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Audience members at a meeting in Lamar on Friday held by the Colorado Reapportionment Commission said that the proposed senate district 31 is ridiculously large. Currently, senate district 2 includes a portion of Pueblo County plus the counties of Baca, Las Animas, Bent, Crowley, Otero, Huerfano, Custer and Fremont. The proposed new district, called district 31, would add Prowers, Kiowa, Conejos, Costilla, Alamosa, Rio Grande, Mineral and Saguache counties. Fremont County would be removed from the district. Complaints in Lamar included that the district was nearly 8 hours across and that the demographics between some of the counties were too different. Commissioners said that a driving force in the formation of the district maps is population, not area. The proposed district 31 would cover nearly 27,000 square miles across much of southern Colorado. The commission has the task of submitting new house and senate districts to the Colorado State Supreme Court by October 7th.

The Colorado Department of Labor reported on Friday that high unemployment in southern Colorado remained little changed in July. Statewide, an estimated 3,200 nonfarm payroll jobs were added during the month of July. Private sector jobs rose by 4,100 while government jobs dropped by 900. The largest private sector job gains came in hospitality, business services and manufacturing. The biggest declines came in construction and transportation. Unemployment figures in southern Colorado by county were: Pueblo County at 10.5%, Custer County at 6.5%, Alamosa County at 8%, Rio Grande County at 8.6%, Las Animas County at 9.1%, Conejos County 9.7%, Huerfano County 11.1%, Costilla County 12.7% and Saguache County 13.2%. Over the past year, the state estimates 18,600 jobs were created, made up of a gain of 23,000 private sector jobs and a loss of 4,400 government jobs.

The Alamosa City Council last week unanimously agreed to submit a request to Great Outdoors Colorado for $75,000 for a planning and design grant for proposed trails and a cross country course on 4.6 miles of the city-owned Alamosa Ranch. The estimate for the total planning grant is $100,000 with financial matches to the $75,000 GOCO grant including $5,000 from the city, $17,500 from Adams State College, a partner with the city in the project, and $2,500 from the marketing district. The city’s GOCO application will be submitted on Friday, August 26th. The city should receive notification about approval or denial in December, and, if the grant is approved, planning would occur next year with a submission next august for further GOCO funding to construct the course. If the funding is approved in December 2012, construction could occur in 2013.

Colorado’s Scenic and Historic Byways Program is receiving more than $2 million for six projects as part of the 2011 federal funding cycle from the Federal Highway Administration. In our area, awarded projects include: the Santa Fe Trail – which will include sign improvements at four sites and the continuation of an interpretive plan, including new kiosks and exhibits. And, the Silver Thread Byway – which will include turnout improvements along State Highway 149, with new parking spaces, interpretive signs, safety barriers and log fencing. As part of the National Scenic Byways Program, the FHWA selected 123 projects in 40 states.

The Fiesta Mexicana Rodeo at Ski-Hi Park in Monte Vista will take place this Saturday, August 28th. The rodeo will begin at 6pm followed by a dance in the multipurpose building at 9pm. Then, on Sunday, August 28th, the rodeo begins at 2pm. Rodeo tickets are $20 for those 13 and older and $8 for youth 6-12 years old. Children 5 and under are free. Dance tickets are $8. Saturday’s rodeo tickets are not good for entrance to the dance on Saturday night.