Early Xmas? Surprised OCCHS learns of proposed $10K from city budget
Council also slates Rock Ledge for financial lift, but mayor has veto power

       Going into City Council's second reading on its proposed city budget Dec. 13, two Westside volunteer-run entities are slated for unanticipated allocations in 2012.
       One of these - $10,000 to the Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS) - was so unanticipated that OCCHS President Sharon Swint didn't even know it was in the works until the Westside Pioneer called to ask her about it.
       “It's the weirdest thing I ever heard of,” was her initial re-sponse, followed by “I can't help you, but it sounds wonderful.”
       Ron Wright, president of Rock Ledge Ranch's volunteer support group, the Living History Association, is also hopeful. So far, council has supported a proposal that would provide the ranch with $21,000 more than its budget had this year.
       Both allocations were approved by council in budget meetings and then reapproved on first reading Nov. 22, among several changes to the $222 million general fund budget initially proposed by Mayor Steve Bach. Assuming another council OK Dec. 13, the council budget will go to the mayor for final approval.
       Under the new “strong mayor” form of government, Bach has the power to veto any of the changes, which would then force council to get a six-vote super-majority to overrule him by Jan. 1. The OCCHS and Rock Ledge funding boons were each approved by council initially with a bare majority of five votes.
       City Councilmember Lisa Czelatdko, whose District 3 includes the older Westside and the OCCHS' History Center, led the funding effort on its behalf. The society deserves budgetary support because of its volunteer efforts to preserve the Old Colorado City area's historical heritage, which benefits “the entire city,” she explains in an e-mail.
       Czelatdko did not approach the OCCHS about her funding idea, Swint told the Pioneer, in expressing her surprise at the news.
       If the funding goes through, according to Dave Hughes, who helped found the OCCHS in the 1980s, this would be the first time the society has ever received general fund money. “It's never been requested, never offered,” he said. Other than a few government grants, “everything we've done has been by the sweat of our brows and the donations of individuals.”
       The OCCHS, an all-volunteer entity which owns and operates the History Center at 1 S. 24th St., could use extra money, Hughes conceded - noting a book that the society wants to publish and a furnace that needs replacing - but shared Swint's puzzlement at Czelatdko not suggesting her plan to the society ahead of time so as to gather some help and specifics. “If I were the mayor, I'd veto it,” he joked.
       Asked why she had acted alone, Czelatdko noted how impressed she was after meeting “the very proud, hard-working volunteers” at OCCHS and seeing all that they do. Based on that, she proposed the $10,000 allocation “of my own initiative” and told the other councilmembers that was the case before they voted.
       Regarding Rock Ledge, Wright said Councilmember Bernie Herpin took the lead. Unlike the OCCHS situation, Wright said Herpin had met with him first and worked out a plan.
       One stipulation is that the $21,000 won't be allocated until the LHA can raise $50,000 - a figure that Wright is confident can be achieved from event earnings and donations, based on numbers from last year and this year. However, he cautioned, “it's still going to be just as much work” and noted that the LHA is “banking as much as we can” out of concerns that the 2013 budget may be far tighter.
       The mayor's budget for 2012 does already include the salary for the ranch manager. Last year, Wright had to plead before City Council to get that restored.
       Rock Ledge is a city-owned working ranch off North 30th Street that the city has operated as a historic attraction since the 1970s. However, city funding cuts in recent years have pushed the LHA to greatly increase its involvement.

Westside Pioneer article