which states in part: “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the state of Colorado that the exemptions set forth in this section are intended to allow citizens to obtain a water supply in less densely populated areas for in-house and domestic animal uses where other water supplies are not available.”   Once the town developed a municipal water system, this and other state laws began to govern water use in the town, including state approval of well permit applications.  The town has not and cannot create a policy to allow or not allow the granting of well permits, as this is the state’s jurisdiction only.

The town’s municipal water system, which became operational in 2010, was initially created to provide fire protection by installing fire hydrants throughout town, and provided water for residents in the upslope portion of town who had no water, due to the extreme cost of well-drilling at that elevation. The water system provides a safe, dependable source of water for our commercial district and for residents who have desired to have municipal water. Creation of the municipal water system did not change the rights of well owners to use and repair their wells.

At the time the system was planned, it was anticipated that it would take 29 water customers to cover the cost of operating the system, and take five years for the system to fully pay its expenses.  Once the system was operational for the first year, the town was able to more accurately access the expense of operating the system. Due to the costs of testing and other compliance matters, the town treasurer then estimated it would take 39 customers for the system to pay its expenses. Now in its third year of operation, the system has 28 users, and we expect to meet the goal of the system paying for itself within the predicted five years.

The board of trustees held a special meeting on January 30 to discuss the water district service area, and the well permit process was a necessary part of this discussion.  Appropriate notice was given for this meeting.  Citizens are always encouraged to attend the town meetings.

Sincerely,

Kairina Danforth, Mayor

 

Town urges No vote on March 5

Dear Editor,

The Crestone Board of Trustees fully endorses retention of the Crestone Emergency Services District and encourages the electorate to vote NO on Tuesday, March 5, 2013. The district, created by the vote of the people in 2011, provides the mechanism to resolve numerous problems and challenges that cannot be solved individually by any of the jurisdictional agencies providing emergency services, and it makes no sense to dissolve the district at this time. There is no cost or liability to anyone to keep the district in its current status.

Sincerely,

Town of Crestone Board of Trustees

 

Vote No on March 5

Dear Editor,

We just wanted to add a very quick response to this upcoming CrESD election.  We moved here 25 years ago and there was very little emergency response structure in place for this area.  The well meaning retired couples that volunteered for the Baca Grande Fire Department at the time knew little about how to run any of the equipment, let alone the fire trucks.  We realized that if we didn’t get involved, that we could be in trouble, seeing clearly that we lived in the wildland urban interface.  We learned how to run the equipment and fire trucks and contributed to a base of volunteer knowledge of fire response for the next 20 years.  A fine, well trained emergency response structure has been put in place by many volunteers through the years who have generously added their skills and expertise.  Community members understand much more about managing emergencies than ever before.  So why undermine this valuable community resource?  We need to vote No in this election.  It’s heartbreaking to see the continued demoralizing of such good, well intentioned emergency (mostly young) volunteers.  They deserve our respect and vote of confidence.  We personally do not want to go back to the lack of awareness that was in place when we first got here.  We need the CrESD emergency response infrastructure in place.  The CrESD is a cumulative life-enhancing community effort that has been built over decades of devotion and cooperative leadership.

Thanks for making the time to vote No.

Sincerely,

Christine Canaly

Mark Jacobi

 

Renters can vote; please vote No

Dear Editor,

I want to remind everyone that Renters can vote in this election.  Only people who live out of the area have to own property here to vote.  Please vote “No” to dissolve the district this Tuesday, March 5.  We appreciate your continued  support of local emergency services and CrESD.

Thank you,

Lisa Bodey

 

Energetic & financial cost

To The Editor,

I applaud Steve Elliott for putting forward the suggestion that the POA membership “move to the middle. . .” as a means of compromise and “constructive dialogues.”

Currently, that seems far off, with Bruce McDonald, Diane Dunlap, Nigel Fuller and Janie Thomas suing board members Treat Suomi, Bill Folk and Russell Schreiber—not the board of directors as a whole nor the BGPOA.

Those that are bringing these suits could have brought their concerns regarding the use of ‘proxy’ ballots (used in some form during POA elections for the past five years) to the membership, and worked on an alternative plan well before the election.  The group didn’t complain last year, when Bob Garnett was elected.  Instead, they chose to sue, with a potential cost to the membership of thousands of dollars in legal fees. This is an odd way for those that are so concerned with increasing fees, to act.

Steve, I agree with your concern that those with blatant special interests should not be serving on the POA board:  why is Bob Garnett still there?  He felt comfortable suing the POA, at a cost to the membership of more than $7,000.  He lost his suit and remains on the board, continuing to push for his special interests to be realized.

You state that those serving as Emergency Services volunteers should be exempted from board positions.  Should that also include those that volunteer with other service or educational organizations? Business owners?  Builders?  Should the only “qualified” candidates be drawn from those who have no vested interest in the community, unlike those who volunteer to protect and serve (without bias)?

The “2 Minute Limit” that you refer to is, in fact, part of the “rules” that the board is mandated to follow if there are more than 20 people waiting to express their views or question the board.

The same group that so vociferously campaigned, and continues to do so, against the  Crestone Emergency Services District being established/sustained, now turns its sights on another group:  who will be next?

How strange it is to think that those who have no direct experience, training or history of volunteerism to the emergency service organizations that serve this area are so ready to condemn it because it may cost us more, while they seem to be blind to the energetic and financial costs their actions impose on the POA membership.

Respectfully,

Stephanie Gaines

 

In response to Gaines’ letter

Dear Stephanie,

I totally understand your concern. A lawsuit is a last resort when other means of communication has completely failed to bring any results. Even compromises aren’t possible when one side of the parties continuously ignores valid requests or concerns from others to the point where it isn’t even mentioned in the minutes.

It is a fact that the board members, who are now being sued, were repeatedly notified about the problems with using proxies before the election, but still chose to disregard these concerns. They also chose to disregard the fact that they have broken both bylaws and parts of the Colorado Constitution. They even voted YES to national dispatch after a full room of members expressed their concerns about how this would leave our area unprotected and give us less service than what we already have, while costing us more. The problem is that they keep ignoring every attempt to communicate and come up with workable solutions.

In order to avoid a lawsuit, and thereby save the membership legal expenses, open, two-way communication is a must, as well as a willingness to listen to what the members are expressing. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any openness, willingness or two-way communication so far. This is why a lawsuit is the only option at this point.

The only way to really understand what is going on and to get all the facts straight is to come to the meetings. Therefore, I encourage people to come to as many meetings as possible so you can see for yourself what the truth of the matter is.

Nigel Fuller

 

It’s a big deal

Dear Editor,

There is a very troubling attitude held by many in our little town; that it’s no big deal if laws are broken or if our elections are corrupted.

Local elections are the most important elections we have because they determine who we will entrust with major decisions which have long-term consequences affecting us all.  These few people will be in positions of power for three or more years in most cases, so it’s a very big deal to ensure elections are conducted properly, honestly, and verifiably.  It is not okay for people in charge of elections to just “wing it”.

There is also a very troubling presumption that we’re all supposed to automatically embrace any idea hatched by “volunteers” and to conclude that simply because the idea has “volunteers” involved, the idea must be brilliant, necessary and unconditionally supported.  Playing the “volunteer card” amounts to the same thing as playing the “race card.”  It has one purpose and one purpose only; to shift the dialog away from the facts and persuade you to make decisions based on guilt and/or fear.

It must be realized that just because a person volunteers, does not automatically mean that person is competent to manage an entire operation, much less something like our essential emergency services.  It is critical that we make sure we have qualified people managing these services.  The architects of the CrESD have shown time and again that they do not make sound decisions. They should have worked out every single detail, made certain it was all achievable and run it by absolutely everyone before they forced us all to vote on it.

I encourage everyone to go to www.bgcan.net and read the Complaint for yourself.  You will see it all laid out—how the CrESD and the POA board elections have been conducted are completely related.  This is one time that everyone must do your own homework. Become informed and don’t just go by sound bites when making your decisions.

Bruce McDonald

 

Set the record right

To the Editor:

Just to set the record right, Bob Garnett and Bob Banaszek did not “sue” the POA, but did file a Petition For An Injunction to determine the validity of the POA’s current governing documents. This action was dismissed by a judge related to Eli Dokson, who should have recused himself from ruling on any issue involving the fire district. Said judge has recused himself from these issues since. The court action was due to the co-opted POA board’s refusal to review and discuss the information compiled by Bob Garnett and Bob Banaszek. The court action did not cost the POA membership anything because the POA’s liability insurance paid for their lawyer. Bob Garnett and Bob Banaszek paid their own expenses and never sought any financial gain from our efforts. The petition will be posted on the BGCAN website so that everyone has the opportunity to read the facts for themselves.

As to the subject of volunteers, true volunteers don’t volunteer for personal gain, but do so in the service to those in need or for the betterment of the community. Bob Garnett and Bob Banaszek have never asked for anything in return for our volunteering. Bob Garnett began with Bobby Spiecher, thirty (30) years ago, cutting firewood for those in need. Bob Banaszek has assisted many owner/builders in building their homes, Bob has always been available to help with any problem a neighbor may have.

Bob Garnett is on the POA board due to the fact that he has no special agenda, with the exception being what is in the best interest of the membership. Bob Garnett is known for telling it as it is, no sugar coating. The main reason for Bob Garnett being on the POA board is that the membership has trust and faith in him and vote for him.

Bob Garnett

 

Response to Gaines

Dear Stephanie:

Various members notified the POA Board of their concerns about the format of the upcoming election beginning months before the election, and the board was unresponsive.

This lawsuit will not cost the membership “thousands of dollars”.  It won’t cost the members anything.  The costs should be paid by the defendants personally.

This isn’t just an issue of board members promoting “special interests”.  It is also an issue of family members of POA employees serving on the board.  Especially during budget discussions, these kinds of conflicts of interest, financial bias, and dual loyalty (to the department vs the membership vs family members) becomes very problematic.  Also, when for example you have an EMS responder on the board, you suddenly have an employee with more power than their direct supervisor, the department head.  For instance, Treat Suomi, who works under Pam Gripp in the Ambulance Department, becomes Pam’s boss once on the board.

There is no comparison between POA employees being on the board and those who work or volunteer for other service organizations or businesses being on the POA Board.  Once you allow employees or family members of employees to be on the POA Board where they are making decisions that directly affect the departments to which they have a special connection, you can no longer trust that the decisions being make are in the best interests of the membership at large as opposed to the best interests of any given department at the expense of the whole (e.g., stripping the maintenance department budget and padding the Fire department budget).

There is no such thing as a “mandated 2-minute speaking limit”.  There are rarely 20 people in queue to speak.  Speaking limits are set by boards who don’t want to hear from their constituents—period.

Our sights are still on the same group—the proponents of CrESD who misled the community and who used their positions of power on the POA Board to further the outside third-party interests of CrESD to the detriment of the membership and at the cost to the membership of thousands dollars.

We are not condemning volunteerism, we condemn CrESD because it was a deeply flawed plan which has no viability because it has no emergency equipment or assets.  And any more big mill levy increases will financially cripple the Baca, hurting homeowners with crushing tax burdens resulting in diminished property values, more bankruptcies and foreclosures and ruining the lives of young families and seniors on fixed incomes by forcing them to pay much more for the same or degraded services.

Diane Dunlap

 

POA Response

Dear Editor,

Diane Dunlap, along with Janie Thomas, Bruce McDonald, and Nigel Fuller, has filed a lawsuit against the BGPOA, in which there are issues raised pertaining to a BGPOA election and how that may affect issues concerning the District. In response to this lawsuit, the proper forum for communications and decisions concerning the issues raised therein should be in formal filings and proceedings before the Court. The BGPOA will generally not comment on pending litigation. BGPOA will continue to work with the community through its normal processes including meetings, emails, newsletters, and other appropriate communications.

Respectfully,

Lonnie Nichols

Baca POA Community Manager

 

Response regarding lawsuit

Dear Editor,

A lawsuit has been filed against the Baca Grande Property Owners Association.  Those bringing the suit, the plaintiffs, are Janie Thomas, Bruce McDonald, Nigel Fuller, and Diane Dunlap.  The lawsuit sues the association and names several Directors and a former Director as defendants.

This lawsuit is in its very preliminary stages.

At the February 21 Special Meeting of the Board, called by Directors Bob Garnett & Diana Moats, Director Garnett revealed to the Board that he has talked with the POA’s insurance company in an attempt to prevent the insurance company from covering the legal fees of the lawsuit.

The POA’s insurance company has hired an attorney for this case.  The attorney recommended a specific course of action to start with.  Board Directors Suomi, Lakish, & Schreiber voted to follow the attorney’s recommendation; Directors Garnett & Moats voted not to follow the attorney’s recommendation.

Whether the CrESD district is a third party interest or something that would be good for the entire community, at this stage is a matter of opinion, and opinion has been divided.  As far as money spent by the POA regarding the District, the most money spent by far was the Feasibility study of 2010.  The motion to hire the Feasibility Study was made by former director Diane Dunlap & seconded by director Bob Garnett.

The POA is lucky to have more volunteers than employees.  Without these volunteers, there would likely be no emergency services at all.  To imply that these volunteers are paid employees is a disservice to their dedication to us all.

The election regarding the CrESD District is coming up.  Please vote your conscience. Regarding the current POA litigation, it’s still very early in this process, but stay tuned for more news.

Sincerely,

Russell Schreiber

 

Please end the war

Dear Editor,

. . . Against our community emergency response volunteers!

Please, for the safety and legal liability of our community and the lives that may be saved, vote No March 5.

As one of the emergency response volunteers who dedicates hundreds of hours without pay each year to serve the needs of our community, it breaks my heart to encounter daily so many reasons why our community needs the fully funded CRESD district, and then to see how certain people seem willing to go to any length spreading lies within our community to make our jobs more difficult. Why? In a world with so many true problems and real evil corporate enemies and such, why do you choose to take the dark karma path of spending your every effort dividing the community against itself with totally misleading propaganda?

Even without public funding, CrESD serves some very important liability functions for Baca property owners and enables us to call on other departments to assist in major emergencies . . . and costs absolutely zero in taxes or POA dues. To me it seems profoundly unwise to eliminate something that so many of us volunteers have dedicated thousands of hours of volunteer effort to create, to improve access to national and state grants for our community, to improve and simplify radio communications in emergencies, to improve response time and reduce property owners’ financial liability in case of a huge wildfire . . . and currently at absolutely no cost to the community!

Why are these few anti-emergency services and anti POA zealots so short-sighted and so willing to exploit the most atrociously unscrupulous tactics in a small community, only to prevent us from doing our best efforts to serve our fellow citizens?

Why the senseless and costly lawsuits that keep being thrown out by the judges? Why the falsehood and slander campaigns that lead only to so many of our finest volunteers quitting their unpaid service and keeping us from being able to recruit new volunteers?

Please vote No to all this sad nonsense on March 5.

Alder Lakish,

Baca Fire and  Search

& Rescue Volunteer #25