NewsCovering Colorado


New $42 million La Veta School to open after delays due to a water dispute

New La Veta Public School
Posted at 2:37 PM, Jan 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-26 16:37:29-05

LA VETA — La Veta's new $42 million K-12 school was given the green light to open by the town's board in a special meeting last night. The school could open as early as February 14.

The vote to approve the school's efforts to satisfy the town's requirements came down to a close vote, 6-4, with 1 abstention. Mayor Doug Brgoch provided the deciding vote, and he said he was "relieved and happy" that the situation was resolved.

The plan for the school began in early 2017. The school district proposed applying for a Colorado BEST grant to build a new school on the largely empty property that housed the school's football field.

The district applied, and succeeded, in obtaining the Colorado BEST grant. Included in this process was a vote held by the town that approved over $6 million in bonds, which were necessary to secure the funds from the state. The state then provided over $36 million for the school's construction.

According to Brgoch, it wasn't long after the approval that issues between the school district and the town over the school's building and water plans began. Brgoch, along with being the Mayor, is also the town's water commissioner.

Hear Mayor Brgoch in his own words:

The issues centered around the land's zoning, and also on how the school would provide water and sewage for the new building.

The land the school is now built on was bought by the school district in the 1990s and annexed into the town in the year 2000, but under a conditional use, according to La Veta Superintendent Bree Jones.

That conditional use was for a football field and the accompanying concession stands, which the school district did build.

The land did not have access to water or the sewer system, and the 2000 agreement between the school district and the town required the district to reapply if they ever wanted to change the land usage.

There is a further issue with the land, as according to Brgoch, it sits on a flood plain. Jones said that how the flood plain would be handled was also a point of contention between the town and the school district.

Complicating the flood plain issue was old information, as according to Jones, FEMA hadn't been to the town to conduct flood ratings since 1986.

Both sides in the dispute claim a lack of communication with the other during the discussions over the water plan.

The disagreements came to a head when the school district submitted a substitute water plan. Jones says the district hit water with the substitute well they drilled, which would have allowed the school to run their water independently from the town's water system.

Brgoch disputes this, and he said the water found by the school with the well was minimal.

Regardless, the submission of the substitute water plan prompted a lawsuit from the town.

Brgoch said the plan with the lawsuit was not to punish the school, rather to bring them to the table to negotiate. He said that the town, after filing the lawsuit, immediately asked the judge to stay the suit so that the two parties could conduct a negotiation in pursuit of a mediated agreement.

This negotiation produced the 'amended annexation agreement' in April 2021, which contained the conditions the school needed to fulfill in order to get the zoning change needed from the town that would allow the school to open.

The conditions in this agreement were numerous, and largely concerned the water supply, sewage access, access roads, and emergency exit routes.

The school agreed to the amended annexation agreement.

The cost to the school district for access fees, according to Jones, was $1.3 million, which the school is paying, but through a mixture of methods, including cash and property.

The issue was a constant in town board meetings over the past several months, and in the special town meeting Tuesday night frustration was expressed by both the board and citizens in attendance.

The town board received a number of vulgar letters, according to Trustee Connie Grimm, and Grimm showed one of the less offensive ones to the people in attendance.

A number of town residents at the meeting told News5 that the board was mischaracterizing what occurred during the past few years between the school district and the town board.

At the end of the meeting, however, the board ruled that the school had fulfilled its obligations, and soon students and teachers will be able to make use of their new school.

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