SLV commissioners hear from DA, CSU Extension

Courier file photo by John Waters 12th Judicial District Attorney Ann Kelly.

Also receive an update on transmission lines

ALAMOSA — The San Luis Valley County Commissioners Association held a regular meeting on Jan. 23, presentations were made on issues pertaining to the Valley. The association includes county commissioners from Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral, Rio Grande, and Saguache Counties.

Updates were presented from 12th Judicial District Attorney Anne Kelly, SLV Council of Governments representative Sarah Stoeber, Andrea Oaks-Jaramillo of SLV Broadband, Wilson Hamilton of La Puente, SLV CSU Extension agent Larry Brown, and Alamosa County Commissioner Lori Laske.

Meeting highlights

Kelly, who was elected to office last November as District Attorney, said her office was off to "A strong start in 2023 and now has six attorneys.

"We tried a very, very difficult sex offenders case in Conejos County, and we didn't get the result that we wanted," said Kelly.

Regarding staffing, Kelly told the commissioners, "We are busting at the seams, which is a really good thing for the Valley. We hired two new legal assistants." She said the number of applicants for those positions was a record high. The office has hired several other new employees.

Also hired is an employee to staff the front desk, a position that had not previously been filled on a permanent basis.

Regarding the importance of this, Kelly said, "From a community trust and a community coordinating perspective, that was unacceptable. When you come into the DA's office, often these are victims who have been traumatized, you need to have someone there."

Expressing her frustration Kelly said, "I have for years in all of the jurisdictions I've worked in, fought really hard about in my opinion about the failure of the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo to comply with the statuary requirements and a complete dereliction of duty.

"In other jurisdictions, I have asked the court to hold CMHIP in contempt for violating the statutes requiring them (for example) to come pick up a mentally ill person from jail and bring them to Pueblo for treatment. They have consistently been horrible at complying with their statutes,” she said.

Kelly lauded the efforts of Alamosa County Sheriff Robert Jackson for working with the resources he has for mentally ill inmates and offered this stark assessment, "Our mentally ill defendants are languishing in these jails with no treatment, and they are getting worse and worse and worse.

"The jails in our communities are not equipped to treat acutely mentally ill people. What I believe (and this is coming from the District Attorney) is this is a violation of these people's civil rights, a violation of their due process rights, and a violation of their human rights," she said.

Regarding the retirement of Assistant District Attorney Patrice Engel and Senior Deputy DA Larry Bailey, Kelly offered her praise and thanked them for their service.

Kelly offered the commissioners a detailed report on an agreement the former District Attorney Alonzo Payne made with the Attorney General, that requires the DA's office to pay for a monitor to ensure that the DA's office complies with the Victim Rights Act. The Valley Courier will have more on this agreement in a forthcoming edition.

CSU Extension Agent Brown detailed the upcoming 2023 AgFest to be held February 13-15 at the Outcalt Event and Conference at SLV Ski Hi Complex in Monte Vista. The event is a hands-on, science-based field trip experience for students based on fifth-grade science curriculum.

Brown briefed commissioners on the 41st Annual Southern Rocky Mountain Agriculture Conference and Trade show, Feb. 7-9 at the Outcalt Center in Monte Vista. This year's theme is Surviving and Thriving — A Conference on Resilience and Sustainability. For more information, visit www.agconferencesrm.com.

Alamosa County Commissioner Laske gave the group a synopsis of the regulatory hurdles regarding power transmission lines.

Laske said emergency managers expressed concerns that the Valley is reliant on all its electricity coming into the Valley from one source, Poncha Pass, and the potential threats posed by wildfires.

The possibility of a new transmission line into the Valley is due to safety, and economic development, said Laske.

The state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) does transmission planning once every 10 years, and "they have overlooked the San Luis Valley."

Laske gave thanks to state Sen. Cleave Simpson for placing the Valley issue on the PUC's miscellaneous docket, a primary step that would enable the regulatory body to consider doing a study of the Valley’s transmission needs.

If the PUC does determine the need for additional transmission, then the Valley could be placed on a formal docket and the commissioners association would then hire an attorney to represent it to the PUC.

"That is our goal, to get a formal docket under the PUC,” Laske said.

Laske said she is also working with the Colorado Energy Office because "at this point, there is a lot of federal money coming down."

Laske said the Colorado Energy Office is seeking federal funding under the Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnership Program (GRIP) to study the power needs of the Valley, including a possible microgrid. Under the GRIP program, the federal government is administering $10.5 billion in infrastructure funds to enhance grid flexibility and improve the resilience of the power system against threats of extreme weather and climate change.

Laske, who has worked extensively on the transmission line issue, closed by saying, "I love doing this; I'm learning a lot.”


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