Mar 29, 2010 10:12 PM by Greg Boyce, David Ortiviz
When four new Walsenburg city council members were sworn in two months ago, they got a huge pay raise. They'd been making up to $900 a year, if they attended all meetings. Now they can make up to $6,000. "We're not proud of the fact that we got a raise at a bad time--in fact I think our city council is pro to making adjustments to that raise," said Mayor Bruce Quintana. "We're aware of people losing their jobs, we're aware of our financial problems, and we understand what our role is."
Walsenburg is reeling from the news that a private prison will close this week, meaning 188 will, or have recently lost their jobs. That has a direct impact of $300,000 in lost utilities and fees. The indirect loss will be even higher.
Walsenburg has about 4,000 residents and an unemployment rate of just over 10 percent. The city has laid off about 15 city employees, that's nearly a third of the workforce. Even the Police Chief lost his job.
The raises for the Walsenburg council were voted in almost a year ago, and Quintana says under state law, the council can't change the rules for two years. They could of course, refuse to accept the money.