The Pueblo West View

2016 news stories: Pueblo West’s Top 10

The following is the Pueblo West View’s annual Year in Review for 2016, stories compiled by Christine Ina Casillas, editor, The Pueblo West View

 Pueblo West has experienced quite a few changes in 2016, many of them noted as positive additions to the community, including the newly paved roads and trails along Lake Pueblo State Park, the widening and expansion of Purcell Boulevard and a few road improvements throughout the community.

Other changes came in the form of new buildings and businesses hitting the ground running, creating new jobs for the community and revenue for Pueblo West. Some of those businesses include the addition of Big R, ENT bank and small mom-and-pop retail stores such as Dylinger Wilde, Tocayo Mexican Restaurant and El Super Taco.

The Pueblo West Metropolitan District said good bye to two former board members in May, Lew Quigley and Jerry Martin, and welcomed back Mike French to the board, as well as newcomer Terry Zupan.

The community also benefited from $200,000 of marijuana retail sales from the County, monies that was dedicated to road improvement.

The Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office also kept busy in 2016, especially in Pueblo West, after a series of illegal marijuana busts that spread across newspaper headlines for several weeks, bringing in millions of illegal plants and paraphernalia and money.

The year also joined the community together when two young ladies got together in an effort to beautify Pueblo West by an initiatve with the Pueblo West Metropolitan District to bring in three new parks for $3 a month. The effort was hard fought but unfortunately failed among voters last November. In its stead, voters approved a TABOR Time-Out to help build a much-needed new pool for Pueblo West, something that’s expected to last 10 years.

It was a dry summer — and an even more dry fall that sparked wildfires a little too close to home. In the distance, just 30 miles away, residents in Beulah and Westcliffe were evacuated from their homes because of the Beulah Hill Fire and a week later the Junkins Fire.

The Pueblo West community once again came together to help with supplies for the firefighters, sanctuary for the animals caught in the crossfires and support for those who lost everything.

Over the course of the next few pages are snippets from articles that chart Pueblo West’s best news stories of 2016, as well as some captivating photographs that were generously submitted by readers for the View and community to enjoy — and we hope to see more from readers coming into 2017 and beyond!

1. TABOR TIME-OUT

Last November, there was an initiative on the Ballot for a 10 year TABOR Time Out to be used for a specific project.

That meant, for a 10 year period, the TABOR tax revenue limitation formula would be removed allowing Pueblo West to keep and use the tax revenue that would either not be collected or refunded back to tax payers. In Pueblo West, this equated to increased revenues ranging from $15,000 to $80,000 per year.

Pueblo West operates one of the leanest governments in Colorado, but continues to be one of the fastest growing communities in our state. As such, leveraging opportunities to improve Metro District infrastructure is a necessary aspect of good governance. One such opportunity, is to use annual revenue from the TABOR Time Out, and combine it with available grant funding to improve, replace, or renovate infrastructure within the community.

While road maintenance has been one of the most important functions in the district’s service plan for more than 38 years, the average cost of paving one mile of road now stands at approximately $320,000. Based on optimistic estimates, TABOR Time Out revenue would provide little more than a quarter mile of paved road. Despite the rising costs of road maintenance, Pueblo West places road maintenance as its top budget priority. The District recently applied and was named a finalist for a $2.144 million Colorado Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) grant to rebuild and widen Nichols and McCulloch Blvd near Lake Pueblo State Park.

A more judicious and pragmatic use of TABOR Time Out revenues would be to replace our 40+ year old pool with a new outdoor community pool and aquatic facility. Combined with available Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant funding, Pueblo West has the opportunity to build a community pool and aquatic facility to expand our capacity, accommodate increasing demand, and reduce rising maintenance costs.

There has been two major concerns with the Pueblo West pool that need to be addressed. First, the current pool is more than 40 years old and increasingly requires costly repairs.

It uses older equipment and therefore is less efficient, causing increased maintenance costs.

Last year alone, maintenance costs were $92,000, up from $70,000 in 2014.

Second, the pool’s capacity is capped at 140 people.

Given the popularity of the pool, Pueblo West was required to hold two sessions—one in the morning and one in the afternoon, turning people away when the facility is at capacity.

To continue to provide a swimming pool for the community, replacement or remodel will be necessary in the next few years.

Last year’s proposed remodel would have placed an insert into the current pool, but this retrofit would have decreased the capacity of the pool, therefore not resolving the capacity problem.

Approval of a TABOR Time Out would demonstrate public support to the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant committee for a community pool, therefore increasing our chances of receiving a grant for a community pool and aquatic facility.

A TABOR Time Out used solely for this project allows our community to leverage existing revenues without raising the property tax rate.

It also makes our community more competitive for outside grant funding to make needed improvements and enhance the quality of life for everyone in our community.

A TABOR Time-Out for a new outdoor pool and aquatic facility is a win-win for Pueblo West.

Of note, the last time the Pueblo West community approved a TABOR Time Out was for the successful rebuild of McCulloch Blvd in 2007 at a time when growth and revenues were at an all-time high. As a result, Pueblo West Metro was able to make the needed improvements in less time than initially estimated, providing the community with a necessary corridor expansion.

2. 3 FOR $3 PARKS

Imagine what you can buy for $3 a month.

Imagine green grass, open fields, space to play, outdoor recreation.

Imagine driving or walking a short distance to take a walk, hike or bike instead of toting 10 miles or more to Pueblo for park activities.

That’s what two Pueblo West residents are vying to accomplish through an initiative to bring three parks to Pueblo West for $3.

Well, $3 per month per resident for so many years.

But Michelle Erickson and Sheila Sloan can’t do it alone.

The duo approached the Pueblo West Metropolitan District July 14 to discuss — and request — that the board help by adding their initiative on the November general election.

And the Pueblo West Metropolitan District Board of Directors agreed to help. Now, they will be formulating steps in the coming weeks to get the initiative on the ballot, as well as formulating language that would help get the initiative passed by voters come Nov. 8.

With more than 300 signatures in hand and more than 50 hours obtaining those signatures, the duo said they would need to verify voter registration for the signatures, including an additional 68 more signatures, to get the initiative on the ballot on their own, but they preferred getting the approval under the guidance — and name — of the metro district.

The goal is to build three parks in underserved areas in the community through a mill levy increase to pay for the parks.

“It’s $3 a month, so $36 a year for 10 years,” said Sheila Sloan, of the 3 for $3 Campaign.

“It will be 75 cents after 10 years to keep up the maintenance.”

For those who operate on a budget, such as senior citizens, there would be a senior property tax exemption that could be applied where seniors wouldn’t have to pay for the parks, Sloan said.

“We’re looking at our seniors, we want to accommodate people of all ages,” Sloan said.

The parks would be in various locations, including behind the open space near Fire Station No. 3 on the north side off Gold Drive, near Fire Station No. 2 off Avenida del Oro and a third south of U.S. Highway 50 at Lone Tree Enchanted Hills Drive.

“We want to work with Metro to help kids of all ages,” said Michelle Erickson of the 3 for $3 Campaign.

“We want to bring a sense of community who enjoy parks in different ways.”

Each location would feature various park activities.

The backyard space near Fire Station No. 3 would be used for a playground and picnic pavilion, she said, and a park that accommodates people of all ages.

The Lone Tree park would feature a blended park largely used for open space for trails, hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.

“We want to put up hitching posts for the horse trails and really embrace who we are,” Sloan said.

It wouldn’t just be for summer activities, either.

3. OUT WITH OLD, IN WITH THE NEW

The Pueblo West Metropolitan District announced there were 11 registered candidates for the Board of Directors election to be held May 3. There will be two vacancies on the board.

Self-nominated candidates were James Adley, Staphanie Cordova, Mike French, Joe Mahaney, Nick Mangini, Jeffrey Mathies, Paul Pugsley, Bill Vickers, Eric Walker, Robert White and Terry Zupan.

The Pueblo West Citizens’ Council hosted a candidate forum at 6 p.m. March 30 at the Pueblo West Library.

All candidates were invited to attend and participate. 

Each candidate was asked to answer exactly the same questions, and the order of speaking will be varied so that the same candidate is not always called on first. 

Questions were prepared by the Citizens’ Council and no questions will be taken from the audience. 

Individual responses were limited to three minutes, without exception. 

A second forum may be held in April, depending on voter and candidate interest. 

An audio recording of the forum was posted on the Citizens’ Council website.

Terry Zupan and Mike French are the newest elected members to the Pueblo West Metropolitan District Board of Directors, made official after the Pueblo County Election staff certified results of this month’s election last Friday.

Zupan and French will be sworn into office at the May 24 meeting to begin their four-year terms, replacing outgoing members Jerry Martin and Lew Quigley. They will join current members Barbara Bernard, Judy Leonard and Mark Carmel who were all elected two years ago.

Also certified last week were the results of Ballot Issue 5A, a question to Pueblo West voters to consider De-Brucing, an exemption to the TABOR law that would have allowed local government to maintain the current mill rate and use extra funds for infrastructure improvements and public programs. The measure failed in a 53 to 47 percent vote, with 2,468 people voting in favor and 2,812 people voting against the question.

“I think it was so close that we should potentially re-approach the issue with the board, to see if maybe we consider a question for De-Brucing or a TABOR timeout for the November election,” said Pueblo West District Manager Darrin Tangeman, noting that the measure failed by less than 350 votes.

“It’s a very complicated ballot issue, and people have talked to us about not voting because they didn’t understand the language. I’ll recommend to the board that we go out and do some focus groups and identify what it is that we can do to make the issue more clear to our residents, and see if the board is willing to bring it up in November.”

Zupan said she expects that De-Brucing or a TABOR timeout will be one of the first issues she deals with as a new board member, as well as other hot topics like incorporation and marijuana.

“I hope to accomplish some things in my term,” she said. “I will be looking for some good, positive growth, and hopefully we can find a resolution to our road situation that seems to be a very hot subject for a lot of residents. I understand that!”

French said growth is definitely an important subject, touching on Colorado House Bill 16-1011 recently signed into action by Governor Hickenlooper that will allow Pueblo West to more actively work on economic development.

“Some people would like to just see growth, but I want it to be structured correctly and not just willy-nilly and bringing everything in. It should be thought out,” French said.

One of the big points of French’s campaign was the need for a transparent and understandable budgeting process for the Metro District. Having served on the board from 2009-2014, he’s familiar with how the budget has been handled in previous years and said he thinks the process Tangeman is proposing will help.

“I think it’s good to be more transparent for the public, and give the District a better handle on true costs of programs, expenses and more,” he said.

Zupan, who was the top vote getter with 1,864 votes for nearly 20 percent of the count, said she was excited and surprised to see how much support she received, and she’s excited to work on behalf of all her constituents.

French received more than 15.5 percent of the vote, 1,487 total votes, edging out Bill Vickers, another former board member, who had 1,373 votes.

4. BIG BUSINESS

? Usually, it’s Big R that supplies those cowboy hats that Pueblo gives as gifts to employers bringing new primary jobs. This time, the company was on the receiving end.

Big R will add 33 workers and relocate its headquarters and warehouse-and-distribution operations to the former Boeing building at the airport industrial park, aided by economic development incentives from Pueblo, the company announced Monday.

Big R’s current smaller complex is at 350 Keeler Parkway at the industrial park.

The retailer announced its plans before several dozen well-wishers at a public jobs announcement Monday afternoon at the Union Depot, hosted by the Pueblo Economic Development Corp.

“I got my office taken away from me about six weeks ago . . . because we don’t have enough space,” Big R President David Blain quipped, just prior to accepting his cowboy hat.

The move comes as Big R, a farm-and-ranch supplier and rural lifestyle retailer, continues to open more stores in Colorado and nearby states.

Its newest store recently opened in the Denver suburb of Thornton. Construction is underway in Pueblo West on its 26th store, set to open this spring. A 27th store is set to open next year in Albuquerque, N.M.

With the latest distribution center and store hirings, Big R will employ about 700 company-wide, including about 175 in the Pueblo area, according to chief operating officer Adam Carroll.

The family-owned company relocated its headquarters from Lamar in 2009 as part of a plan to grow beyond its then 11 stores.

“We never would have thought in seven short years we would be completely out of space,” Carroll said in an interview.

Carroll attributed the retailer’s success to its store workers and its product mix.

Also, “We’re blessed and very humble that we get just good support from our customers and communities,” he said.

Major construction and renovation work on the Boeing building is expected to begin by February with the company hoping to finish by late summer, he said.

Pueblo City Council on Monday night approved an incentives package that includes a $1.49 million grant and $6.8 million loan from the city’s half-cent sales tax fund for economic development. Big R is required to repay the loan over 10 years.

The new distribution center jobs will pay an average of $64,315 in wages and benefits, according to PEDCO executives.

Big R would pay $4.8 million to purchase the Boeing building.

The company anticipates spending an additional $4 million on construction and renovation.

As part of the deal, the city would buy Big R’s existing building for $3 million to add to its available supply of buildings for future employer prospects.

The 193,000-square-foot Boeing building became available following a decision by startup company CBD Biosciences to shelve plans to open a 163-worker hemp oil processing center at the site. The city-owned building has sat mostly vacant since Boeing discontinued its rocket assembly operations at the site in 2004.

Pueblo City Council President Steve Nawrocki, recounting the city’s longtime efforts to market the building, thanked Big R for its interest. “I can’t think of a better operation than Big R to be housed in that building,” he said.

Rod Slyhoff, president of the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce, praised Big R’s corporate outreach and long list of community sponsorships. “You truly are a great community partner and you don’t see that with everyone,” Slyhoff said.

CBD Biosciences continues to eye Pueblo for a smaller operation and agreed with the city’s decision regarding the Boeing building, PEDCO President Jeff Shaw said. “The reality is we had the opportunity to move Big R into the facility and they could use it a lot faster,” Shaw said.

Big R was founded in Lamar in 1968 by Bryce Blain and business partner Dwaine Francis. In 1978, the partners divided the then three-store company with Blain retaining the stores in La Junta and Lamar. With his son, David, Blain began adding stores in 1990, starting with the opening of a Pueblo store.

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5. GREEN WATER

In September, there was something a little green about the tap water in Pueblo West.

At least that’s what many residents experienced as they expressed concerns over filthy water coming out of their taps in various forms from green to yellow.

Many raised questions about the safety of the water.

Their concerns only heightened through posts on Facebook’s I Live in Pueblo West page where most said the water appeared odd, faint yellow and green, and some said it was so light in color that if it wasn’t for that post they wouldn’t have thought anything was wrong.

Then the Pueblo West Metropolitan District started receiving calls from customers in several areas of the community, reporting the discoloration in their tap water.

Pueblo West conducted testing at the Pueblo Board of Water Works water quality lab and confirmed that our water was experiencing an increase in naturally occurring Manganese.

“The Manganese levels went up quickly, pretty dramatically,” said Scott Eilert, director of Pueblo West Public Works. “The process we use to treat it wasn’t able to handle 100 percent of it (because it went up so quickly).”

Water samples taken from both the treatment plant and at homes experiencing water discoloration have been tested multiple times by the board of water works and no bacterial contamination was found, officials with the Pueblo West Metropolitan District said.

The water system has remained safe and poses no risk to the health of our residents.

The treatment of this element has resulted in higher than normal concentrations of Manganese in the District’s water distribution system, but the concentration remained less than 15mg/l or 70 percent below the acceptable level set by the Environmental Protection Agency, officials said.

This problem has been resolved and the effluent is back to normal ranges through a treatment process.

“The District is continuing to investigate the cause of the higher rate of naturally occurring Manganese and is developing a plan to ensure this problem will not reoccur in the future,” said Darrin Tangeman, Pueblo West Metropolitan District manager.

“Because some of the discoloration still exists within the water system, we encourage residents experiencing water discoloration to flush their water taps for a period of 10 minutes to assist in removing the discoloration from their water lines.

“Water discoloration may continue to persist for several days as the system replenishes existing water in the system.”

The water discoloration wasn’t an isolated incident to a certain neighborhood or area of Pueblo West.

Some residents, even after allowing the water to run for 10 to even 20 minutes, still ran yellow.

“We responded to about 18 individual households addressing the color of the water,” Eilert said.

The color shifting from yellow to green, he said, likely could have been from the lighting in rooms, “background color of the sink or bathtub, and what they’re looking into,” he said.

He said these types of chemicals found are “extremely common in well water, which some plants use, and it’s a common and naturally occurring (chemical), we just haven’t seen it jump up that fast before.”

6. RAGING WILDFIRES

Black clouds popped up around Pueblo West in April in various areas but only one near Lake Pueblo State Park created a stir.

The Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a series of brush fires that were intentionally set April 2 near Lake Pueblo State Park and along a 10-mile stretch of Highway 96 West.

For those who were driving along the highway, the charred landscape looked like something out of a David Lynch movie.

Pueblo County Emergency Services Bureau Chief Mark Mears said there were nine separate fires started, consuming a total of 15 acres of grassland. Mears said the fires ranged from a small roadside fires that extinguished themselves to a few fires that burned from 3 to 4 acres each.

The fires burned brush on both state land and private property.

No structures were threatened.

But it wasn’t until later in the summer, when the skies turned a stark red that made residents really wary about the safety of their health and homes.

The entire Beulah Valley was under evacuation orders overnight Oct. 3 as Sheriff Kirk Taylor said he needed to take advantage of nighttime conditions to “move people to safety while the routes are clear and the manpower is available.”

Some 500 residents, half the valley’s population, had evacuated by 10:15 p.m., Taylor said. Evacuees were being housed at the Colorado State Fairgrounds and Roncalli Stem Academy.

No injuries were reported. The 3,000-acre still was growing, officials said.

Earlier Monday, high winds spread a wildfire east of Beulah, destroying seven houses and causing a steady roll call of evacuations as the Beulah Hill Fire was blown east and also darted west to threaten the mountain town.

A week later, the raging Junkins Fire erupted.

The 18,403-acre Junkins Fire was declared 100 percent contained Saturday morning.

In what was referred to as the final press release regarding the blaze that began Oct. 17 by a downed power line, officials announced that a local Type 4 team, led by Incident Commander Kevin King, assumed command of the fire at 6 am. that early October Saturday morning. A total of nine homes and 17 outbuildings were destroyed by the blaze, which consumed private acreage as well as public lands within the Pike and San Isabel National Forest.

Containment does not mean the fire is extinguished, officials explained. Rather, it means a fuel break around the fire has been completed. The break may include natural barriers, as well as mechanically and hand-built lines.

7. WEED CITY, CITY OF WEED, THIS ‘AIN’T NO TUMBLEWEED’

It seemed — at least for a good long while — that every week in early 2016, illegal marijuana grow busts topped the headlines across Southern Colorado.

And with each headline ran one community — Pueblo West.

The Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office cracked down on illegal marijuana grows in the community — and in a really big way.

And Pueblo West residents also grew tired of the illegal grows.

Many of the arrests was in part because residents called emergency services, reporting their neighbors of suspicious behavior.

A 36-year-old Pueblo County resident who recently relocated from Florida was arrested in July after sheriff’s deputies followed up on a citizen’s tip of a suspected illegal grow.

A caller to the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office called to report a strong odor of skunk, boarded-up basement windows and a large ventilation unit at a home on the 1600 block of 28th Lane, according to a sheriff’s press release.

Franco Munch initially said he had a medical marijuana grow in his home but after a deputy inspection found 140 plants, he admitted the count exceeded his legal allotment.

Deputies seized over $500,000 in marijuana and several thousand more in equipment.

Munch is suspected of possession of intent to manufacture marijuana and cultivation of marijuana more than 30 plants. He was being held without bail Wednesday night, pending a bail hearing.

Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office in May announced the discovery of the 18th illegal grow operation in the past eight weeks.

Deputies arrested 26-year-old Kevin Pedrez sometime Tuesday after executing a search warrant at his home at 536 Saunders Drive in Pueblo West. Deputies found nearly 50 marijuana plants growing in the basement and garage of his home, according to a sheriff’s office news release. Deputies said they also found evidence to indicate Pedrez was selling marijuana to others.

Pedrez was arrested for illegal cultivation of marijuana after deputies executed a search warrant at his home at 536 Saunders Drive and found nearly 50 marijuana plants growing in the basement and garage of his home, according to a sheriff’s office news release. Deputies also found evidence to indicate Pedrez was selling marijuana to others.

A citizen’s tip led to the probe. The citizen contacted the sheriff’s office with concerns that an illegal marijuana grow might be occurring at the residence after recently noticing a strong marijuana odor and large ventilation ports and extensive wiring at the home.

Pedrez told deputies he was growing marijuana for his own medicinal purposes. He said he had a medical marijuana license but it had expired in May 2015, the sheriff’s release said. Pedrez said he was in the process of getting the license re-issued.

In searching the home, deputies found 43 marijuana plants growing in the basement, another four plants growing in the garage and 25 dried marijuana stalks from recently cultivated plants in the garage. The garage was equipped with extensive lighting and a ventilation system to sustain a much larger grow operation.

There have been 26 arrests made and nearly 5,200 marijuana plants confiscated since March 14 in Pueblo County, according to the sheriff’s office.

8. WHAT’S THE NAME?

Walker’s Ranch. Wild Horse. McCullochville. Lake City. Tumbleweed City. Turkey Creek.

Are these more relevant and representative names than Pueblo West?

In response to a growing groundswell of support to change the name of Pueblo’s neighbor to the west, a posting entitled “Would You Rename Pueblo West” appeared last January on the official blog of the Pueblo West Metropolitan District.

While the pueblowestmetroblog.com posting notes that “there are no current plans to change the name of Pueblo West and this is not a policy decision by the Pueblo West Board of Directors,” it is designed to “identify why many residents have asked to have the name changed in the first place.”

If a recent letter to the editor of The Pueblo West View is any indication, one major reason is to distance the metro district from the city with which it shares a name.

“As I watch the City Council of Pueblo worry about plastic grocery bags while gang crime is at an all-time high, we in Pueblo West are getting a bad reputation by ‘guilt by association,’ ” wrote Phil Weber, who identified himself as being from Detroit.

While noting the apparent interest to retire the Pueblo West moniker — as displayed in letters to the editor, on social media and during metro district meetings — officials realize that “building community consensus on a proposed name change is likely the most difficult part of the process and requires leadership and organized community advocacy.

“For the purposes of community engagement, we feel this is an excellent opportunity for residents to provide feedback and suggestions on an issue that is often discussed within our community.”

Perhaps to help solidify any consensus, blog visitors have the opportunity to vote on a number of potential new names as well as suggest some of their own.

The latter seems to be the more popular option, as the category “other” has received nearly half of the votes cast.

Among the visitor suggested names are Lake City, Mountain View and Tumbleweed City.

As for the names offered by the metro district, West Lake, Desert Hawk and Walker’s Ranch are the frontrunners.

In an interview with Chieftain news partner KRDO NewsChannel 13, District Manager Darrin Tangeman said he was “very surprised about how many people on both sides of the issue are very passionate about the name change as well as keeping the status quo.”

So far, the majority of blog visitors are in favor of the former.

As discussion on the potential name change continues, an upcoming blog posting will provide, “for discussion purposes only,” the specifics of the legal process by which special districts can change their name.

9. NEW FIRE STATION 2

A large group of engaged and interested community members attended Saturday’s informational meeting about the proposed build of Fire Station 2, and overwhelmingly voiced support for the initiative.

In total, 114 people signed into the meeting, and Pueblo West Fire Chief Brian Caserta said he was extremely pleased with the turnout. He said he walked away from the meeting feeling very positive.

“It felt like everybody was really engaged in the whole process,” he said. “I felt that we had a very strong support for the imitative for the fire station. The residents are highly engaged in moving the process along and a lot of people said that they would help with whatever they can do to do that.”

Architects from the University of Colorado Denver were on hand to present the conceptual drawings that they’ve worked on for Pueblo West Fire Department. The architect told Caserta in his 15 years, he’s never seen turnout at a community meeting as large as the one in Pueblo West.

People asked lots of questions, including about the concept and potential cost for the building. Some residents said they’d possibly rather see the building cost a bit more if it means “doing it right the first time,” not just going for the cheapest and quickest option to build.

The Pueblo West Fire Department encouraged residents of the area (the proposed build site is McCulloch and Industry near the Pueblo West Shrine Club) to attend, as it most directly would affect service to their homes and possible insurance costs.

“Primarily, this would be designed to serve this area. But in a fire, all the stations respond,” Caserta said. “Everyone backs each other up. So it has strong benefits to this southwest/west part of the community, but obviously has the ability to serve all of Pueblo West.”

Originally, discussions were to remodel the current Fire Station 2 (not currently used) that is located on Avenida del Oro, but early estimates showed that completely remodeling it to bring it to livable quarters and standards was not a great cost savings versus building an entirely new facility. At that point, fire and Metro District officials decided it would make more sense to relocate the proposed build area to the McCulloch/Industry site for better and quicker service.

The Pueblo West Metropolitan District Board of Directors must agree to budget for engineering costs in 2017 before the process can continue. Engineering would provide a more accurate estimate of what the building would ultimately cost.

After that, Caserta said he imagines another community meeting might be held to talk about the different options in funding the build. Future meetings about Fire Station 2 plans will be announced as they are scheduled.

10. SAYING GOODBYE

A fixture of Pueblo West High School will soon be leaving – Principal Martha Nogare has announced her retirement effective the end of the school year.

For an educator who has been at Pueblo West High School since it opened its doors in 1997, saying goodbye won’t be easy. She said every first this year is her last, a tough thought.

“Kids are talking to me, asking if it’s true, asking me to stay another year or two until they graduate,” she said.

“They’re really tugging at my strings!”

But, Nogare said she feels it’s time to close the chapter on her career.

She quietly told staff and family members at the end of last school year that this would be her final one, saying she’d been teetering back and forth for a long time.

“People always told me I’d know when it was time, and it’s time,” she said.

Nogare came to Pueblo West High School after 16 years of teaching at Pueblo County High School. She helped open the doors to the brand new Pueblo West High School in 1997 as a social studies teacher, back when there were just 187 students enrolled.

She taught for five years, then moved into an assistant principal role for two years, eventually taking the reins as principal in 2004.

While she said there are a few things she’d like to tie up or take care of before she leaves, Nogare said mostly she just wants to squeeze every last drop out of her final year.

“I want to really enjoy this year,” she said.

“To have fun, fun with the kids. I want to continue our climb up and see where it goes from there. But it’s time for me to finally graduate!”

Although retirement might be around the corner, Nogare said she doesn’t have any specific plans for what she’ll do next summer and beyond.

She’s living in the now, soaking up all the bits of her last year, everything from pep assemblies to academic achievements to individual conversations with staff and students.

“I feel like I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to be the principal at this high school for this long. It’s truly an honor,” Nogare said.

“I wouldn’t have done it if it weren’t for the group of kids I’ve had every year and my staff that is vested in what they teach.

“They’re all the most incredible bunch of people, and I can’t even tell you – it’ll be tough to walk away.”

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