ALAMOSA — Splitting the vote on what has been a contentious topic in recent months, the Alamosa city council voted 4-2 on Wednesday to dissolve the Alamosa Ranch Board.
Voting for the motion to dissolve the board and direct staff to bring back a resolution to that effect were Councilors Greg Gillaspie, Rusty Johnson, Leland Romero and Mayor Kathy Rogers. Voting against it were Councilors Josef Lucero and Marcia Tuggle. Councilman Charles Griego was absent from the December 5 meeting.
Earlier this year the council had voted, also in a split vote, to make the ranch board an “as needed” advisory group, no longer meeting on a regular basis.
With the dispensing of the ranch advisory board last week, the council plans to receive advice on ranching matters in the future in an informal fashion from the lessee on the ranch, extension service staff and those who were still on the ranch board when it disbanded, Jon Brownell and Faustin Martinez.
Both are willing to continue contributing to discussions about ranch matters, Councilman Johnson said. He added it was difficult to find board members with ranching experience who were also city residents, as these two remaining board members were.
“Their input is very valuable to this whole process,” Johnson said.
Ranch advisory board members Tom Bobicki, Mac McFadden and Harvey Teyler resigned earlier this year.
Councilman Johnson, who has served as council liaison to the ranch board and recommended its dissolution, told the council on Wednesday with more of the ranch being developed as city park areas, it made sense to move its management under the parks/recreation department and advisory board rather than to re-form the five-member ranch board, which was now down to two members.
He said he agreed with Alamosa resident Don Thompson, who had urged the council during the public comment period to preserve the ranch property as open space. Johnson said he believed the new direction in managing the ranch would still accomplish that goal.
Mayor Rogers said some of the items the city needed a ranch advisory board for have now been accomplished, such as the completion of a ranch plan. She said one of the reasons the city purchased the ranch property was to preserve it as open space and prevent it from becoming a big housing development.
Councilor Lucero said he believed the ranch board was still needed. He said he was one of the proponents of forming the ranch board in the first place.
“The ranch board was set up as a board to manage the ranch,” he said.
He said there are ongoing matters the ranch board could assist the city with, just like the city’s other boards do. Although part of the ranch is now recreation-oriented rather than ranching, Lucero said he believed many concerns and issues still existed that would benefit from a ranch board’s advice. Water is a big issue, for example, he said.
He said he believed the city council did not give the ranch board enough direction.
He said the three ranch board members who resigned did so “because they got tired of getting slapped in the face every time they turned around.”
Lucero said the city is not valuing what those people tried to do in overseeing the ranch.
“Those guys are very important to us. We need to have them … The more input we have from our community dealing with the ranch I think the better off we are as a council and a community.”
Councilman Johnson said once the ranch plan was in place, there really was not anything for the ranch board to do, so they began micromanaging the lessee.
“When there’s nothing to do, things become created to do and in my mind that’s exactly what happened … The advisory board was trying to be a managing board.”
He said he believed to continue meeting regularly was wasting both the ranch board’s and city staff’s time.
Rogers added the ranch advisory board was to be just that, an advisory board, not a management board. The board was to make recommendations to council specifically regarding a ranch management plan, which they did. When the ranch board began trying to run the ranch, things became confusing and contentious, she said.
Councilman Gillaspie said, “I don’t see any point in forming a new board if we can’t give them some direction.”
He said he believed the ranch board could sit on the recreation advisory board as an ad hoc committee.
Councilor Tuggle said she was not comfortable with the choices provided the council regarding the ranch board. She supported the recreation board having more input on what goes on with the ranch but believed a ranch board could still be valuable to the council, who is ultimately responsible for the ranch.
“I want to hear what these people have to say,” she said.
“We are responsible for how this is managed, and to put this back on staff … lets us off the hook and does not keep us informed what we need to do to make appropriate decisions and understand what kinds of issues are coming up.”
She suggested if the ranch board is disbanded, the council should meet with staff and any ad hoc group working on ranch matters to remain connected to the issues involving the ranch. She said it was vital to maintain open space on the ranch.
City Attorney Erich Schwiesow said in addition to the open space value of the ranch, its water rights are very important to the city, and it is important they are maintained properly so the city does not lose them. He said assistance on the water rights issues might not be something staff could provide, but the city could rely on an independent third-party such as the remaining ranch board members and/or a specialty firm like Agro Engineering.