Dolores getting back on track

Tuesday, June 12, 2018 11:30 PM
Jerry Whited has been appointed to the Dolores Planning and Zoning Board.
Jon Kelly was appointed to be the new attorney for the town of Dolores. He has a local law practice based in town.

The Dolores Town Board is righting the ship after recent resignations by their town attorney and town manager.

On Monday, they voted to appoint Jon Kelly as their new attorney. Kelly has a law practice in Dolores and previously served on the Dolores school board. In his interview, he said his rate was $125 per hour, the most affordable of the three candidates.

“I support Jon because he has government experience and is local,” said town board member James Biard.

Kelly replaces Mike Green, who resigned in April. The board also appointed Jerry Whited to the Planning and Zoning Board.

Dolores is also looking to hire a new town manager after interim manager David Stahl abruptly resigned May 29. In his resignation letter, he cited Sunshine Law violations by three board members who discussed the attorney interview process in emails, outside of a posted public meeting.

Hiring a town manager soon is essential, said Dolores Mayor Chad Wheelus, and will require a vote of the board. He thanked town staff for stepping up to handle duties of the town manager.

The town will seek guidance from the Colorado Municipal League and Kelly on the proper process for hiring a town manager. The board wants to know whether they have to begin a new application process, or if they can choose a candidate from the last round of interviews.

“We are seeking a dynamic, sustainable town manager,” Wheelus said.

Wheelus urged patience from the community as key positions are filled.

A local resident inquired about opening a hemp extraction business in town. He was asked to hold off on the request until the new town manager was hired and the board had a chance to get advice from their new town attorney.

Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin said the 2,600-acre Burro Fire is not a threat to Dolores. However, homes along Colorado Highway 145 near the Bear Creek Trail and Roaring Fork road could be at risk, and those residents have been told they might need to evacuate. The fire is 6 miles east of the highway, and firefighters are reporting difficulty putting in a fire break on the fire’s western flank because of steep, heavily wooded country.

Nowlin suggested residents sign up for Nixle alerts or the Sheriff Mobile App to receive mobile phone alerts about the local wildfires and emergencies.

The sheriff is participating in daily briefings on the Burro Fire and 416 Fire, which is at 22,000 acres north of Durango. The fires are just 6 miles apart and may merge, Nowlin said.

“They could burn up to 50,000 acres before it’s all over,” Nowlin said.

Also at the meeting:

Becca Samulski, of FireWise of Southwest Colorado, was granted approval to do roadside fire safety assessments of town residences and businesses. She and a Dolores High School intern will be conducting 60- to 90-second assessments using 11 fire safety criteria.

“We will share the data and provide tips so people can take action and protect their homes if there is an ember shower from a nearby wildfire,” Samulski said.

Lisa Holz and Mike Riley, of the Parks and Playground Committee, reported there was good participation in the playground survey. The survey period is over, and 634 people responded, with 97 percent of respondents saying they want a new playground to be built at Joe Rowell Park. Half of those responders said the main reason they used the park was for the previous playground, which was torn down in January due to deterioration.

The parks committee will now analyze the results of the survey and report back to the town board. The next meeting is June 13 at 6 p.m. at Dolores Town Hall.

The town heard concerns from business owner Cody Folsom, owner of Dolores Outfitters, regarding the recent closure of the San Juan National Forest due to severe fire danger.

He said it is important for the town to let visitors know that McPhee Reservoir is still open for lake fishing from a boat only, and that there are other outdoor recreation opportunities including on BLM land, at Narraguinnep Reservoir, Mancos State Park, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and the nearby Uncompahgre National Forest on the other side of Lizard Head Pass.

“We need to put a positive spin on the closure so we do not lose too much of our tourism economy,” Folsom said.