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Title III funds go to FireWise and Mountain Studies Institute

In a two-commissioner meeting with only three new business items on the agenda, the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners made short work of its Nov. 20 regular meeting.

After approving a lot consolidation, plat amendment and several consent agenda items, then hearing a Road and Bridge Department monthly report, the duo of Clifford Lucero and Steve Wadley took to the new business items.

First up was the consideration of forgiving the interest on 2011 property taxes for a portion of land located within the Colorado’s Timber Ridge subdivision.

The subdivision homeowners association is looking to pay the 2011 property tax on the parcel, which has been complicated by a foreclosure and a previous court order that vacated the plat for the parcel.

Interest for the 2011 taxes at the time of the meeting totaled $2,493.55.

Wadley stated the difficulty of the HOA paying the dues, with agenda submission documents further illuminating the reasoning behind Wadley’s assertion that the taxes could not be paid until the HOA took ownership of the property, and that the ownership problem stemmed from the court process that vacated the plat.

In response to a question by Lucero, Treasurer Betty Diller said about 30 percent of that interest would go to the county.

Additionally, the county previously waived interest on another account relating to the same court decision.

“This is a very unique situation,” Wadley said.

The board approved waiving the interest, provided the taxes are paid by Dec. 1.

Next up, Diller, in her roll as public trustee, presented the public trustee budget in compliance with new reporting requirements from the state legislature.

The budget, which will also be approved as part of the 2013 Archuleta County Budget, includes expenditures for dues and subscriptions, and advertising costs.

Revenues for the public trustee fund come from deeds of trust and foreclosures.

Any net revenue from the fund is turned over to the county’s general fund, with Diller estimating that between $30,000 and $60,000 is turned over each year — more than enough to pay the public trustee salary.

Following acceptance of that budget, the board approved funding eligible projects using Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act Title III funding.

The move was a formality, with the commissioners previously allocating the money, though that decision was subject to a 45-day comment period. No comments were received.

The funding was split between two entities working in Archuleta County, FireWise and the Mountain Studies Institute.

Funding for several FireWise programs was allocated, as follows:

• FireWise coordinator, $51,990.

• Chipper rebate program, $15,900.

• Stollsteimer Watershed demonstration site, $26,735.

• Stollsteimer Watershed road right of way mitigation, $28,733.

• Community Wildfire Protection Plans, $28,733.

The Mountain Studies Institute was funded in the amount of $18,415.

Since fiscal year 2008, Archuleta County has been saving Title III funds, with $170,506 available, including the 2012 portion of the funding, which will make its way to county coffers in 2013.

But, while the money was being saved yearly, staff found it difficult to spend the funds due to the narrow parameters set forth for use of the money:

• Carry out activities under the FireWise Communities Program, a program offered by the National Fire Protection Association.

• Reimburse a participating county for search and rescue, and other emergency services, that are performed on federal land and paid for by the county.

• Develop community wildfire protection plans.

Further faced by a Sept. 30 deadline to “initiate” projects or return the funding, the county began communication with FireWise and MSI, which led to the funding

The next regular meeting of the BoCC is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 4.

randi@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on November 29, 2012.