Administrative and staff changes were reviewed at Monday's county commissioner public hearing. Commissioners also approved of a block grant housing donation and the placement of a veteran's Christmas tree in the Otero County courthouse.

Otero County Commissioners reviewed several items and approved several others in their weekly public hearing on Monday. Items reviewed include the resignation of Administrator Jean Hinkle, the review and approval of the block grant community program, the return of the veteran's Christmas tree placement in the county courthouse, and the sales tax report. County Commissioners Keith Goodwin, Kevin Karney and Jim Baldwin were in attendance.

The open hearing began with the announcement of Jean Hinkle's resignation from her role as County Administrator. "She has taken a position in  northern Colorado, Fort Collins, with a rural electric company up there," said Commissioner Karney.

"Bear with us while we operate without an administrator," he said. The commissioners are working to advertise the position. In Monday's meeting, Otero County Economic Development Coordinator Danelle Berg stepped in to assist in the public hearing in place of Hinkle.

Otero County Attorney Michael Eshleman's resignation was also announced at the hearing on Monday. "Our county attorney has informed us that at the end of the year he will no longer be providing services for Otero County or Crowley County," Karney said.

Department of Human Services Director Donna Rohde presented a donation housing plan as part of the department's adult services block grant program to the board of commissioners for approval. The plan includes light home modifications for housing structures. "Not necessarily modifications to the structure, but water heaters. Maybe some things that weatherization wouldn't handle, just some small things," said Rohde.

The Department of Human Services serves residents at 125 percent of poverty level and lower. According to Rohde, the department is currently most focused on transportation. However, Rohde visited the state Department of Local Affairs and was told that a simple letter of intent to add donation housing to the block grant should be sufficient to receive it, given that the Otero County Board of Commissioners approved.

"We'll probably move just a small amount, probably $3,000, into that domain. So, it's not going to be anything big. But we will be able to provide this if the board signs off on it," said Rohde.

The board of commissioners subsequently approved the block grant home modifications for the Department of Human Services.

Last year, Otero County Veteran's Service Officer Jay Scott successfully placed a request to the board of commissioners to place a white Christmas tree in Otero County Courthouse in honor of veterans. On Monday, Scott placed another request for another Christmas tree to be placed in the courthouse this holiday season.

"Last year, we requested through Arkansas Valley Hospice to place a Christmas tree in the courthouse in preference to our veterans. It was very successful last year. It is a bit of a fundraiser for hospice, but it also recognizes and honors our veterans," said Scott. Arkansas Valley Hospice approached Scott about placing another Christmas tree in the courthouse this year.

Monica Armendariz provided additional details about the fundraiser project. She explained that Arkansas Valley Hospice participates in a program called We Honor Veterans. The Christmas tree placement was a new project the program started last year, according to Armendariz.

"We wanted to create a specific tree that's gonna be white. This year, we're going to paint it so that it's red, white and blue, the actual tree. I brought some samples of the bows that we sell as part of our fundraiser. These will honor all veterans, whether they're deceased or living," said Armendariz. The bows can be purchased for $12. Armendariz will hang them on the tree, and at the end of the season she will coordinate with purchasers to get the bows to them.

"I personally got a lot of positive feedback from people in the veteran community, and just the community as a whole," said Armendariz. "Our goal with this is to hopefully expand and get a tree like this in all the communities. We don't want to limit it to just La Junta, because there's veterans everywhere. So that would be the goal down the road, is to get a white tree for all the communities that we serve."

The Otero County Commissioners approved the placement of the veteran's Christmas tree in Otero County Courthouse.

The board of commissioners moved to replace Aaron Everatt and appoint Joey Gacnik to E911 Authority Board.

The board also motioned to approve Resolution 2018-12, the appointment of Otero County Budget Officer. Tina Mascarenas was chosen for the position. "What we are looking at doing is Tina Maskerinas," said Karney. "Financial officer will be moved to budget officer title, and Sheryl Stevens, our paralegal, will be our designated agent."

Economic Development Coordinator Berg presented the sales tax report. According to Berg, there was a $13,723 decrease in sales tax revenue in the month of August, which led to an 8.95 percent decrease on a monthly basis.

"We noticed that last year, August was unusually high at $153,000," Berg said. "We believe that folks who chose to spend money chose to spend it in June this year instead of August. So June was $165k, so it was a little out of the norm. We still have four months to make that up."

Otero County's budget for 2018 so far is up to $1.1 million. In 2017, the budget was $1.6 million. Berg stated the county is on track, and Baldwin noted, "Barely." Berg encouraged residents of Otero County to do their shopping locally.