Meanwhile The Fire Season Approaches
By LARRY JOSEPH CALLOWAY
Pushing aside for later a March 13 petition by home owners expressing concern about fire protection, the board of the Baca Grande Property Owners Association approved a buffalo and a water letter among other business Thursday (April 10) with divisive political issues running in the background.
The sculpture of an American bison will be installed on the west side of the curve of Camino Baca Grande just south of the turnoffs to the Desert Sage restaurant. The steel art piece, from the estate of the late Richard Enzer, will be anchored on a concrete pad at no cost to POA members. The proposal by Sage Godfrey and Peter Taylor among various donors was approved unanimously.
Tom Tucker and Noah Baen of the Crestone Baca Watershed Council asked the POA board to write a letter to the Colorado Water Conservation Board with the purpose of improving natural stream flows in the Baca Grande. The senior rights to divert water downstream belong to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Slowing the stream flows higher up in order to improve riparian reaches requires a new kind of right to “non-consumptive” use. The POA board agreed to the idea of the letter, to be drafted later.
Chairman Bob Garnett, a money watchdog, took exception to two budget items: a proposed cost of $14,530 to send out late-payment notices and $1,180 toward the liability insurance premium for the stables.
POA administrator Kirsten Ecklund said Hammersmith Management is asking $15 plus postage to notify each tardy annual dues payer. Garnett said the price to outsource the work was “ridiculous.” He suggested it could be done for about $2,000 in house. Ecklund was directed to come back with a better price.
On the liability premium, Garnett noted the POA is already paying about $100,000 a year to insure against claims involving Baca Grande property, so why the extra coverage? Ecklund said it’s for specific things like mishaps during trail rides. The POA is obligated by contract to pay one-third of the stable premium, she said. The rest of the board did not object to the expense, but Garnett said, “I’m just not going to sign the check.”
The multi-point “fire” petition was the product of two community meetings in February. Most of the some 90 signers supported the idea, dismissed by the board majority, of creating a fire district under law to replace the private POA volunteer fire department. Board member Mattie Belle Lakish proposed putting it on the agenda for the next meeting. Board member Bruce MacDonald objected, referring several times to “never ending” discussions. “They say we want this, this and this, but there’s no explanation of how to achieve it. We need somebody to figure it out.”
Mark Jacobi said from the audience that one thing requested was “a meeting between former fire fighters and the board, and this would be “germane and pertinent and better sooner than later.” Lakish suggested “a dialog to better identify how to come up with details.”
MacDonald said, “People come to the board all the time wanting things. . . It’s not our job to figure out what people want.” Chairman Garnett had the last word. “This is too big an issue to have during a board meeting.” He directed Ecklund to find a convenient time to schedule the special meeting.
Late agenda items by MacDonald brought up the political things humming in the background. One was his proposed letter in the name of the board to all POA members summarizing the settlement of a lawsuit involving him as a plaintiff and Lakish as a defendant, among others. She objected, and there was no final action.
The letter would include an indictment of the Crestone Eagle for reputed errors in a story about the settlement. A member of the audience spoke out on this, suggesting newspapers themselves take responsibility for corrections. The second MacDonald item directed the general counsel to investigate Lakish for “conflict of interest.” A long argument ensued over the fact that her son was once a volunteer fire fighter and she supported the fire district.
At this point the newcomer who suggested the board didn’t have any business correcting newspapers walked out, expressing disgust with what he had witnessed during the meeting. More specifically, he used the words, “a bunch of amateurs.”
He was Dr. Herman Staudenmayer, a practicing psychologist in Denver who built a second home here five years ago. A reader of the Wall Street Journal whose son is a lawyer, he could not fathom the basis of the board’s journalistic intervention or the accusation of conflict of interest. He said he came to the meeting, his first, mostly to understand the fire department controversy – without result. “I still don’t understand why we need three fire departments,” he said.