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Citizens question Romero's free dirt

Posted: Tuesday, Oct 23rd, 2012

Dirt excavated from the adjacent State Avenue street project wound up here on property belonging to Alamosa City Councilor Leland Romero. Courier photo by Ruth Heide

Courier editor

ALAMOSA — Excavated dirt from the State Avenue street project winding up on Alamosa Councilman Leland Romero’s property raised recent questions among citizenry.

The City of Alamosa had contracted with ACI for the street work, which includes rebuilding the shoulders of State Avenue. According to Alamosa City Manager Nathan Cherpeski, the contract called for nine inches of soil to be removed and replaced with six inches of base and three inches of asphalt. The nine inches that was excavated consisted of “spoils” dirt, which is not suitable for road base but can be used for other purposes, Cherpeski explained.

“We pay them to remove it,” he said.

The contract with ACI did not specify where the “spoils” was to be disposed of, but the city had offered its 20th Street yard near the cemetery where material is often stockpiled.

“Our contract did not say specifically what to do with that dirt, just that they were to remove it,” Cherpeski explained. “We had offered the ability to dump it at the end of 20th because it was close.”

Alamosa City Councilor Romero, who represents Ward 4, where the State Avenue project is occurring, owns property along State near the entrance to the Century Mobile Home Park.

Romero said on Tuesday he understood the contractor was offering the dirt being excavated along State free to anyone who wanted it, so he asked the contractor for some of it.

“He gave me the dirt that I needed,” Romero said. “He was giving it to anybody that wanted it … He was not restricted as to where the dirt went, so therefore he dumped at the sites available in the area.”

Romero said he did not pay for the dirt and he understood other people received some of it as well.

When it came to the attention of city administrators that the councilman was receiving dirt from the project, they told the contractor to stop dumping dirt on Romero’s property and to take it to the spoils area the city had initially offered. Cherpeski said city staff had received calls from residents wondering why Romero was receiving free dirt from a project the city had paid for.

Cherpeski said this was not a typical practice for the city.

By the time the contractor discontinued dumping dirt on Romero’s property, Romero had received what he needed and even an excess, Romero said.

Romero said he obtained a letter from the contractor stating what had occurred so he could clear up misperceptions.

Romero said those completing the dirt excavation were short on trucks so it was easier for them to dump the dirt on his property, since it was so close to the excavated area. Romero said he is negotiating with the contractor to lay some asphalt for him, for which he will pay.

Romero said he did not see anything wrong with receiving free dirt from the State Avenue project. He said he showed his letter from the contractor to City of Alamosa Attorney Erich Schwiesow and told him what had had happened.

“He did not think there was a problem,” Romero said.

Schwiesow said he could not comment on the conversation he had with Romero.

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