During the regular Las Animas County Commissioners meeting, county employee and Trinidad City Councilman Anthony Mattie was recognized for his 13 years of service to the county, most of those years spent at the security desk and the last few working for the Treasurer’s Office.

“To the man who gave me my first and last speeding ticket ever at 16 years old,” said Luis Lopez, “I give you your last certificate of retirement.”

Before coming to work for Las Animas County, Mattie was a longtime Colorado State Trooper who received the Medal of Valor in 1978 for being wounded in the line of duty during a traffic incident  near Walsenburg. Mattie’s wife, Lucille, was present at the courthouse to join him in the brief ceremony.

There was also a presentation by County Clerk Peach Vigil, Joseph Mestas, and Jessica Lamorie in regards to a new voter registration system the county had just purchased and now have up and running. Vigil asked for the commissioners to help get the word out about this system.

“We are excited to present the new Ballot Trax system the county has purchased for this year’s presidential election,” said Vigil. “Since I started in elections in 2003, I’ve been through four different voter registration systems.”

Vigil explained this system should make it easier to keep track of each person’s ballot and count as well as make it simpler to register. “You can track your ballot with this system if you visit the Secretary of State’s website, www.sos.state.co.us,” said Vigil. “Once we scan it in as received, it will update their website. You can do all of this from home.”

Chief Deputy Clerk Joseph Mestas said the new system would make resolving issues that come up easier and quicker to handle.

“Sometimes a letter can take two to three days to get to someone whereas if you do have an issue or a problem, this system will notify you right away once it’s scanned in,” said Mestas.

Luis Lopez expressed his gratitude to the clerk’s office for helping to move the county forward and said it was another step in the right direction.

“This is a great thing to show the community that our county is in the twenty-first century,” said Luis Lopez. “If people don’t have a computer or the technology at home, here is a service right here in Las Animas County to come register to vote and your voice will be heard. It’s so important to be a part of this process.”

The website to register to vote for the county is lasanimasvotes.com.

Las Animas County Sheriff Navarette came forward to ask for a letter of support in regards to a possible contract opportunity with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold some of their inmates at the Las Animas County Jail.

“[ICE] brought up the item of possibly holding some of their inmates,” said Navarette. “In order to do that they needed a letter of approval to continue to look into the research that needs to be done for the facility so they would have to come down and evaluate our facilities. It has to meet certain criteria before they can enter into any partnership.”

The Sheriff went on to explain this could be an opportunity to generate a little more revenue for the department moving forward.

“I believe we can charge up to $65 per day per inmate and we’re not looking at a big number to start, maybe five to 10,” said Navarette. “It wouldn’t call for an increase in staff at this point until we can see what it brings in. We’re bringing in a decent amount of revenue from Pueblo municipal so it’s something I thought we should look into.”

Also asking for a letter of support, Marilyn Leuszler, who serves on the board for Arts for Colorado, came forward with a short presentation on HB-1223, which would open up more opportunities for arts funding in rural Colorado. Leuszler also serves on the Space to Create Oversight Board with the City of Trinidad as well as involved with the town’s creative district.

For the first time we have a rural arts grant program that has been introduced. This could be so meaningful,” said Leuszler. “We’ve seen dramatic growth within Trinidad along the field of arts and culture.”

With the initiation from the state to create creative districts and the beginning of the Space to Create Colorado initiative in 2015, Leuszler said the arts have blossomed in Trinidad, as well as throughout the state.

“We’ve seen with our own eyes here in Trinidad what those programs have done, building around arts and culture,” said Leuszler. “It really behooves us to support this bill in whatever way possible and hopefully get some additional funding that would go to rural Colorado. We certainly deserve it and all work very hard in the rural parts of the state and most definitely add to the economic growth of Colorado. Colorado is now number one in the nation for participants in arts and cultural events, so we want to continue that momentum in growth of the cultural arts areas.”

Luis Lopez along with other commissioners agreed to support the bill and recognized the positive affect the bill could have on the county’s municipalities. He also expressed how his joy of artistic expression made supporting such a bill that much easier.

“This is another example of how we can help another organization in Las Animas County and the City of Trinidad to help broaden our horizons with the arts now,” Luis Lopez said. “As a musician, I’m really excited about that.”

The hearing for the bill is set for February 24.

A consideration for transfer of entitlements from the Perry Stokes Airport to La Junta airport for a total of $150,000 was also approved at the meeting. This was something County Administrator Phil Dorenkamp stated was normal for rural airports associated with the FAA.

“The FAA will come down and do inspections on the airport and see what needs to be done and how soon it needs to be done in their five and 10 year plan,” said Dorenkamp. “If it’s something that’s critical and needs to be done sooner rather than later, that’s when they start pulling monies from other airports. This has happened for years.”

The commissioners also acknowledged a donation of $260.72 from Mr. Robert Arko who, for the past several years, has given back his senior tax exemption to the county. This year, commissioners expressed they would like to see the money be passed on in a way that would benefit seniors in the community while honoring Arko for his generosity.

“This gentlemen has been giving back his senior tax exemption for several years now,” said Luis Lopez. “I’ve been seeing his letters for the last three years and I’d like to meet the man. I feel we need to acknowledge him for his generosity to the county.”

County Clerk Vigil presents new voter registration system

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