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Town council brings local government to HHS students

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Photo by Pat Sunderland Hotchkiss High School student leaders provided Bulldog T-shirts for members of the Hotchkiss Town Council. Pictured at a joint meeting are council members Tom Wills, Wendell Koontz, Mary Hockenbery, Lindee Cantrell and James Robert

The issues facing the Hotchkiss Town Council may seem mundane, but Hotchkiss Mayor Wendell Koontz stressed the importance of hard work and common sense in keeping the Town of Hotchkiss running smoothly. His comments were addressed to the Hotchkiss High School students who were invited to participate in the council's regular meeting. The date was moved up a week because the students are on spring break this week.

Joining Mayor Koontz and the council members were HHS students Jordan Tamayo, Colton Hall, Nolan Egging, Morgan Miller and Parker Katzdorn.

Egging, student body president, followed the lead of Mayor Koontz and opened the meeting with a quote from President Abraham Lincoln. The mayor quoted John F. Kennedy.

Several agenda items related to the Hotchkiss schools, including the presentation of $500 scholarships to Lacey Rodriguez and Parker Katzdorn. "We want students to know we are behind them," the mayor said. Now in its fourth year, the scholarship program recognizes students who demonstrate community spirit and volunteerism. Rodriguez plans to study nursing at Colorado Mesa University; Katzdorn will pursue a degree in mechanical engineering from the Colorado School of Mines.

Caryn Gibson, superintendent of schools, presented the 2015-16 Governor's Distinguished Improvement Award to school administrators Paul Rodriguez, principal, and Doug Egging, assistant principal. Four other schools in 50J earned the same honor for demonstrating exceptional student growth and achievement.

"We're very proud of our high school," Mayor Koontz said.

Hotchkiss K-8 principal John Marchino discussed the Spring Fling, a fundraiser set for April 21. He told council members he would like to pursue a GOCO grant to replace outdated playground equipment.

The Nature Connection and the Youth Outdoor Connection were represented by Anita Evans and Isaac Van Horn, as well as partners from the Western Slope Conservation Center. They updated council members on the Inspire initiative, which is geared toward getting more kids and their families outside. A pump track will be installed near Hotchkiss High School and climbing boulders are in the works for Hotchkiss K-8. In conjunction with Delta County, improvements at the Delta County Fairgrounds include a river put-in and more electrical outlets for campers. Delta County Libraries, another partner, is planning a StoryWalk.

A short video was shown to demonstrate how the Nature Connection and its partners are delivering outdoor education programming. The Nature Connection is pursuing a $1.5 million GOCO grant to implement plans for Olathe and every community in Delta County.

The Town of Hotchkiss pledged support in the form of a letter, but asked Evans to return in the fall to update the council and request matching funds be included in the 2018 budget.

Dr. Ryan Marlin updated council on construction of the hospital-owned clinic in Hotchkiss. The West Elk Clinic will serve an estimated 10,000 residents of the North Fork Valley. A small Urgent Care will be located in Paonia to provide care after hours and on weekends. Currently, the clinic has three providers working out of four exam rooms. Between 10 and 20 new patient applications are submitted every day. To meet the need, the hospital is building a 10,000-square-foot clinic with space for additional practitioners, mental health providers and some specialty docs. The building should be completed in July, with occupancy anticipated in early August.

The hospital is a public owned nonprofit which belongs to the residents of Delta County. "We definitely want people involved in interior design, art and fundraising," he said.

Town business consisted of follow-up on several items previously addressed by town council -- an ordinance amending water tap fees, approval of a contract for pro bono legal services in municipal court, a memorandum of understanding with Delta-Montrose Electric Association in support of broadband expansion, and an update on the master plan survey.

Surveys were available at the meeting and will be handed out during special events this summer. The survey can also be found on the Town of Hotchkiss website.

Photo by Pat Sunderland Hotchkiss Mayor Wendell Koontz congratulates scholarship recipients Lacey Rodriguez and Parker Katzdorn.
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