An Alternative Information Source for the Baca and Crestone.
The need for this site sprang from my recent realization that we have not been getting the information we need to make fully informed decisions about local issues. I've found that much of the information we get is terribly biased, distorted and important information that our decision-makers are aware of is conspicuously absent.
Many believe that we can "trust" the decision-makers and local news source(s) around here to always be straight and honest and unbiased with us . . . because they're all good guys, right? Well, guess what? We can't. People are people, even if they seem to have angel wings and halos.
The purpose of this web site is to provide you with views and critical information that you simply are not getting and resources to back it all up. Our regular resources of information simply do not provide you with any easy way to confirm anything that you are being told. You're expected to "just trust them."
You don't have to "take our word" for anything. This site is here as a place where you can begin doing your own research, something everyone should be doing anyway. If you can't find what you're looking for, let us know and we'll try to find it. If you have some important information you believe the community needs to know, please pass it onto us. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.
Once again, welcome to our web site. I hope you find it useful. If you have any information you'd like to see on the site that you're not seeing in the regular local news, or if you have any comments or questions feel free to email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
An Alternative Information Source for the Baca and Crestone.
By: By Teresa L. Benns
Center Post Dispatch
SAGUACHE — Since marijuana came to town, things have gotten worse for law enforcement, Saguache Sheriff Dan Warwick says and it doesn’t look like that is going away any time soon.
Warwick spoke to reporters following last week’s marijuana moratorium/work session meeting with commissioners on the problems that have plagued the county since the legalization of the drug. Although the work session was specifically scheduled to discuss a marijuana moratorium, it was simply titled “moratorium.” One of those attending the work session remarked that it did not appear, given the fact commissioners would not accept comments at the meeting, that they wanted anyone to know the county is even considering a moratorium.
The county estimates there are currently 24 growers and six dispensaries but only five of these operations are paying excise taxes. Excluding access and permit fees, the excise taxes collected on the grows this year so far is $72,846.42. Warwick remarked that his office is not having problems with the legal growers, but those who choose to grow illegally.
Warwick estimated following the meeting that there are probably 100 illegal cannabis grows in Crestone alone, a problem his department cannot possibly address given their reduced work force. During a recent illegal marijuana operation bust in Bonanza, Drug Enforcement Agency officials admitted there are so many illegal operations statewide they do not have either the manpower or the funding to address them all.
Currently the sheriff’s office is down to five — three deputies, the undersheriff and the sheriff. One of the five is deputy Wayne Clark who is also working code enforcement for the county.
This isn’t counting Officer Elke Wells, who is not available for patrol because she is assigned to a full-time security position at the courthouse. Another deputy is out on medical leave and there are two open positions unfilled, Warwick said. Wells used to cover Crestone once a week but now is unable to do that, with her new position.
The town of Saguache also needs a full-time officer but that contract has expired, he observed. The sheriff’s office is fundedforeight plus Wells’ position, but when he took office, Warwick explained, the funding was for nine plus an officer for the town. Some county residents have suggested that the county’s recent cut in sheriff’s office personnel is to give those growing illegally a break.
Changing laws, circumstances
For quite some time it was thought that with a variance, individual growers could cultivate 99 plants, but that has changed, Warwick said. Now the state has revised the law and the limit is 12 plants per residence. To get a variance, growers must pay for permits.
At first pot growers wishing to set up shop in Saguache County may have thought it was a grower’s paradise, but that was before the excise tax was enacted and the market demand dropped. Before marijuana was selling for 22-24 a pound and now it has dropped to half of that. If Alamosa allows pot sales the prices here will drop dramatically, Warwick pointed out. Some, however, will still buy in the area for reasons of anonymity, he said.
Once other states begin legalizing the drug, sales and demand will drop even further, Warwick noted. And administrative costs in the county, especially code enforcement expenses, have increased, with the county calling for a full-time versus a part-time code enforcement officer.
Pot-related crimes, courts
Once marijuana was legalized, Warwick said law enforcement officials began experiencing a notable increase in ID thefts, property crimes and other offenses. Warwick believes pot legalization also leads to the use of hard drugs, because pot growers “can grow it, process it, package it and then trade it for their drug of choice.”
Currently the jail is filled with those arrested in homicide cases, burglaries, drug cases and gang-related activities. The antiquated 21-bed facility built in the 1950s is regularly housing 26-27 inmates, with some having to sleep on the floor. “In the past, 15-17 was busy,” he commented. “The numbers are up and there’s no end in sight. We could at least breathe at 21.”
He points to the pre-sentencing system as “moving slowly” and says defense attorneys don’t seem to be able to get their acts together, scheduling numerous court appearances. “I blame the courts heavily,” Warwick said frankly. “The judges will say they can’t take guilty pleas and the defendants have to talk to their public defenders. I don’t understand.”
The only solution, he said, is to get involved with state legislators and “get this thing working.”
New jail off the table
Warwick says his preliminary budget is about the same this year. Although by law, law enforcement should be a priority in the county, Warwick says there is only a three percent increase in the budget, including salaries.
Salaries in like-sized counties start at $40,000 a year for deputies. Saguache deputies start at $28,000, but right now all deputies on the force are at $32,000. Other counties this size have as many as14total in their law enforcement ranks. The lower pay makes it almost impossible to be competitive, he indicated, and the county has a hard time attracting good deputies. Jail salaries are even lower at $9.80 an hour.
“Nothing can be done to build a new jail,” Warwick announced. “We can’t put it back on the ballot until 2018.” Before that could happen, Warwick says, he would have to come up with the money to hire an architect and run the numbers to demonstrate costs. Grants are a great idea, he conceded, but they are few and far between and require matching funds — also a grant writer.
The BOCC will not commit money to the project and it isn’t just the jail the county would be committing to, but personnel, equipment, vehicles and other additional items, he added. He is not sure the public would ever support a sales tax to build the new jail, far less a courthouse annex to accommodate the overflow from the outdated Saguache courthouse.
The inmate housing costs out of county are currently costing Saguache County money that could go to at least begin building a jail by securing fencing, pouring a foundation, putting in electric and a well, etc. It costs about $45 a day to house outside the county, versus about $15 a day in-county. A 50-bed jail could eventually help pay for itself by housing inmates from other counties, he said.
The excise tax was initially earmarked for “youth services, land use code enforcement, county infrastructure, marijuana program administration costs, and other General Purposes of the County…” as stated in the ballot initiative. Privately commissioners said law enforcement would be included in the “general purposes section” of themarijuanapie. To date, not only do the excise tax funds seem to be less than anticipated, but law enforcement needs have gone to the bottom of the list.
This is how a small, vocal and aggressive group
of local property owners feel towards property owners
who do not live in the Baca.
There has been long-standing contentiousness with some local property owners who feel their interests are far more important and should carry more weight than the interests of other owners who do not live in the Baca, only live here part-time, or just own vacant land.
These local owners feel they represent the Baca “community,” that they have more at stake and more of a commitment which should result in their votes carrying more weight than the votes of the rest of the POA property owners. This would disenfranchise absentee members and deprive them of equal input about what goes on here.
The best way to prevent this attitude towards absentee owners is for absentee property owners to get more involved. Everyone needs to do their homework and stop choosing people to be on the board that do not care about the concerns of property owners who do not live here. AND everyone needs to participate in elections! Simply take the time to vote! Don’t disregard the elections. YOUR VOTE MATTERS A GREAT DEAL!
To give you a sense of what has been going on locally, on March 13, 2014 the local group that always wants to disenfranchise absentee owners submitted a letter signed by about 90 property owners that included a list of “requests” to your new Board. This letter is attached to the Board meeting minutes of 3-27-2014 and is available on the POA web site.
One section of this letter sums this issue up as follows:
“The community perceives three levels of community investment, with the highest level being residence owners who also live here, secondly residence owners who rent to community members and thirdly, those who own undeveloped land. This is also validated by the state property tax valuation. Members who own homes and live here are most likely to be impacted the most heavily by wildfire and other natural and man-made disasters.
The POA Property Owners who are more significantly committed to the community by full-time residence should be given greater consideration when there is physical risk to their homes and personal safety.
Members request: The POA Board of Directors to form, support and empower a task-force of residential property owners to fully investigate a variable dues structure that will recognize varying levels of community investment. Long-term planning should include a governing documents change to give weighted voting to local homeowners.”
The Baca POA is an unusual type of homeowner association. Most HOAs have the majority of members living in the development, so member participation in the affairs of the association is more easily accomplished. As you know, it’s the exact opposite in our POA with the majority of members living outside of the Baca.
This situation creates problems when it comes to making any major changes to how the POA operates because it requires a simple or super majority of members to vote for changes.
After reviewing past POA newsletters, it is clear that previous boards have routinely cut corners around these voting requirements in order to get what they wanted. In other words, they didn’t meet the voting requirements they needed so they just said they did and proceeded to make the changes they wanted.
BGCAN doesn't believe anything justifies violating our governing documents or state laws. All property owners should be treated as fairly as possible and absentee owners’ concerns should be given equal weight to local members’ needs and concerns. After all, this is the Baca Grande “Property Owners Association,” not the Baca Grande “Resident Owner Only Association.”
This local vs. absentee owner problem can be easily resolved if all members simply participate in your elections to make ALL your voices heard!
As you will read in the next article, a few local members went through enormous effort, time and aggravation to secure a court order ensuring all members have fair and honest elections. (All told, it took them over two years and they did it without an attorney) So please, don’t ever throw your ballots in the trash. VOTE AND DO IT IN A TIMELY MANNER! Your vote does matter and can make a huge difference in helping to keep things fair for ALL OWNERS!
Many things have been sold to us here in the Baca through fear. For example, the need for the Fire District. We were beaten over the head for YEARS with fears of catastrophic fires and the fear of being sued for millions of dollars.
Far too many around here believe that we should "never" make waves, or disrupt the "peace." We should never stand up against what we see as wrong in the name of preserving harmony. Often, in doing that, you end up empowering corruption. You end up joining and supporting corruption in all it's forms.
You should praise and support those with the courage to confront the status quo because often those few are the ones that are the ones that will save your ass while other cower in some dank corner.
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