SAN LUIS — Sallie Clark, state director of USDA Rural Development, Wednesday presented two important grants to Costilla County, the first of which will be used to remedy problems occurring during last year’s large Spring Fire when the county’s communications system went down, leaving first responders unable to contact each other during the fire.
Not only did the digital trunk radio system go out, the road to the damaged tower on top of La Veta Pass was damaged, compromising any possible repairs.
Loss of the tower also damaged necessary redundancy with surrounding facilities, needed to help agencies working in the fire area communicate.
The $37,450 USDA grant will be used by Costilla County to purchase six Very High Frequency (VHF) radios and a base station to assist with emergency response throughout the county.
This new repeater has the ability to increase the distance at which clear communication can occur and provide better coverage over a variety of topography up to 100 miles, which would cover all of Costilla County, benefiting some 3,524 people.
Costilla County Disaster Recovery Manager Ron Ridley added the county might have additional funding for four more radios.
David Osborn-Hall of the Colorado Department of Public Safety gave credit to Tineel Baroz of the Alamosa USDA and Erin Minks, local representative for U.S. Sen. Michael F. Bennet for helping find the funds and get the application underway.
USDA Rural Development provides affordable funding to develop essential community facilities in rural areas provide an essential service to the local community for the orderly development of the community in a primarily rural area.
Costilla County Conservancy District (CCD)
A Community Facilities grant of $36,700 was also presented Wednesday in recognition of the district’s support to establish a high-tech learning lab focusing on the cultural, historical and ecological heritage of the land and water within the district boundaries.
In presenting the grant to CCD board secretary Ronda Lobato, Clark said the funds would help the district empower and educate the community on historic preservation, as well as preserve and protect the area’s natural resources.
Lobato said the lab would be home to historic archives from San Luis’ establishment as Colorado’s first and oldest incorporated community up to new developments, such as collaboration with the new owner of the former Taylor Ranch and whatever is happening at the time of access.
Computers will be available at all times free of charge in the lab, with staff on hand to help. Oral histories of some of the areas oldest residents have been compiled and priceless information and materials could be accessed by the public.
A large boardroom in the CCD offices has already been used for historic meetings about the acequias, an ancient irrigation system still in use in Costilla County; the Vega, one of the nation’s last commons; and work with historians to identify and document evidence of other area peoples and their activities.