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First day full of emotion PDF Print E-mail
Written by Holyoke Enterprise   

Back-to-school emotions run the full gamut from nervous tears to cheers and everything in between.

Paige Marlow, pictured above at right, has some first-day jitters as she prepares to enter Holyoke Elementary School for her first day of kindergarten Thursday, Aug. 20. Paige receives solid encouragement from her mom, Anita, and big brother Peyton patiently waits to accompany his sister into her school venture.

Paige quickly put on her brave face and courageously started school. Her mom reported that Paige was all smiles at the end of the day and was eager to return Friday. Hers weren’t the only tears Thursday as kids and parents overcame the emotions of the day.

At right, Evan Widler appears to say, “Bring it,” as he abandons his grandma, Bobbie Blake, and heads for the front door to start his second-grade school year.

It was a beautiful, sunshiny day as Holyoke students and school staff returned to the classroom last Thursday.

—Enterprise photos

Holyoke Enterprise August 27, 2015

Spurious document lawsuit is settled PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brenda Johnson Brandt   

City still addressing open meetings violation suit filed by O’Neals

A hearing in Phillips County District Court came to an abrupt end Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 19, when the City of Holyoke and Al Wall in his capacity as city attorney settled with Rupert and Claire O’Neal on a spurious document claim.

The city will withdraw the documents from the public record, and the O’Neals will drop the case.

Still in the court system is a suit in which the O’Neals cite three violations of the open meetings law: two by the city council and one by the planning commission.

Both the spurious document suit and the open meetings violations involve the O’Neal pit used for city wastewater management south of the city park in southeast Holyoke.

After two hours of deliberation on the spurious document claim Wednesday morning, Aug. 19, the hearing was set to reconvene that afternoon.

However, it opened after lunch with counsel for both parties going into Judge Douglas Vannoy’s chambers for a brief off-the-record discussion.

After returning to the courtroom, Malcolm Murray, attorney for the city and Wall, said they would withdraw the two exhibits in question from the public record as filed with the Phillips County clerk and recorder.

The two documents involved were both filed with the county clerk July 11, 2014. They included a 1986 insurance agreement between the city and then-owners Denny and Carolyn O’Neal and also an exhibit involving a diagram of the “pit” property as prepared June 16, 2014.

With the documents in question being withdrawn from the public record, Steven Taffet, representing the O’Neals, said they would withdraw their petition for order to show cause on what they were calling spurious documents. Additionally, he said they would bear their own attorney costs.

The case dismissal came as a surprise after the morning testimony, which looked like it could be the start of a lengthy hearing.

After some dispute over who should open the arguments in the spurious document hearing, Vannoy determined it was the O’Neals’ responsibility to present evidence to show why the document in question is spurious.

Taffet proceeded, noting the 30-plus years of difficulties surrounding the “pit” property and the city’s relationship with Denny and Carolyn O’Neal and now Rupert and Claire O’Neal.

Taffet called Wall to the stand. After extensive questioning from Taffet, Murray continued with cross-examination.

Anticipating that the afternoon would begin with a redirect examination of Wall by Taffet, it was a surprise to those who returned to the courtroom when the case was closed almost immediately.


City files counterclaim to quiet title

With regard to the O’Neals’ lawsuit challenging city actions as violations of the Colorado Sunshine Act/Open Meetings Law, the city filed a counterclaim seeking to quiet title action on the pit property.

In their open meetings violation lawsuit, the O’Neals maintain that there’s been no public meeting discussion by the council and planning commission to explain decisions made after executive session discussion.

Named in the suit are those individuals serving in their capacities as members of the council or planning commission at the time of the cited meetings in question.

At issue are discussions regarding potential development of the O’Neal property on the south edge of Holyoke, as well as negotiation of a settlement with regard to the pit used for city drainage.

Dates for the targeted open meetings violations are the July 17, 2014, and April 21, 2015, city council meetings and the Nov. 25, 2014, city planning commission meeting.

In the counterclaim, which was filed in Phillips County District Court Aug. 12, the city seeks to quiet title and affirm its right to an easement permitting it to maintain and use the “pit.” This is described as an approximately three-acre drainage pond located near the intersection of Johnson Street and U.S. Highway 385.

Murray explained that the city seeks to claim its right to use the pit permanently.

In response to this, Taffet said, “They want the land without paying for it.”

The O’Neals have 21 days from the Aug. 12 filing of the counterclaim in which to respond.

Holyoke Enterprise August 27, 2015

Babe Ruth tourney opportunity sparks need for updates PDF Print E-mail
Written by Isaac Kreider   

Discussion at the Tuesday, Aug. 18, meeting of Holyoke City Council bumped up tentative plans for making improvements to the Holyoke Ballpark.

Tom Bennett and Marcus Kammer were in attendance to request use of the ballpark for hosting the Babe Ruth Regional Tournament in July 2016. This request was approved, and further dialogue ensued regarding the attention that needs to be given to the ballpark.

“As far as small-town baseball goes, this is a pretty big deal,” said Kammer, who has been a coach for several years. “These teams are top-of-the-line kids. We would love the opportunity to host a tournament like this. I think it’s something that will be very beneficial for our hometown kids, and it will be a great boost to the local economy for the four days it runs.”

Bennett noted he will be making his pitch to coordinators at a September meeting. Thus, he asked for the council’s support in making an effort to complete some various much-needed improvements at the ballpark.

Kammer went on to explain that the condition of the baseball facilities would not be suitable for the expectations that other teams have when competing in a tournament of this caliber.

The City of Holyoke has received a GOCO grant that will be used for awnings and new dugouts. However, the grant will not be used for construction of new restrooms at the ballpark.

Ron Miles was also present at the meeting, coincidently, to voice his concern about the poor condition of the facilities, particularly the restrooms and overgrown weeds.

“I think bringing this tournament to town is a great deal, and it’s never something to pass up,” Miles stated. “But the ballpark has been let go for too long. We have signs that say ‘Pride and Progress’ at all four entrances to town, but I haven’t seen any pride or progress at the ballpark. Let’s put some effort into improving those facilities and host some great baseball.”

City Superintendent Mark Brown noted that the city plans to start erecting the awnings in the fall. As far as the restrooms go, “money and time is the question.”

Bennett expressed that, if need be, he — along with Kammer and others — would be willing to raise funds to get the new restroom project moving. He also suggested that if construction could not be done in time, at least whatever can be done to the existing restrooms needs to be done.

“The ballpark facilities don’t get much time off,” Kammer said. “Upgrades will make their money back pretty easily.”

The council approved additional motions to aesthetically improve the current restrooms and to have Brown reach out to contractors and see what can be accomplished toward constructing new ones.


Mini Park, airport projects put on hold

Brown informed the council that work on the Lions Club Mini Park has come to a standstill.

“I’m worried about the condition of the Scheunemann wall,” he stated. “We are not sure if theirs will stay up well if we pull ours down.”

Brown said he plans to have a structural engineer come out to inspect the situation and make recommendations.

One bid was received for the airport taxiway project — a bid Brown said was “way out of budget.” Therefore, the project will be postponed until early spring.

“The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) will write the grant so the money is available come February,” Brown said. “At that time we will start taking new bids.”

Brown said it might be useful to split the project into three sections to possibly get more reasonable bids for each one.

Council members agreed to allow Mayor Orville Tonsing to sign all documents pertinent to the taxiway project to tie up the funds to ensure they are kept.


Marcum shares third, best website option

Holyoke police officer Joe Marcum shared a quote from a third website development company that he thinks would be the best fit for developing a website for the City of Holyoke.

Marcum said this company, Revize, actually reached out and found him.

“They offer the same thing as Civic Plus (the company the city was highly considering), but they are just less expensive,” Marcum said. “They are said to be one of the best in the country when it comes to security.”

Marcum further explained that the city could go ahead and get its .gov email accounts in place without having the website started. He requested a $500 budget to secure a domain name and get the email system started, stating that each account would cost about $10 per month.

Marcum had informed the council that a grant was previously awarded to the city, but because of the lack of a .gov email address, the notice was never received and the city lost the grant.

Tonsing was adamant about the need to get the .gov addresses in place soon, namely to avoid future loss of grant funds. Tonsing then added the approval of Marcum’s $500 budget to the agenda for the Sept. 1 council meeting.


Officials report

Brown described three power outages since the last meeting.

Two were next to Smith Hardware Aug. 6 and 13. The first was caused by a raccoon, and the second was just one fuse down the line from the first, possibly a subsequent overload caused by the first.

The third outage was caused by a trencher hitting a private line Aug. 17.

Brown detailed how a sinkhole in the 600 block of East Hale Street had been repaired, and concrete should soon be poured in the alleyway behind Holyoke Fitness Club and the other businesses on that block.

Holyoke Police Chief Doug Bergstrom commended officers Mark Werts and Marcum for their excellent work in investigating a burglary and making the necessary arrest.


Other business

In other business Aug. 18, the council:

—amended the application for the Pedal the Plains special events permit to run from 1-10 p.m.

—held a 27-minute executive session to receive legal advice on specific legal questions from City Attorney Al Wall.

Holyoke Enterprise August 27, 2015

1st-day count sees 6-student decrease PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brenda Johnson Brandt   

Enrollment figures during the first few days of school in Holyoke School District Re-1J decreased by six students from the first-week figures recorded one year ago.

Students started classes Thursday, Aug. 20, and additions and deletions to class lists were still in progress this week.

As of Tuesday morning, Aug. 25, the total enrollment for K-12 was 591, down from 597 recorded at the start of the 2014-15 school year.

That includes 327 in grades K-6, 257 in grades 7-12 and seven in Holyoke Alternative School.

For state funding purposes, the actual student count is linked to the Oct. 1 enrollment, not this first-week count.

The funded full-time equivalent student number counts kindergartners as .58 of a student and also counts preschoolers eligible for special education services through BOCES as half students.

First-week counts in the district dropped steadily from 2002-07, stayed steady in 2008, increased by 32 in 2009, dropped by 19 in 2010, increased by 16 in 2011, stayed steady in 2012, dropped by 12 in 2013 and increased by 20 in 2014.

The student count at Holyoke Elementary School is 327, up four from a year ago. This year’s kindergarten class lists 46 students, while last year’s senior class started the year with 40.

Grade 7-12 enrollment shows 257 students, down three from a year ago.

Holyoke Alternative School count was reported as seven, down seven from a year ago. However, a number of students age 21 and older are enrolled, and a couple of students take classes in both the alternative school and regular school.

This year’s fifth- and sixth-grade classes are the largest in the district with 51 students in each. There are 49 first-graders, 48 juniors and 47 third-graders.

There are 37 seniors for the smallest class in the district, followed by the second and seventh grades with 40 each.

Enrollment in individual grades during the first few days of school for 2015-16 follows:

Kindergarten 46, first grade 49, second grade 40, third grade 47, fourth grade 43, fifth grade 51, sixth grade 51, seventh grade 40, eighth grade 45, freshmen 43, sophomores 44, juniors 48, seniors 37 and alternative school 7.

Enrollment for the first week of school in past years compares as follows to the 591 count this year: 597 in 2014, 577 in 2013, 589 in 2012, 589 in 2011, 573 in 2010, 592 in 2009, 560 in 2008, 560 in 2007, 572 in 2006 and 622 in 2005.

Holyoke Enterprise August 27, 2015