Many grant applications, including a Tri-County Family Care Nature Trail project through the Oxbow State Wildlife preserve to Bent's Old Fort, were discussed and approved

Many grant applications occupied the majority of the Monday Otero County Commissioners on Monday. Nancy Harrington of the Tri-County Family Care Center presented a planning grant application for Bent’s Old Fort County Nature Trail Project. This project is similar to a long-standing idea in the National Park Service for creating an entrance to Bent’s Old Fort from Highway 50 by building a road from the highway through the Oxbow State Wildlife Preserve nine miles east of La Junta. The planning grant is just a first step, but was encouraged by the Bent’s Old Fort Staff. Permission of the State Parks and Wildlife department and the railroad would be needed and a plan for a footbridge which would not interfere with the flow of the river, but Tri County Family Care has taken that important first step. They were not able to get the permissions to cross private land which were needed for their other proposed nature trail, which would have connected Rocky Ford with the State Wildlife ponds on the Arkansas River. The commissioners added their support. The total grant is for $79,000; $55,300 is requested from Great Outdoors Colorado; of the matching funds, $7,900 will come from the County Conservation Trust Fund and $15,800 in-kind services from Otero County.

Resolution 2017-08 supporting the Grant Application for a Local Parks and Outdoor Recreation Grant from the State Board of the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund for the completion of the Arkansas Valley Fairground Improvements, Phase 1 Project was also approved. The total amount of this grant is $473,825, of which $350,000 is requested from GOCO. For the matching funds, $30,000 cash is from the Otero County Conservation Trust Fund, $16,000 from Black Hills Energy and $33,825 in-kind services of Otero County. The grant would cover new restrooms for men and women in the 4-H barn and extensive paving of parking and midway areas of the Arkansas Valley Fairgrounds. Otero County Administrator Jean Hinkle hopes to have the grant approved by March and the work done by Aug. 1, 2018, to be ready for the opening of the Arkansas Valley Fair in mid-August, 2018.

An intergovernmental agreement between Otero County and the City of Rocky Ford was reached to allow improvements to the fairgrounds, which belong to the City of Rocky Ford for at least the next 25 years.

The 2018 Colorado Court Security Grant Application was submitted for the Otero County Courts. Requested funds are $68,885.67 for personnel and $9,1887.80 for security, for a total of $78,073.47. Chief Judge Mark MacDonnell and Sheriff Shawn Mobley signed the grant application as well as Commissioner Kevin Karney. The grant would cover a full-time security officer, 25 percent funding for Court Security Officer leave, training, etc., continued funding for phone and internet connections, video conferencing support and maintenance and pin code lock for Division B courtroom. Security measures already in place include full-time Courthouse Security Officer, interior and exterior camera system, pin code locks on District Court office doors, duress alarm system and video equipment in courtrooms.

A contract agreement was reached between the City of La Junta and Otero County allowing the county to purchase the property at Highway 10 and Dalton, the former maintenance headquarters of the Southeast Colorado Power Company. The property consists of 3.47 acres, all of the buildings, fencing, heating and cooling systems, and anything else on the property, for the purchase price of $335,000. Otero County received a grant of $200,000 toward the purchase and intends to sell the other shop it will replace. This purchase will enable the county to garage its heavy equipment and have a fence around the buildings, not to mention adequate heating and lighting to work on equipment inside during the winter months. The Department of Local Affairs approved the grant.

Economic Development Coordinator Danelle Berg reported work continues on the Housing Needs Assessment and a building fund to work on housing needs. Representatives to the board from Crowley and Bent counties are sought. She continues to work with the Health Coalition and Manufacturing group grants, which have both been approved for $7,000. The state will reimburse up to this amount for each project, through grants. She is also happy to report she gets an application a day from a business wanting to start in Otero County. Since Small Business Development Center Director Rachel Patrick has an eight-county area to cover, Berg makes the initial contact and works with Patrick to set up assistance.

Bids for the new 911 system have been received from Century Link, Motorola and Venture Technology. They range from $220,000 to $290,000 and are now being studied, said Hinkle. She also wishes to make a clarification on the Gray and Black Market Marijuana grant for recovering local expenses. Neither Crowley nor Bent County submitted their expenses for reimbursement, and so were not included in the grant application. Otero County submitted $24,580 and the District Attorney’s Office, $1,312. These amounts were for expenses during the large-scale illegal marijuana grow bust in September 2016.

The planned expansion of Highway 50 added to the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Budget for the four laning of Highway 50 to Pueblo, said Commissioner Jim Baldwin. Some will be done this summer. Passing lanes are also planned for 287, north and south of Lamar.

Asked about the Arkansas Valley Balloon Festival scheduled for Saturday and Sunday this weekend, J.R. Thompson explained the change of venue to the area across from the Innovative Water Technologies Plant on Highway 202 on the west side of Rocky Ford. The high school is rebuilding the football field and track and didn’t want anyone driving over it. He said the Methodist Church will still do breakfast, and it will be served at the IWT cafeteria. Starting time Saturday is 6:30 a.m. and Sunday at 7:30 a.m. because we “fall back” to Standard Time at 12 midnight Saturday.