The Town of Buena Vista board of trustees approved a $15,000 settlement offer for former mayor Cara Russell's litigation against the town. The approval followed an executive session during the regular meeting May 24 at the community center.
"The trustees' decision is about what they are willing to do. This is still in the process of settlement negotiations," town administrator Sue Boyd told The Times May 25. Certain matters are confidential until there "really is a settlement," she said.
In November 2008, the trustees called for the removal of Russell from office. At the time, the trustees said she "undermined" their efforts to annex the proposed subdivision The Villages at Cottonwood Meadows in the "Mayor's Focus" column which ran Oct. 30, 2008, in The Times. The annexation question was defeated on the Nov. 4, 2008, ballot. The trustees rescinded the call for Russell's removal Nov. 25, 2008. After no agreement was reached with the trustees when Russell requested reimbursement for attorney fees incurred regarding the removal, Russell filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court not only against the town, but also against the individual trustees.
"We anticipate the entire lawsuit will be resolved, including claims against the individual trustees. The $15,000 would be paid by the town," town attorney Jeff Parker said in an e-mail to The Times May 26.
Named in the lawsuit were former trustees Brett Mitchell and Mark Boston and current trustee Robert Flint, mayor pro tempore Keith Baker and mayor Joel Benson. Trustee Norm Nyberg voted no on the call for removal and was not named in the lawsuit. The voters approved the annexation in April 2010. No action was taken following the executive session on The Meadows lawsuit against the town, Boyd said.
In other matters, the trustees received a retirement letter from Buena Vista Public Works director Roy Gertson effective Sept. 30. Gertson worked for the town for 31 years.
"With many looming issues, challenges and planned improvements, I do think the present town administration and staff can deal with these future issues very effectively. The Public Works Department is poised to continue its professional attitude and expertise to provide services, maintain, and construct infrastructure," Gertson said in the May 18 letter.
In a report for the trustees, said he is getting "a little concerned" about the snowmelt coming all at once in June and causing flooding in creeks. Prison inmates have been filling sandbags, he said.
The trustees approved a temporary use permit for Central Colorado Foodshed Alliance to operate a farmers market on Thursdays from June 16 to Oct. 6 on the east side of McPhelemy Park. The applicant, CCFA Farmers Market of Buena Vista, plans to close the parking area from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Thursday.
Vehicle access to the area will be restricted to vendors. Visitor access to the market will be by foot or bicycle and vehicles can be parked on the streets.
The trustees reviewed a list of roads proposed for paving in 2012 with funds from the dedicated sales tax for road improvements. In 2011, revenue will be used to repair up to 10 drainage issues throughout town, Friedman said.
The trustees discussed completing the less-expensive projects, which include paving community center parking lots, a part of Cedar Street, River Park Road, a part of Arkansas Street that goes to the river park, part of North Colorado Avenue, North Court Street and Yale Avenue. This is just a beginning discussion, Friedman said.
The trustees approved a motion to close down the rodeo facility for safety reasons until they get more information on equine herpes virus, a disease that has been confirmed in horses in Colorado and can be deadly to horses.
They tabled a request from Jed Selby, The Town Company, LLC, to close Cedar Street the week of June 6 to move manufactured cottages to lots on Cedar and North Court streets. Boyd said the decision on water for the housing is pending and the trustees would have more information at their June 14 meeting.
The Buena Vista Trails Advisory Board is planning a volunteer work day June 4 for Whipple Trail maintenance. If people are interested, they are asked to meet at the pavilion in Buena Vista River Park at 8 a.m., or they may call Public Works at 395-6898 for more information. Lunch will be provided, board member Lois Walton said.
The trustees awarded a contract for the designing and building of a new park on Rodeo Road to Altamont Landscape of Salida. The funding for the park was awarded by LiveWell Chaffee County.
Following concern expressed by vendor Robert Hickman on park permit fees each time he sets up at the ball fields, the trustees discussed having an option of a one-time vendor fee and an option of a park permit if vendors want to guarantee a spot in a park. The idea of fees is to offset the town's costs such as trash disposal and maintenance, treasurer Christine DeChristopher said. Special events such as Gold Rush Days are regulated under the special event regulations.
In other business, the trustees adopted amendments to the municipal code that prohibit dog excrement on all public property. The ordinance was changed to include all town property, trails, parks, sidewalks and rights-of-way. Town engineer Rachel Friedman said dog owners must pick up the excrement deposited or they could be fined up to $1,000.
"We want to let people know there is a penalty," she said.
Discussed was the issue of enforcement. Friedman said the trustees could give animal control officer Sue Dreier the authority to issue citations.
During public comments, members of the trails and recreation advisory boards supported the excrement and leash laws. They proposed providing education in keeping parks and trails clean and increasing signage, adding more stations with bags for disposal and adding a dog park.
Resident Wanda Scarbrough said she hikes on the Whipple Trail and asked if something could be done about big dogs that are not on a leash.
"Big dogs are intimidating," she said.
The code says licenses and leashes are required in town, Friedman said. The trustees discussed looking into designating the Buena Vista rodeo grounds as an off-leash area until there is a dog park, talking to police chief Jim Tidwell about enforcement and installing more signs and excrement stations.