Public hearing set Dec. 10 on
By John M. Motter
As December draws near, county commissioners and department managers continue to wrangle over acceptable numbers for the 2003 county budget.
"We're coming close to a wrap," said Bill Steele, the county administrator. "We've met a number of times with the department managers. We're coming close to balancing revenues and expenditures."
Tentatively, a public hearing on the county budget is scheduled Dec. 10, Steele said. State statutes have established Dec. 15 as the deadline for completing the budget.
Overall, the budget approach this year is cautious, said Steele.
On the revenue side, the county is estimating no change in the approximately $2 million in sales tax revenues.
Property tax revenues are likely to climb for at least two reasons.
First, the assessed value of property for county tax purposes has grown from $174.2 million to $181.9 million, an increase of about 4.4 percent. That means overall property tax revenues should increase about 4.4 percent.
Second, the mill levy against individual property valuations may climb from 17.610 mills to 18.522 mills. That means individual home and business owners are likely to pay about 5.2 percent more in property taxes. The mill levy is set by the commissioners.
Archuleta County has a 21.145 legal tax rate, adopted in 1991. Since that time, the tax revenue has grown as the county grew. Instead of reducing the tax rate, the county has applied a credit on individual tax bills representing the difference between the legal rate and the rate needed for the particular budget year. The credit amounts to returning taxes to property owners.
The county adopted the rebate approach because of TABOR and state laws, which limit the amount revenues and expenses can be boosted in any single year. The county's theory has been, if assessed values tumble, the tax rate can be restored to the 1991 rate by not allowing credits on tax statements. It is assumed limits on increasing revenues can be avoided in this fashion.
Overall, the proposed 2003 budget amounts to $27.7 million, according to Cathie Wilson, the county finance director. That total is deceiving because it contains some double entries and pass-throughs, Wilson said. After eliminating double entries, certain grants, and other confusing items, the actual budget is about $14.1 million, Wilson said, up 3 percent from a year ago.
An example of double entry is connected with sales tax revenues. A sales tax fund is established showing sales tax income of about $2 million. Half the sales tax income is transferred to the general fund, half to the road and bridge capital improvements fund. The same money shown entering and leaving the sales tax fund is also shown entering and leaving the general and road capital improvement funds. The effect on the total budget is to show income and expenditures of $4 million instead of $2 million.
An example of pass-throughs is the millions of dollars of Federal Aviation Administration grants received by the county. The amount of income and revenue connected with FAA grants is a wash with revenue equaling expenses. None of the money is derived from local property or sales taxes.
Several requests have been received from department managers for money to fund additional personnel, Steele said. Some of these have been eliminated by the commissioners, some are still being considered, and still others have been approved. Approximately half of the positions requested may survive.
County employees will receive a 2-percent cost of living increase if current plans are retained, Steele said. The county has 140 full and part-time employees.
A second increase may be longer in coming and is of an yet-to-be-determined amount, according to Steele. The second increase revolves around a plan to hire consultants to prepare a chart of county positions including the pay for each position. In that way, a ranking system will be established for county employees. Next, the consultants will compare the pay of county employees in specific positions in Archuleta County with the pay received by employees with like positions in similar counties. Finally, the pay received by Archuleta County employees will be compared with the pay received for like positions by private employees in Archuleta County.
So far, $50,000 is proposed for the 2003 budget to implement the proposal just outlined. About $30,000 of that amount will go to the consultants. The remaining $20,000 will be given to department managers to use for increases for employees whose pay is low according to the study.
"I'd like to get the study started as soon after the first of the year as possible," Steele said. "If we get started early, there could be some increases before the next budget cycle starts."
As it stands now, the budget for 2003 is a proposal and not a fact. A meeting between the county commissioners and department managers was scheduled Tuesday afternoon, later than The SUN deadline. The meeting's purpose was to gather last-minute information before commissioners establish final budget values.
According Colorado law, the board of county commissioners is responsible for establishing and administering the county budget. Funded within the county budget are all county departments, including the departments of other elected officials. Because the commissioners do not rank above other elected officials in a chain of command structure, but are equals, the system creates friction.
Elected officials hire and fire within their own departments but the commissioners determine how many people the other elected officials may hire and, with minor exceptions, how much those people are paid.
This year, for budget purposes, the county is using the term "department managers." Department managers may be elected officials or they may be personnel hired directly by the commissioners. At the beginning of the budget process, department managers submit budget requests.
Elected officials in addition to the three commissioners are the county clerk, treasurer, assessor, sheriff, coroner and surveyor. Appointed department heads, such as the director of community development, finance director, head of road and bridge and others all work directly for the county commissioners.
In the past, other elected officials have said the commissioners have approved disproportionate salary increases for department heads reporting to the board, as compared to raises approved for employees of the other elected officials.
Minimum salaries for elected county officials are established by the state legislature. County government is considered an extension of the state government.
The county budget and county taxes should not be confused with the budgets and taxes of other taxing entities in the county. Each entity sets its own tax rate based on particular needs and the assessed value of property within the entity as established by the county assessor.
In addition to the county, the following entities levy taxes locally: Alpha-Rockridge Metropolitan District, Aspen Springs Metropolitan District, the town of Pagosa Springs, Pagosa Springs Sanitation District, Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (water and sewer), Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (water only), Pagosa Area Fire Protection District, Lakeside Hills, Loma Linda, Piedra Park Metropolitan District, San Juan River Village Metropolitan District, San Juan Water Conservancy District, Southwest Water Conservation District, Upper San Juan Library District, Upper San Juan Health Services District, School District 50 Jt., School District 11 Jt. and School District 10 Jt.
County, state eye U.S. 84-Light Plant intersection
By John M. Motter
Safety concerns with the intersection of U.S. 84 and Light Plant Road attracted attention at a meeting Tuesday of Colorado Department of Transportation officials and the Archuleta County commissioners.
Meetings are conducted regularly between CDOT and the commissioners. At the meetings, CDOT plans are explained to the commissioners and commissioner concerns are solicited by the state.
One outcome of the meeting may be improvements this coming year at the U.S. 84 intersection with Light Plant Road which is also known as County Road 119.
"That intersection is a major concern," said Ed Demming, CDOT traffic and safety engineer in the Durango Region 5 office. "If you can help us, we may be able to do something about it next year."
"It is a major concern for us," said Bill Downey, chairman of the board of county commissioners.
Demming said he has done some preliminary analysis of the intersection. The cost to make changes will be about $150,000, he said. The state can probably come up with about $75,000. If the county can help, the priority for doing the work might be moved up to next summer, Demming added.
"We're working on our budget now," Downey said. "I think we might be able to find a way to help."
Archuleta County and Pagosa Springs paved Light Plant Road during the past two years. Since then, traffic entering and leaving the town from the south by way of U.S. 84 has increased dramatically.
Adding to traffic at the intersection, the county recently permitted operation of a gravel pit and rock crusher south of town. One purpose of the new gravel operation is to supply gravel for resurfacing U.S. 84 next summer. Trucks hauling the gravel will use Light Plant Road and its intersection with U.S. 84.
"We were out there yesterday trying to take some measurements," Demming said. "It was scary being between the guard rail and traffic. Something really needs to be done."
Prior to its paving, the intersection was not a high priority on the CDOT work schedule. In order to make improvements next year, its priority must be increased. Demming intimated that if county financial help is forthcoming, the priority might be moved up so the work can be completed next year.
In general, improvement of the intersection for safety purposes means installation of left and right turn lanes for traffic entering Light Plant Road from U.S. 84.
In other business at the meeting, CDOT officials presented a 2003 Strategic Investment Plan update, discussed acceleration of the 2030 Plan, discussed a Region 5 intersection study update, discussed CDOT projects and asked for county input.
Town sets special Dec. 3 meeting on Rock Ridge issue
By Tess Noel Baker
The Pagosa Springs Board of Trustees has scheduled a special meeting for noon Dec. 3. Their purpose is to make a site visit to the Rock Ridge Commercial Center on Great West Avenue, a development that has raised the concerns of several neighbors.
The main sticking point between neighbors and the developers is noise and the orientation of a third building not yet constructed. This building, slated to house an auto repair business, will face south or southwest, toward the residential area under the current plans.
Neighbors in both the Rock Ridge Mobile Home Park and Rock Ridge Estates have appeared before the town planning commission and the board of trustees to protest the orientation.
The neighbors are asking that the building be turned to face north or northeast toward the other commercial developments in the area. That way, they say, the majority of the noise will travel away from their homes.
The developers contend that turning the building to face more north will cause ice build-up in the winter and increase the financial burden of the project because of retaining wall requirements. Currently, two metal buildings have been erected on the site. One faces northeast, the other south.
A decision on the approval or denial of final plans for the commercial center was tabled at the trustee's regular November meeting and was still on hold after a special meeting later in the month. Trustees decided to postpone action to allow the developer time to conduct a noise study on the property.
Jay Harrington, town administrator, said he anticipates the applicants will provide a short noise demonstration during the site visit Dec. 3.
Anyone wishing to attend the special meeting is invited to gather at noon at Town Hall, 551 Hot Springs Boulevard, or meet the group at the commercial center about 12:15 p.m.
Date High Low Precipitation
Type Depth Moisture
A sunny holiday; slight chance of snow Saturday
By John M. Motter
Pagosa skies will be mostly sunny Thanksgiving Day, according to Dan Cuevas, a forecaster for the National Weather Service Grand Junction office.
Skies here will be mostly sunny today and tomorrow, Cuevas said, with high temperatures in the low to middle 40s, low temperatures in the mid-teens.
By Friday, clouds may begin to move into the area. There is a slight chance of snow Saturday and Sunday with high temperatures in the 40s, low temperatures ranging between 15 and 25 degrees.
Monday should see a return to partly cloudy conditions with little chance for moisture, according to Cuevas.
Controlling local weather over the Thanksgiving holiday is a low-pressure area resting off the California coast. That low is expected to move inland over the coming weekend. Its path was uncertain Tuesday when Cuevas gave his forecast. If most of the front remains south of the Four Corners, snowfall in the Pagosa area will be light. If the system crosses directly over the Four Corners, Pagosa could receive considerable snow, Cuevas said.
No precipitation was recorded in town this past week, according to a weather station report from the Fred Harman Art Museum located along U.S. 160 at the top of Put Hill. The accumulative precipitation for November is 1.69 inches.
The average wind speed during November was 2.3 miles per hour. The highest wind speed of 38 mph was recorded at 3 p.m. Nov. 9.
High temperatures for the past week ranged between 52.5 degrees and 41.4 degrees. Low temperatures ranged between 15.5 and 23.2 degrees. The mean temperature ranged between 30.3 and 34.5 degrees.
Rules changes made for youth basketball leagues
By Joe Lister Jr.
The 2003 Youth Basketball League will take on some new rule changes to help divide the teams more evenly, and to make the league more diverse in allowing all players equal opportunities and playing time.
We must remember the leagues put on by the town of Pagosa Springs are for recreational purposes, and allow these young athletes an opportunity to enjoy the game of basketball. For some of the youngsters, it is their first exposure to a team sport.
We will try to instill teamwork, sportsmanship and character-building techniques to insure the parks and recreation department is trying to make everything equal and fun.
One of the major changes in this year's league will be that each player will be assigned to a team. If a coach has a child who plays, he/she will automatically get his/her child on the team. Losing a draft pick who is your child will be compensated by commissioner selection replacement. If a parent chooses to be an assistant coach, he/she will follow his or her child in the draft and be assigned a head coach.
There will be many more rules changes covered at a coaches' meeting to be announced later. All potential coaches will be called in reference to workouts, coaches' meetings and draft.
All rules changes come with a lot of thought concerning what we are trying to accomplish as a department, and what kind of program we want to offer our young players. Among the goals we would like to accomplish are to instill sportsmanship, teamwork and character-building skills in our young athletes.
Bell Tower Park
With the weather cooperating, we are planting some shrubs and preparing grade for spring seeding.
Jim Miller and Julie Jessen have worked hard at trying to be one step ahead of Mother Nature; this will give us a head start toward enjoying a beautiful spring and even better summer.
The restroom is open and will stay open year-around, thanks to geothermal heating of the structure and parking lot. This is the only park restroom now open and maintained by the town. Facilities at Town Park and South Pagosa Park have been secured for the season.
The community center gymnasium is still in need of funds to pay for equipment ordered, to help run our leagues. We have a special account to pay off some of these items, such as volleyball standards, bleachers and miscellaneous equipment needed to run public recreation programs.
If you would like to make a donation to the equipment fund, please call me at 264-4151, Ext. 231.
Injuries, bunched weights give grapplers some hurdles
By Karl Isberg
Pirate wrestling coach Dan Janowsky has a couple of problems - both of which will have a bearing on how well this year's team performs.
The first problem the coach can do nothing about: the loss of two wrestlers for an undetermined period due to injuries suffered during the football season.
Junior Michael Martinez, a state tournament competitor the past two seasons, broke an ankle and damaged ligaments in a football game this year. Martinez underwent surgery, had bones pinned, connective tissue repaired. He is working out regularly, riding a bike, lifting weights. The doctor says he might be back with the coming of the new year. One thing is for sure: Martinez was tabbed as one of the better wrestlers in the state, a sure bet to garner points at any meet, and he will be missing at 112 pounds for the foreseeable future.
Sophomore Marcus Rivas did a good job his first season filling one of the holes in the upper weight brackets. Janowsky was counting on Rivas to return this season and take the slot at 189. A back injury suffered during the football season puts Rivas' status up in the air.
The other problem is one every coach should have: too many experienced, talented wrestlers bunched at certain weights. If the athletes can sort themselves out, weightwise, the Pirates could put a formidable squad on the mats.
At the moment, there is no contender stepping up at 103, but sophomore Darren Hockett is likely to move back down from his current 112 to the weight where he wrestled last season all the way to the state tournament. With Martinez missing from the lineup, Hockett could start the season at 112.
At present, no one seems to be prepared to fill the slot at 119.
Michael Maestas, a veteran senior weighs in closer to 130 at present, but could drop to 125 where he would be a definite threat.
Two wrestlers are at 135 - James Gallegos, a junior, and senior Justin Bloomquist - and one or the other might shed some pounds to hit 130.
A knot of wrestlers is currently at 140 and the Pirates will have to fight it out and change weights to make their ways into the starting lineup. Senior Cliff Hockett has a great deal of varsity experience and three sophomores join him: Paul Armijo, Raul Palmer and Manual Madrid.
Another group of athletes are hanging around the 145-152 weight classes. Seniors Charles Sosbe, Clayton Mastin and Nick Chavez are joined in the battle by juniors Aaron Hamilton and David Richter. Something has to give.
Three vets are now at 160. Senior Jordan Kurt-Mason returns after fighting at the weight last season. Senior Zeb Gill is up from 152 and could make the trip back down. Junior Kory Hart is carrying football weight and could shed pounds to find his way down to 152 or, conceivably, to 145.
With Rivas' absence at 189 the ranks grow thin in the top three weights.
Junior Matt Lattin is currently listed at 171. Craig Lucero, a junior, returns to the mat after fighting varsity matches last season and he will go at either 215 or 275.
Janowsky, as always, is enthusiastic and has high hopes for the team this year.
"Losing a couple of guys to injury changes the first part of the season," said the coach, "but all you can do is be positive about it. You go on and new leaders emerge."
The team seems committed to a successful year. "The pace of our workouts is outstanding," said Janowsky, "everybody's pacing himself hard."
The coach is not certain how his surfeit of athletes in several weight classes will work out. "The bottom line is some guys might have to wrestle up or lose some weight to move down. Its going to take some sacrifice to make things work. A lot of the guys are at an age now where they have to work their way into the lineup. If we can get our two injured guys back and we can find a way to fill the holes, we could have 12 to 15 fundamentally sound, mentally tough kids on the squad."
As always, the Pirates face a demanding schedule, perhaps a bit tougher than the past few years, but the coach thinks they are ready. "They've all matured," he said. "They've grown up. They're all better than last year. We got one of our better teams in years, but everybody in this part of the state is better too."
The Intermountain League features some rugged teams, blessed with significant experience. Centauri is ranked by many pundits in the top two or three 3A teams in Colorado. Monte Vista, a perennial power, returns a number of fine wrestlers from last year's team. Ignacio and Bayfield both also figure to be better than last season.
"I like the fact the league championship is figured on the regular season dual meet results," said Janowsky. "Winning the league is based on your dual meet strength, but that means the best team in the IML might not go on to be the best team in the region or at the state tournament."
Pagosa might well have a fair dual meet team, and a good tournament team.
There will be plenty of chances to find out.
The season begins with two dual meet tournaments, giving wrestlers an opportunity to get several matches under the belt on each occasion. The team travels to Rocky Ford Dec. 7 then to Buena Vista Dec. 14 for a series of duals at each gym.
Then, the monster appears. After a couple years absence, the Pirates return Dec. 20-21 to Grand Junction for the Warrior Classic - one of the toughest tournaments of the year, rivaling the state tournament in quality, drawing some of the best high school teams from a five state area.
"The Warrior should shake things out," said the coach, and we'll have a chance to see where we're at. We take the Christmas break and then, when we return, for the next two weeks our schedule will expose every weakness we've got."
A dual meet with Durango Jan. 9 starts a potential three-day run that could include a dual at home Jan. 10 with an as-yet undetermined opponent, then Pagosa's own Rocky Mountain Tournament Jan. 11.
As always, the Rocky will be a barnburner, featuring a number of top teams from Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona. Several of the teams are invariably at the top of the rankings, Alamosa and Aztec N.M. most notably. Also at the Rocky this year will be all the IML teams, Durango, 5A Chaparral from the eastern slope, Taos, Page High School (Ariz.), Page Robertson and Monticello, Utah.
Bayfield comes to town for an IML dual Jan. 16 then the Pirates travel east Jan. 18 to the Alamosa Invitational - a tournament renowned for its lineup.
A dual at home against Centauri follows on Jan. 23 and the Pirates participate at the Ignacio Invitational Jan. 25, returning to Ignacio for IML dual Jan. 28.
Two tri meets wind up the regular season. The Pirates fight duals against Del Norte and Salida at Del Norte Jan. 30 then take on 3A powers Monte Vista and La Junta Feb. 6 at Monte Vista.
Regional competition Feb. 14-15 determines who goes to the state tournament Feb. 20-22 at Denver.
"I feel good about our kids," said Janowsky. "There's a good sense of unity among these guys and I get the feeling they are closing ranks and that they want to accomplish something. This could be a good year."
Bramwell's fifth place world rank on line
By Richard Walter
Pagosa's Forrest Bramwell will put his fifth place world standing on the line and hopes to move up in the rankings when National Professional Rodeo opens the Wrangler National Finals Dec. 6 in Las Vegas.
Bramwell, coming off a winter victory in the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Cup Finale, has earned $72,284 in bareback bronc riding this year to gain his current standing.
The 25-year-old Pagosa Springs High School and University of Wyoming graduate, is one of 14 hoping to challenge current events leader, Bobby Mote.
Mote, who won the Texas Stampede in October, owns a $19,086 lead going into the finals and hopes to make up for last year when he had a 10-point lead but went for broke on the last of 10 horses and was thrown, finishing second.
All 10 rounds of the nationals will be taped live and shown on ESPN2 at 10 p.m. nightly through Dec. 12, 11 p.m. Dec. 13 and 14 and 2 p.m. for the finals Dec. 15.
The events will also be replayed the following day at varying times, the first round at 4 p.m., the second at 9 a.m., the next five rounds at 5 a.m., then 2 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. for the final rounds.
If you are going to be in Las Vegas during the event, you can watch Bramwell and the others perform live (6:45 p.m. pacific time) at the Thomas and Mack Center.
William J. Alley, born in Durango, Colo., Oct. 13, 1960, died in Durango Nov. 24, 2002.
A 1979 graduate of Pagosa Springs High School, he worked for Darrel Cotton in cement work and worked on the expansion of the Pagosa Lakes golf course to a full 18-hole layout. He later moved to Denver where he worked as a machinist.
Survivors include his mother, Lucille Alley of Pagosa Springs; a sister, Jani Candelaria of Flora Vista, N.M.; a brother, George Bruce Alley of Denver; a stepbrother, Terry P. Alley of Pagosa Springs; his grandmother, Mabel Bennett of Pagosa Springs; an aunt, Donna Formwalt of Pagosa Springs; an uncle, James Bennett of Durango; and several nieces and nephews.
No services are planned and the family asks that any donations be made to a charity of choice.
Herbert "Bert" Lyman Hotz died Saturday, Nov. 23, 2002, at Four Corners Health Care Center in Durango of natural causes. He was 91.
Mr. Hotz was born May 20,1911, in Ring, New Mexico Territory, near modern day Cimarron. The son of Marion and Elizabeth (Hilliker) Hotz, he was raised in Pagosa Springs and environs and worked in many different lumber mills in the Archuleta-La Plata County area. He later joined the U.S. Forest Service and had been retired from government service for many years.
He often recalled having backpacked supplies up the face of the mountain to build the original lookout at Chimney Rock, and lamented the fact there is now a road up the back side to the ruins area.
He married Verna (Thomas) Hotz Oct. 18, 1940 in Aztec, N.M., and they had recently celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary. For the last 47 years the family has lived in Bayfield.
Mr. Hotz enjoyed fishing and gardening, having raised many forms of fruit in his gardens near the Pine River. He loved being with family and working on the family home.
Ruth Ferriera of Bayfield, one of his two daughters, said, "He had a good life."
Also surviving are his wife, Verna of Bayfield; another daughter, Nancy Fritz of Durango; a brother, Kenneth Leroy Hotz of Columbia Falls, Mont.; a sister, Minnie Johnson of Westminster, Colo.; six grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
No public services are planned and cremation has taken place.
Edwin J. Rackham
Edwin J. Rackham, 83, died Thursday, Nov. 21, 2002, at the VA nursing home in Walsenberg. A funeral mass will be held at a later date at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Pagosa Springs. Death was from natural causes and cremation was done in Walsenberg.
Mr. Rackham was born Nov. 12, 1919, in Centralia, Ill., the son of Thomas and Macie (Steele) Rackham. He married Lucille Bernedette (Herman) Rackham Sept. 29, 1945, in Celina, Ohio. He served in the Air Force, enlisting Sept. 7, 1943, in London, England, and was discharged June 30, 1971 at Sandia Base, N.M.
The family had lived in the county 32 years. A self-taught dowser, he is credited with having brought in dozens of water wells in Archuleta County where others said there were none to be found. He got started in the field when a daughter gave him a book on the subject for Christmas.
He practiced in the back yard and finally developed a technique that led to his being on call when no one else could track water.
He is survived by his wife, Lucille, of Pagosa Springs; daughters Susan Rackham Sands of Albuquerque and Christina Evans of Wink, Texas; sons Flak E. Rackham of Albuquerque and Anthony E. Rackham of Pagosa Springs; a sister, Ann Klein of Sun City, Ariz.; 10 grandchildren, two great grandchildren and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
He was preceded in death by his parents, a brother, Donald, and sisters Rosemarie Sturm and Virginia Flewelling.
Memorial contributions may be made to Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, P.O. Box 451, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147.
New crosswalk warning system is now functioning
By Tess Noel Baker
The pedestrians said, "Let there be light." And there was. All it took was the push of a button.
Pagosa Springs' new crosswalk warning system is in place and functioning. The warning system was installed at two locations downtown on U.S. 160 between 4th and 5th streets as part of this summer's U.S. 160 work. Pedestrians can depress a silver button on either side of the street and a series of orange lights begin flashing on both sides of the crosswalk.
The lights themselves were installed in the pavement, running in two parallel lines across the street and are meant to grab the attention of drivers. They are not, however, a guarantee that anyone will stop.
"The negative is that people are going to think they're safe and they're really not," Roy Humphrey, of Colorado Department of Transportation traffic operations, said. "All it is, is a warning."
The lights will operate, day or night, as long as someone pushes the button. Humphrey said some maintenance work, including better signage, remains to be completed on the project.
As it is the first of its kind in southwest Colorado, crews will be watching the system closely, especially this winter, to see how it holds up.
"This will be sort of trial and error for us," Humphrey said. The lights' brackets will need to be cleaned periodically when they become packed with sand and snow. It is uncertain how the magnesium chloride used as a de-icer will affect things as well.
The crosswalks were among the last parts of an 11-mile highway resurfacing project to be completed. Still, a little work remains. Wayne Lupton, Colorado Department of Transportation maintenance supervisor, said department crews will work as weather permits on a few more projects. For instance, the chunks of asphalt milled off the highway downtown and currently piled on Put Hill will be used to build up shoulders on the hill and to build a left turn lane at Light Plant Road and U.S. 84.
Both those projects should be finished before next spring if the weather cooperates, Lupton said.
Up on Wolf Creek Pass, the tunnel project continues from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. According to a department of transportation release, travelers can expect up to 30-minute delays during daylight hours and up to 15-minute delays overnight, 7 p.m.-7 a.m. Nighttime closures, if required, will run from 7 p.m.-7 a.m. Monday through Wednesday. For more information call the Wolf Creek pass tunnel project hotline at (719) 873-2221. The project is scheduled to be complete sometime in early 2003.
Circle of Friends bake sale will benefit cancer victim
Mark and Rachel Howe moved to Pagosa Springs from Washington in April 1995.
This past summer, Rachel was diagnosed with breast cancer and due to complications from two surgeries, her chemotherapy had to be delayed two months.
She will have her last such treatment Dec. 27, but still must endure two more months of radiation.
The Circle of Friends, noting this has been a difficult year for both Mark and Rachel, has scheduled a bake sale Dec. 7 starting at 9 a.m. to support them in their financial need.
The sale will be at Pagosa Country Center City Market. Circle of Friends members would greatly appreciate baked goods donations. Contact Berlinda at 731-8050 or Kanaka at 264-2514.
Both Rachel and Mark have positive attitudes and her prognosis is said to be very good.
Poll indicates good wildlife harvest, fewer hunters
By John M. Motter
The local economic impact of the recently completed big game hunting seasons compares favorably with previous seasons, according to a limited poll of license agents and meat processing plants.
In general, the number of hunters may have been down slightly. Even with fewer hunters, a little more money may have been spent for hunting supplies and accessories.
Most of those polled agreed that hunting success was probably better than in previous years, especially for elk. The quality of animals taken also seemed better this year.
License sales, the old common denominator for measuring the number of hunters in the area, is no longer a valid indicator. Gone are the days when all licenses were purchased across the counter from state licensed agencies. Instead, more and more licenses are sold directly by the state through a draw process. Licenses sold by the state are mailed to the purchasers.
Four regular rifle-hunting seasons took place in Colorado this year. Across-the-counter license sales were allowed only in regular license seasons two and three of the current year. License sales in stores help generate other sales. Hunters stopping to buy licenses also purchase required blaze orange apparel, ammunition and other hunting accessories. Hunters who stop locally to purchase licenses may eat in local restaurants, buy gas locally and stay in local motels.
Not so many years ago when all license sales were across the counter, Pagosa Springs boasted it had the highest dollar volume license sales agencies in the state. That was because, for many out of state hunters entering Colorado, Pagosa Springs provided the first opportunity to purchase a Colorado license.
Tony Stephens of Ponderosa Do it Best Home Center thinks the old days when, "we sold $600,000 in licenses in one season," are gone.
License sales were up a little this year Stephens said, but overall pretty close to last year. The best season was the second rifle season. Over-the-counter license sales were not allowed during the first rifle season. Consequently, the first time many hunters entered the store was for license sales during the second rifle season. Sales of hunting accessories were also slightly up this past year, Stephens said.
"We sold a few more licenses," said Art Million of the Sports Emporium. Retail sales at the Sports Emporium were about the same as the previous year, according to Million. As with the other retail outlets, Million's second season sales, when over-the-counter license sales were allowed, were much better than the first season.
For hunters, the overall season was very good, according to Million, especially the first, second and fourth seasons. "There were some nice ones taken," Million said, "some 5-by-5s and 6-by-6s."
"Overall it was pretty good," said Larry Fisher of Ski and Bow Rack. "The number of hunters was down a little, but the amount of revenue was up a little. It's all about license sales. Since there were no license sales during the first and fourth seasons, our sales were down. The second season was best for the Ski and Bow Rack."
As to hunter success, Fisher said he heard less of "we didn't see anything" than in previous years.
Both local game processing plants reported a good year.
Volume at Chimney Rock Game Processing was reported up from last year.
"This year went very well," said Kevin Schuchart, butcher at The Buck Stops Here. "We processed 750 animals. That's 200 better than last year."
The animals seen by Schuchart were mostly elk. "We didn't see a lot of deer."
Season by season the take was pretty consistent, according to Schuchart. About 30 bear were processed during the archery season. The bear take slowed dramatically after the archery season closed.
It was a good season, according to Dick Ray, a local guide and outfitter.
The deer take was down over the whole area, Ray said. This year's elk take may be better than average, but it is too early to know for sure.
"There was certainly more quality with the elk," Ray said.
There may have been fewer hunters in the woods, according to Ray. What was noticeable was, during the first season a large proportion of the hunters was up high in the mountains.
"It seems that more people are bringing horses and mules," Ray said. "That seems to indicate a desire to get deeper into the wilderness."
Meanwhile, statisticians working for Colorado Division of Wildlife are busy crunching numbers from the recently completed hunting seasons. Armed with those numbers, wildlife experts will prepare recommendations for hunting parameters for next year's seasons.
County will finalize airport FBO sale Dec. 5
By John M. Motter
Archuleta County expects to complete a deal Dec. 5, selling the fixed base operator assets located at Stevens Field to Energy and Engine Technology Corporation.
"We were a little optimistic in announcing the sale of the FBO Dec. 1," said Bill Steele, the county administrator. "Dec. 1 is a Sunday. It seems the owner of Energy and Engine Technology Corporation will be here so we can close Dec. 5."
The county purchased the assets and inventory of the former operator, FliteCrafton, at the beginning of November for $145,400. At that time, it was understood that Energy and Engine Technology Corporation would purchase the FBO Dec. 1.
Energy and Engine Technology Corporation is paying $92,500 for the FBO assets. The county retained ownership of certain fixed base assets such as fueling trucks, towing engines and towing accessories. The reason the county retained ownership of those items was to have the necessary equipment to provide services in the event no private FBO existed.
The need became apparent because the county provided services during November, the time between the former operator leaving and the future operator's arrival.
A fixed base operator provides fuel and other, similar services for users of Stevens Field. Included in the FBO contract between the county and Energy and Engine Technology Corporation is a lease for Nick's Hangar, the building housing the FBO.
In a related move Tuesday, the county commissioners designated airport manager Tim Smith as the county's agent to consummate the bargain between the county and Energy and Engine Technology Corporation.
Smith is responsible for supervision of all airport activities, as well as grant writing and liaison with the county.
A new airport advisory board will be appointed soon, it was announced at the Tuesday meeting of the board of county commissioners. The new board will be an advisory board, convened for the purpose of helping the commissioners make decisions related to airport activities.
The commissioners dissolved the former advisory board, the Airport Authority Board. The former board had certain administrative, contractual and financial powers that will not be given to the new board.
The commissioners conducted the following additional business Tuesday.
- Musetta Wollenweber, the county's director of Senior Programs, was presented a plaque provided by the American Association of Retired Persons. In explaining the award, AARP wrote, "Musetta has really embraced her role as an AARP Community Outreach Specialist, bringing AARP resources, literature, and programming into her daily work with seniors. AARP Colorado appreciates Musetta's hard work and enthusiasm and willingness to blend her AARP volunteer role in with her professional job to the benefit of both!"
- Approval was given a $75,000 Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance grant contract with the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. An intergovernmental agreement with the town of Pagosa Springs was approved at the same time. The money is for the purchase of Sleuth computer hardware and software for use by the county, town, and courts.
An equal match is being provided by the county, town and courts to cover the entire project cost of about $150,000. The cost of training local personnel to use the new equipment is included in the total cost.
The project consists of upgrading the outdated law enforcement computer and data systems for the Town of Pagosa Springs and for Archuleta County. The new computer and software will give the two law enforcement agencies the ability to exchange information with law enforcement agencies in and out of the area. The grant will also allow the agencies to purchase laptop computers for patrol officers, which will enable officers to access information more rapidly and efficiently.
Specific project elements intended for the county include a base systems records module, CAD module, and jail module; two laptop computers, and data conversion interfaces. Specific elements intended for the town include a base systems records module; data conversion interfaces; one server, four laptop computers, and workstations. The municipal court will receive a base systems recorder module and data conversion interfaces.
Project completion is expected by Dec. 31, 2003.
- An intergovernmental agreement with the town was approved concerning a LEAF grant.
- Approval was granted to purchase maintenance hardware and software for the county-operated Enhanced 911 system. The purchase price amounts to $9,000 for the first year, $32,639 for the next four years.
Steele announced that the county E-911 system is now more than 95 percent operational. The Enhanced feature means when someone dials 911, the address and location of the caller is automatically revealed to the 911 operator receiving the call. Solutions are not yet in place for identifying the source of cell phone calls.
Health district weighs rural clinic designation
By Tess Noel Baker
The Upper San Juan Health Service District board and staff are considering adding a new certification - rural health clinic - if the district qualifies.
Bottom line: It will help the Dr. Mary Fisher Medical Center and the Urgent Center recoup more in Medicare reimbursements, district manager Dee Jackson said. That means more money coming in the doors and less in write-offs.
Becoming a rural health clinic was something members of the board first learned about in 2000, Jackson said. However, with the tumultuous economic problems discovered in the next few years, the application was put on hold. Now, it's back on one of the front burners.
The rural health clinic certification has been available since 1977 when the U.S. Congress passed the Rural Health Clinic Act to address the lack of access to primary medical care in rural communities and to assist with the financial challenges faced by rural healthcare facilities.
Jackson said, in order to become certified, an application must be completed. The district must be cleared by a fiscal intermediary and then pass an on-site inspection and survey.
Some of the requirements include: being in a nonurbanized area, showing a shortage of healthcare services or healthcare providers, providing outpatient primary care services, using the services of at least one midlevel practitioner (physician assistant, nurse practitioner, nurse midwife or clinical social worker) at least 50 percent of the time the clinic is open and meeting health and safety standards set by Medicare or Medicaid. An applicant must also meet certain levels of patient visits per provider.
In Colorado, Westcliff, Lake City and Walsenburg are some of the municipalities to have already received this designation. As of October 2001, a total of 48 rural health centers were operating in the state, including a number from Trinidad in southern Colorado up to Walden in the north central part of the state.
County sets public hearing on building permit plans
By John M. Motter
A hearing is scheduled Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. in the county commissioners' meeting room to gather public input concerning proposed changes to county building permit requirements.
The hearing date was set by the commissioners in response to a request from Julie Rodriguez who supervises the county building permit department.
Rodriguez's request was made on behalf of the building department, the Building Board of Review and the Pagosa Fire Protection District.
At the top of the list of subjects to be considered at the public hearing is a request for adoption of the 2000 International Building Code, the International Residential Code and the International Fire Code, all with an effective date of Jan. 1, 2003, if adopted.
In addition, building staff is recommending an increase in building permit fees, increased staffing, more space and salary increases for building department personnel.
Rodriguez said code officials recognize the need for a modern, up-to-date building code addressing the design and installation of building systems through requirements emphasizing performance. "The International Building Code, the International Residential Code and the International Fire Code are all designed to meet these needs through model code regulations that safeguard public health and safety in all communities, large and small."
New codes establish minimum regulations for building systems making it possible to use new building materials and designs, according to Rodriguez, and are compatible with the entire family of International Codes including state plumbing and electrical codes.
Adoption of the new codes in the unincorporated areas of Archuleta County will benefit the local construction industry, Rodriguez said, because they are, on the whole, less restrictive, because they open the use of new materials and methods, and because they are easier to follow.
Commercial codes are separated from residential codes in a format that is easier to follow when compared to the former codes, according to Rodriguez.
"Adjusting the code will be an ongoing process," Rodriguez said. "It is our hope that with the assistance of the building community this can be accomplished to the benefit of all involved."
Rodriguez recommended that the model fee structure contained in the Uniform Building Code Table 1-A be adopted. A regional modifier of 0.92 should be adopted to help local fees conform to local building costs.
Plan check and inspection fees are collected from those using the services, Rodriguez said. Regulatory fees, licenses and permits are becoming an increasingly important revenue source for local governments.
The current Archuleta County fee schedule was adopted in 1994. At the time the schedule was adopted, the building department had one inspector who also examined plans, one part-time office clerk and one vehicle. Since then the county has added a department director, two inspectors/examiners and a part-time receptionist who doubles as a permit technician.
Over the last eight years, the department has averaged 236 single-family residence permits and 457 total permits each year. The average yearly departmental income is estimated at $164,000. Average estimated expenses are $98,000, leaving a difference of approximately $66,000. The surplus has gone into the county general fund.
"It is the opinion of the building staff that the building permit fee should be increased to better support an already overloaded department," Rodriguez said. "Over the past few years, the building department has experienced a tremendous increase in the number of permit applications. Overall, the staff is finding it very challenging to handle the current workload and to follow up on potential violations. The lack of enforcement raises a fairness issue, especially for those individuals who abide by the county's rules and regulations."
Rodriguez pointed out that, due to lack of staff and funding, certain inspections are not being done. The list of inspections not done includes masonry fireplaces, slabs, nailing, tie-ins for stonework, installation of UL rated appliances, Mechanical Code compliance and an Energy Code inspection.
Current staff is paid well below average, Rodriguez said. Wages should be brought up to comparable salaries for these positions.
"I believe that this step will place us in a much more competitive position when attempting to keep the current positions filled or when hiring additional staff for these positions," Rodriguez said.
Finally, Rodriguez pointed out that existing office space is inadequate for the needs of the staff and for meeting with the public. Building department space is shared with the planning department. Talking with inspections and permit applicants interrupts other workers in the office.
"We need increased office space, adequate workstations, and a meeting/conference room," Rodriguez said.
She suggested that space be leased outside of the courthouse, if necessary.
It is time to reflect and be thankful. The employees of the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management at Pagosa Ranger District/Field Office would like to thank the community for all their help this past season.
Throughout the summer, our district staff and all the additional visiting firefighters were greeted with smiles, encouragement, kind treatment, caring words, an assortment of gifts, and the wonderful locally produced T-shirt expressing support for firefighters. The generosity was heartwarming. We cannot begin to thank people individually for sometimes we didn't even know who they were.
During that stressful time we enjoyed comfort foods that were delivered to us from local stores, restaurants, bakeries and neighbors. One day a visitor to our office asked a typical recreation question, thanked us for the answer, and then left a box of doughnuts. Homemade cookies were delivered almost daily to the helicopter (fire) attack crew at the airport. A Boy Scout Troop cooked breakfast and dinner for firefighters. The community recognized the fire fighting efforts officially through the Chamber of Commerce at the Archuleta County Fair and by countless heartfelt thank yous in casual encounters around the community.
It is very apparent to us that you enjoy and value your national forest, as we do. We appreciate your cooperation during those periods of extreme dryness and high potential for fire. You refrained from having fires, and traveling off-road and postponed getting your firewood, with virtually no complaint. We appreciate that you were willing to forgo the immediate enjoyment and use of the forest to increase the likelihood that we will all be able to enjoy it - still green - another day.
Thank you so much for all of your help and support.
Jo Bridges, District Ranger
Employees of the Pagosa Ranger District
San Juan National Forest and Resource Area
Two cents worth
I feel compelled to add my two cents worth to the ongoing discussion in your Letters to the Editor column concerning benefits and drawbacks of Pagosans spending their money in Pagosa Springs instead of going to Durango or Farmington to shop. Except in this case, I guess I'm adding my three cents worth.
My hope is that by recounting my own experience as a retailer in Pagosa, as well as that of my customers, in such simple terms and on such a tiny scale as to be laughable, that perhaps those who bemoan some of Pagosa's prices will see how their own purchasing power can improve that situation.
I have a retail business that sells, among other items, live crickets for feeding pet water dragons and other lizards. From the time I opened my shop several months ago until last week, I've been compelled to charge my customers 15 cents per cricket, just to keep from losing money on them. That's considerably more than similar stores in Durango or Farmington charge for crickets. But my customers save money on their gasoline costs by not having to drive any further than downtown Pagosa in order to be able to feed their pets.
Because my customer base for crickets has been both loyal and reliable over the past couple months, I felt able last week to begin purchasing my crickets from a different wholesaler who only sells in larger quantities than I could ever handle in the past, but my cost per cricket is lower. As a direct result, I reduced my price last week from 15 cents per cricket to 12 cents per cricket for my customers.
And I've told them all that, if they keep purchasing them from me instead of driving outside Pagosa, I may be able to reduce the price a little more - again, only because they're shopping Pagosa, instead of going somewhere else.
So, to all those Pagosa shoppers out there who are now driving to other communities to try to save money, I urge you to consider that you, yourselves, hold much of the power of bringing reduced prices to Pagosa.
It's the old-fashioned economics-of-scale principle, and if it can show up in something as small as prices for bugs, it can also happen on a larger scale here. It really is, to a larger degree than you realize, up to you, the Pagosa consumer, to make it happen.
I am responding to Richard Walter's interview with superintendent of schools, Mr. Duane Noggle, who commented on his difficulty with federal legislation around the "No Child Left Behind" program. Mr. Noggle is quoted as follows: "What we do have Š is a mandate to perform the impossible."
He also points out that noncompliance brings numerous penalties, but no one is sure what noncompliance consists of, or what the penalties will be. Is anyone declaring this to be an untenable situation?
Now think about this for a minute: You have decided to make teaching your lifework. You know that every child is wired differently, learns in different ways, and you have trained to meet these needs. You respect everyone's different timetable, and are prepared to 'hang in there' with whatever it takes to put each child on his path to learning. You realize that learning is a lifelong endeavor.
Now enter the federal government mandate. Remember this: Government is force. It can make you do something whether you want to or not, even if it goes against your grain. Suddenly, every child's timetable is the same, and you are going to be punished if certain children do not meet these arbitrary standards. You might lose your job, if you don't "force" the child to comply. The superintendent is going to "force" you to "force" the child to comply, because he doesn't want to lose his job. If no one complies, the feds may throw you all out and set up a different school. And where do the parents get a say in all this? Who, in fact, is paying the bill?
Parents, teachers and administrative staff: Why and how did you give all your power away to these uncaring but power-hungry individuals in Washington? Where do the children fit into all this, and how can you take your power back for their sakes?
Does the Red Cross, City Market, the Humane Society, your dentist or doctor, or the local gas station force you to comply in terms of pet selection, food choices, gas selection or medical care? In some cases, yes. But, should they?
Teaching is a profession of caring, patience, creativity, intuition, perseverance and wisdom among many other virtues. In many cases these are not virtues espoused by unions or governments. CSAP seems to be the new God, but a forced curriculum is not appropriate.
As a former teacher, I urge all of you, parents, teachers and administration, to take back your power, listen to that part of you that would never hurt or harm a child for any reason, and stand up against that which you have determined to be harmful for your children. If the "No Child Left Behind" program fits here, so be it. Do what you have to do.
Donations make life easier for Center members
By Janet Copeland
Please note - the Senior Center will be closed Nov. 28-29. We hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
For those who are not aware, there is an extremely economical way to buy groceries and there are no financial requirements to participate. For a monthly fee of only $15.50 per box of food, and $10 for a box of meat, you can eat very well. Contact Wilma Weber at 731-5346 for more information.
Special thanks to the following folks and organizations for their donations to the Senior Center: Mary Davis for winter boots; Dolores Saus for books and needlework; Pat Davis for crocheted lap quilts and shoes; Larry Garcia with DOW for elk meat; Beverly Arrendell for making name tags; Wanda Christie for magazines; Judy Cramer for apple cider; The Buck Stops Here for donating and processing of elk meat; Choke Cherry Tree for preserves donated to our seniors.
The Archuleta Senior Citizens, Inc. will hold an election for board members in December. Any member of this organization interested in serving on the board should let Musetta know so their name can be added to the list of persons to be voted on.
The last Friday of every month is our Spirit Day. Show you are proud of being a Silver Fox and wear your T-Shirt.
The Friendly Visitor Program is being initiated at our Senior Center. We have several volunteers (and could use more) who are looking for someone to share stories with or just pass a little time. If it is difficult for you to leave your home due to a disability, this may be just the program for you. Call 264-2167 for more information.
On Dec. 5 there will be a shopping trip to Farmington. Transportation will be $15. This is a great opportunity to take care of some Christmas shopping and enjoy a day with friends. Sign up at the Senior Center soon.
The Four Corners Travelers are planning a trip to San Antonio April 17-27. Trip cost is $735, which includes a continental breakfast each morning. The group will visit the Panhandle Plains Museum (the largest history museum in Texas); Palo Duro Canyon; spend six days in San Antonio visiting a wildflower farm, a butterfly ranch, the National Museum of the Pacific War, the Sauerkraut Show, and the Alamo, and will spend a day at Padre Island. This will be the week of the Fiesta in San Antonio so there will be lots more to see. Contact Laura at the Senior Center for more information.
There will be an Alzheimer's Association Caregiving Program in Durango between 7-9 p.m. on Dec. 3. This will address Managing Daily Living and will offer helpful tips to structure a full day of caring for someone with dementia.
It is the time of year when many folks are unable to keep their leaves picked up and snow shoveled from their walks. The Home Chore program is designed to assist those folks who are not able to complete these tasks or may have difficulty affording hired help. Call Musetta or Laura at the Senior Center (264-2167) for more information.
The Senior Center is in need of a small coffee table for our lounge. If anyone has a nice one they would like to donate, please call Musetta or Laura.
Free movies will be offered in the Senior Lounge at 12:45 p.m. on the second Friday of each month. The movies are free and the popcorn is 25 cents - a real bargain. Come and enjoy the movies, and offer suggestions to Laura for movies you might enjoy seeing. If there is a lot of interest, we may even run them twice a month.
Monday, Dec. 2 - 10 a.m. chair exercise; 1 p.m. Bridge for Fun.
Tuesday, Dec. 3 - 9:30 a.m. yoga; 11 a.m. - problem solving class; 12:45 p.m. - art classes (they are held in the arts media room of the Community Center. There is a suggested donation of $2 per class for use of the facility but those who can't afford this should talk to Musetta, the Archuleta Senior Citizens, Inc. will help out); 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. we will decorate our tree. You can bring your own decorations if you like.
Wednesday, Dec. 4 - 10:30 a.m. computer class; 12:30 p.m. - fire safety with Chief Grams.
Thursday, Dec. 5 - 11:30 a.m. grief and loss meeting; Farmington shopping trip.
PTSD treatment becomes a VA priority
By Andy Fautheree
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder resulting from exposure to an extreme traumatic stress involving direct or indirect threat of death, serious injury or a physical threat.
The trauma may be experienced alone (rape or assault) or in the company of others (military combat). The events that can cause the syndrome are called "stressors." They include deliberate man-made disasters (bombing, torture, death camps). Symptoms include recurrent thoughts of a traumatic event, reduced involvement in work or outside interests, hyper alertness, anxiety and irritability. The disorder apparently is more severe and longer lasting when the stress is of human design.
More than 150,000 veterans were service-connected for the syndrome in 2001. Nearly 2,500 veterans in this group were not being compensated for the disorder, because they declined disability compensation to receive a VA pension, which provided more income.
VA readjustment counseling is provided at Albuquerque VA Medical Center where there is a unit to deal with PTSD veteran issues. Vet Centers are located outside of the larger medical facilities, in easily accessible, consumer-oriented facilities highly responsive to the needs of local veterans.
The Vet Center mission features a holistic mix of direct counseling and multiple community access functions: psychological counseling for veterans exposed to war trauma or who were sexually assaulted during military service, family counseling, community outreach and education, and extensive social services and referral activities designed to assist veterans improve general levels of post-military social and economic functioning.
Vet Centers are staffed by interdisciplinary teams that include psychologists, nurses and social workers. Vet Center teams also reflect representative or higher levels of ethnic and gender diversity, as well as high levels of staff having veteran status, most having served in a combat theater of operations.
Eligibility for Vet Center services includes all Vietnam era veterans, and any other veteran who served in any war, armed conflict or peace keeping mission. Eligibility for sexual trauma counseling at Vet Centers is open to any veteran regardless of period of service.
Medical Center programs
VA operates an internationally recognized network of more than 140 specialized programs for the treatment of PTSD through its medical centers and clinics. One notable program consists of PTSD clinical teams that provide outpatient treatment, working closely with other VA treatment programs, including Vet Centers and the community. In 2001, more than 77,300 veterans were treated for PTSD by VA specialists.
The Veterans Millennium Health Care and Benefits Act provided support for new specialized PTSD and Substance Use Disorder treatment programs. The law also re-established the Under Secretary of Health's Special Committee on PTSD. The committee is to assess VA's capacity to diagnose and treat PTSD and to provide guidance on VA's education, research and benefits activities with regard to PTSD.
For information on these and other veterans' benefits please call or stop by the Veterans Service Office located on the lower floor of the Archuleta County Courthouse. The office number is 264-2304, the fax number is 264-5949 and e-mail is email@example.com. The office is open from 8 to 4, Monday through Thursday, Friday by appointment. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for registration with the county, application for VA programs, and for filing in the VSO office.
Many events mark Pagosa's holiday season
By Sally Hameister
Please accept my apologies, dear readers, because this column will look very much like last week's column. ("Department of Redundancy Department: May I assist, aid, serve or help you in some way, shape or form?") The information is valid and current, but writing two columns in less than four days is quite the challenge in these busy days of preparing for two big ole holidays. Bear with me, please, and enjoy the occasional fresh item.
Christmas in Pagosa
This is a fresh item about a wonderful traditional event in Pagosa the very one that opens our Christmas season and one we truly treasure. Christmas in Pagosa is just around the corner, and we hope to see each and every one of you and your children on this special day. Dec. 7 is the date to circle on your calendar to assure that you appear at the Visitor Center sometime between 3-5:30 p.m. to see Santa, eat delicious cookies baked by Sally Theesfeld (Hovatter), drink hot spiced cider, listen to the Mountain Harmony Ladies caroling and watch the magical lighting of the Visitor Center. You can also capture your child's experience with Santa for all your friends and family because Tiffany with Pagosa Photography will be there to snap away and hand you the picture in a lovely Christmas card for only $5.
It is truly a memorable experience and one we all look forward to with great anticipation. Please look for the full-page ad in this week's SUN for all the details about all the Christmas activities.
Kiwanis chili supper
Once again the Kiwanis Club will host its famous annual Community Christmas Party Dec. 7 in conjunction with "Christmas in Pagosa." As always, they will serve the traditional chili plate plus drink and ice cream for $5 (advance) and $6 at the door. Children will be offered a hot dog with drink and ice cream for $3.50. Advance tickets will be available at the Chamber and at Texaco West at the corner of North Pagosa Boulevard and U.S. 160.
To accommodate everyone (they always sell out, ya know) tickets will be available for two seating times, - one from 4:30 to 6 and the second for 6-7 p.m. Free face painting will be available for the little ones, and each child will receive Christmas bells to join in on the stage with a rousing rendition of "Jingle Bells."
Please plan to support and attend the chili supper, which allows Kiwanis to sponsor high school graduates who desire further education or skills training through either junior college degree programs or at a vo-tec center.
Wowsers - yet another "fresh item." I'm cookin' with gas now. Castleberry Cottage will celebrate with a grand opening Nov. 29, and invite shoppers to come in and browse through their excellent selection of fine linens, furniture, rugs and home furnishings.
They will feature Pine Cone Hill quilts, April Cornell Linens for the kitchen, Valli B, Farmhouse and Ralph Lauren bed linens, Jane Keltner rugs, Wolfe Leathers and Lane Furniture. You will also find lovely antiques, clocks, crystal and exquisite decorative items that will make decorating your cottage or castle a pleasure. They will also feature fabulous gift items, fragrances, candles and a special section for that tiny baby.
You can register for a $150 gift certificate and enjoy a 10-percent discount on purchases over $25. The drawing will be held Friday afternoon and the discount is valid on grand opening day. Castleberry Cottage is located in the Pagosa Country Center between Alco and City Market. Please plan to join them for all the festivities.
There are many holiday happenings sponsored by our Education Center, and we will list them and ask you to call 264-2835 for times and places. December activities include holiday crafts, art experiences and beads and more from 3:15 until 5 p.m.
Kids holiday crafts will take place Dec. 7 from 9:30 to noon with crafts and Christmas movies for kids in first through sixth grades. Registration for this is $10 and must be made by Dec. 4.
Intermediate and junior high activities include Creative Holiday Writing, Ornament Creation and a Winter Dance.
December Family Night will take place Dec. 20 from 6-7:30 p.m. with Holiday Cooking to encourage more family time in the kitchen.
Please call 264-2835 for more information on all the various activities.
Don't forget to head on over to the Community United Methodist Church to order your very own wreath or centerpiece to enhance your holiday or, better yet, order some for relatives and friends who live elsewhere. The MEs (Methodist Elves) ship many, many wreaths hither and yon to surprise loved ones with a lovely creation from Pagosa Springs. There are those folks who have established a time-honored tradition of sending these every year as their Christmas gift, and who could question the sagacity of that tradition?
Table arrangements begin at $15 and wreaths with a 12"-15" outside diameter, red bows and pine cones are $19 and medium wreaths 18"-24" are $27. Custom wreath orders are always available to you with the ribbons and decorations of your choice with varying prices.
Last year over 900 wreaths and 250 table arrangements were created and sold by this exceptional group of generous people who could clearly write the book about the true meaning of Christmas. You can call 264-4538 for more information about the Russ Hill Memorial Bazaar or, even better, head on over to see these folks in action and order something beautiful. You will find them there Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and Saturday from 9-noon.
Holiday Tour of Homes
The second anniversary of the Holiday Tour of Homes in Pagosa is Dec. 5 at 6 p.m., with a new wrinkle or two sure to enhance your evening. In addition to the glorious decorations, you can expect refreshments, frozen casseroles to purchase for less stress during the holidays, greenery to purchase and carolers to add to the festivities at one of the homes. One of the most delightful parts of this tour is that you can "borrow" all kinds of ideas to implement while decorating your own home.
The generous folks who have donated their homes for touring this year include Mike and Susan Neder on Piedra Road, Bob and Lisa Scott on Four Mile Road, John and Shirley Nelson on North Pagosa Boulevard and Joe and Carol Davis on Horseshoe Circle in Martinez Mountain Estates.
A limited number of tickets are available for pre-sale purchase only at the Chamber of Commerce and WolfTracks Bookstore and Coffee Company and directions will accompany the tickets. You must have a ticket to enter these homes, and tickets will not be sold after 3 p.m. on the day of the event.
All proceeds go the Seeds of Learning to provide better and better care and services for our little ones. Grant dollars have diminished along with the general economy this past year, so your support of this event is more important than ever. Pick up your tickets today.
"A Christmas Carol"
We're all cheerfully anticipating the upcoming Music Boosters' holiday production of the 1843 Charles Dickens' classic, "A Christmas Carol" boasting a cast of over 40 with high school students, small children and adults both new and familiar. Michael DeWinter, Lisa Hartley and Melinda Baum are sharing the directorial duties for this jewel. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing the costumes and sets representing such a splendid period and season in England. The sets for "Meet Me in St. Louis" were so amazing that I can't even imagine how marvelous these will be.
The opportunities to enjoy this holiday classic are Dec. 5, 7, 10 and 11 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 8, for a special matinee at 1:30, all in the high school auditorium. Tickets went on sale Nov. 21 at The Plaid Pony and Moonlight Books, and you will want to act quickly to get the seat(s) of your choice because it is reserved seating only. Adults tickets are $12, seniors with a senior card are $10 and children 12 and under will pay $8.
Let's get out there and support the performing arts in Pagosa and, specifically, our wonderful Music Boosters. I would dearly love to see a special holiday production every year and we can encourage that by attending "A Christmas Carol."
What would the holiday season in Pagosa be without the annual Community Choir Christmas Concert? This year marks the 12th anniversary of this exquisite blend of over 60 voices raised in celebration of the most magical of all seasons. This year, "Sing, Choirs of Angels" will be presented Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. and again Dec. 8 at 4 p.m. in the Community Bible Church.
Beautiful selections will be performed by local artists who love to sing and by local instrumentalists who add the perfect touch to each song they accompany. You will be treated to some of your favorite holiday tunes as well as some Renaissance, some American spirituals and traditional carols under the direction of Barbara Witkowski and Pam Spitler. Sue Anderson will perform piano and keyboard honors for the performance.
Since I personally attend this glorious concert each and every year, I can promise you that you will feel the spirit of the season more than ever before after hearing this exceptional concert. Don't miss it.
Talk about fresh and refreshing, we have five new members to introduce this week and 12 renewals. Morna announced just this morning that we now have 799 members which is nothing short of fabulous and phenomenal. Who would have dreamed of such a number? I'm lovin' every minute of it.
We add another author to our membership as we welcome C. Sue Liescheidt who has offices in her home and is the author of "Hatti, On County Road 335," the story of a young girl who moves from the city to the country and one with "healing waters." Sounds rather familiar, doesn't it? Sue contends that this would be a great holiday gift and invites you to call her at 264-6902 with questions.
Dennis Spencer joins us next with The Moving Company located at 8261 CR 600. Dennis offers moving services for both business and residential and can handle big jobs and small, long hauls or short. You can save 30 percent for what the "big boys" charge, and Dennis is happy to give you a free estimate on your move. Please give Dennis a call at 731-0188 for more information about The Moving Company. The Evil Twin, Mme. Betty Johann recruited Dennis to Chamber membership after almost killing him with 17 trips back and forth moving her to her new abode. She has nothing but great things to say about The Moving Company, and I will send her a free SunDowner pass for being such a good girl.
Dale and Deborah Castleberry join us next with Castleberry Cottage located at 135 Country Center Drive, Suite E. (Please refer to the above paragraph on their grand opening information.) These folks offer wonderful home furnishings for your cottage or castle. You will find fine furniture, crystal, linens, decorator items, antiques, mirrors and gifts that will make your home decorating a delightful experience. Please call 731-0899 for more information about Castleberry Cottage.
Our neighbors in Creede join us next with the Creede/Mineral County Chamber of Commerce located at 1207 North Main in Creede. Pat Richmond is the Executive Director of this nonprofit corporation that serves and promotes business and economic development. We're always delighted to welcome other Chambers to our organization. You can call (719) 658-2374 for more information about the Creede/Mineral County Chamber of Commerce.
Richard (Dick) Giancaspro joins us next with Giancaspro Construction, Inc. located at 33 Stone Court. Giancaspro Construction can help you with custom homes, spec home and log homes, and Timberline Cedar Homes. Dick would welcome your call at 731-9006 to learn how he can help you with your construction needs. I must also add a personal anecdote about how good-natured both Dick and his wife were about my "gentle prodding" to join the Chamber. I confess to a tiny bit of nagging but only because Dick invited me to do so until they joined. They have, so I will fade quietly into the background now (fat chance).
Our renewals this week include Bessie E. Montoya with Montoya's Elkhorn Café, with a brand-new, beautiful look; Karen Cox with Taminah Gallery and Taminah Frame Center and Gallery; Kathi DeClark with United Way of Southwest Colorado-Archuleta County; Ken Harms with Harms Photo/Graphic Associates; Jan Harms with SelecPro School Photography; Ken Harms (busy guy) with Harms PhotoGraphic; Erica DeVoti with Pony Express Brochure Delivery; Susan Angelo with Pagosa Realty Rentals; Richard and Susan Hampton with Black Bear Custom Homes, Inc. and Bernie Schuchart with The Buck Stops Here Processors and Fresh Meat Store and Cabin Fever Log Homes.
Wild game, fish recipes galore
By Lenore Bright
Holidays and hunting season brings us, "500 Wild Game and Fish Recipes," edited by Galen Winter.
How about venison burgundy, muskrat shanks or baked bear? This book demonstrates how to use wild game with common ingredients to prepare memorable meals. It is full of recipes collected from readers of game and fish publications. It covers deer, elk and game birds with many other species.
One chapter deals with smoking, canning and preservation procedures - from venison jerky and headcheese to beer- and molasses-smoked fish.
"Colorado Colore: a Palate of Tastes," is the latest collection of recipes from the Junior League of Denver. This is the fifth book in their collection.
It brings the best of regional flavors with 300 recipes designed to be uncomplicated yet inspiring. It is designed to offer a taste of the state's diverse cultural influence and bounty of colorful ingredients. There is an entire section dedicated to vegetarian fare.
Mollie Katzen's "Still Life with Menu Cookbook," has over 200 delicious vegetarian recipes with original art. Mollie is the author of, "The Enchanted Broccoli Forest," and "Moosewood Cookbook."
This is the first major vegetarian menu cookbook containing recipes from PBS's Mollie Katzen Cooking Show. The recipes were revised to lower the fat content and make them easier to follow. The step-by-step "do-ahead hints" make this the ideal book for busy people.
More than a cookbook is "Understanding Insulin-Dependent Diabetes," by Dr. H. Peter Chase of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. This is the ninth edition of an important educational book on diabetes. It is full of information for families to help them manage problems when no doctor is available, and to help them avoid hospitalizations. The book is written for families whose diabetes is new to them. Food and nutrition are a basic part of it. It is a good resource for everyone interested in good health.
Thanks to Carol Frakes for "Let's Roll," by Lisa Beamer, reveals what really happened on that ill-fated flight. She gives us a glimpse of a genuine American hero, Todd Beamer. Mrs. Beamer has become a national symbol of grace and courage in troubled times. She has spoken eloquently of the need to move on in life without hatred.
"New Mexico Millennium Collection: a Twenty-first Century Celebration of Fine Art in New Mexico," presents 160 full-color images that reflect the beauty, quality and variety of works of art created or displayed in New Mexico. From early Taos artists to today's cutting-edge painters - it is a multi-cultural mix of works from seven continents.
Thanks to Sandy Caves for a subscription to the magazine, Mothering, the Natural Family Living Magazine. Thanks to Mell Cassidy for a subscription to Air and Space Magazine. Thanks for materials from Stephanie Fortin, Elvis and Linda Ream and Jim Wilson.
Margaret Wilson brought in a few jars of her marvelous chokecherry jelly to sell. Proceeds go to the library.
Carolyn McCullough has some of her beautiful works to share with us. Come by and see them.
The library will be closed Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Jim Smith is the owner/broker and Carol Sexton the managing broker at the Jim Smith Realty Uptown Office, located at 56 Talisman Drive, No. 2.
A full service, customer-oriented business, the office includes seven broker associates and offers expertise in residential and commercial real estate, including homes, condos, timeshares and small and large acreages.
The Jim Smith Realty Uptown Office invites everyone to a Grand Opening Dec. 3, from 4-7 p.m. Regular business hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. The phone number is 731-6670.
Dasha Jean Carpenter of Fort Collins and Albert Sanchez of Trinidad have announced plans to marry June 14, 2003, in Trinidad.
Parents of the bride-to-be are Scott and Susan Scott of Pagosa Springs. The bride-to-be is a graduate of Poudre High School and was enlisted in the U.S. Army for five years. She is pursuing a degree in sociology at Colorado State University and is employed as a campus security officer by the Poudre School District.
Parents of the future groom are Vernon and Linda Sanchez. He is a graduate of Trinidad High School and employed as a truck driver for Hughes Supply Inc.
The little red house on the hilltop-the house Perfecto Garcia built
By John M. Motter
The giant trackhoe snorts and puffs, its cavernous, steel-toothed maw ripping huge chunks of dirt and rocks from the hillside. The ravenous beast could just as well be Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Just as the prehistoric reptile rears and roars in some Jurassic Park scene created for the big screen, even so the metallic monster mounted on tracks rears and spins, forward and back, rending the earth, dealing death to the past, life to a new future.
When its work is finished, the timeless riverbank will be transformed into a tidy road providing access to a 3,500-acre development called Pinon Hills Ranch. A new generation of homeowners will whisk up the road to multi-level homes, happy with a newly acquired Rocky Mountain lifestyle.
A few feet below, the silvery San Juan bubbles and gurgles, ignoring the beast rending its flank. A few feet above, perched on the crest of the hill, sits a little red house, withdrawn, humble, defenseless, almost apologetic. A flash of sunlight glances from one of the white-framed windows, windows that have kept watch over the nearby valley for decades. Is that a tear? A sob? What is to become of the little house?
It's a modest house, unassuming, even for an old house that has never known plumbing. Silently the house sits, topped by a red tin roof, sheathed with vertical, board and batten sides, circled by white-framed windows, a rusty stovepipe jutting from the center of the roof. It's been a long time since tiny feet padded up to the friendly black stove warming the house's interior like a mother's heart. How many years have passed since small squeals of delight greeted each salted papa fried on the stove's surface? This house was once a home, the home of Perfecto Garcia, the Godfather of Trujillo. And who was Perfecto?
Perfecto had been born Sept. 11, 1888, to Santana and Deluvina Garcia in Saguache. In 1898, the family moved by covered wagon to El Rio del Navajo near Edith, then to Rosa, N.M., and finally, in 1900, to Trujillo. They first homesteaded property on the east side of the river a few miles upstream from Trujillo known today as the Shenandoah Ranch. Later, Perfecto acquired the property where he built the little red house for his family.
Perfecto married Emilia Martinez Jan. 8, 1925, in the Trujillo Catholic Church still located just across the road from the little red house. Emilia had also been born in the San Luis Valley and crossed the San Juans in a covered wagon.
No one remembers who first settled Trujillo, or when the first settlers came. The community is probably named for Guadalupe Trujillo who settled at the base of Archuleta Mesa south of Montezuma Creek. Trujillo had been a friend and compatriot of the Archuleta family for whom the county is named. They may have settled in the general area as early as 1876.
Perfecto farmed at Trujillo until 1976 when ill health forced the family to move to town. As a young man, he was employed by lumber mills in the area. One of his tasks was driving a team of oxen used to haul logs. Many remember him for keeping the road through that area open and in good repair. That chore included replacing the Trujillo bridge three times because the raging waters of the San Juan had destroyed their predecessors. Later, when Archuleta County schools consolidated, he drove a school bus to town.
The Garcias were pillars of their church and community. For years, they hosted a picnic for Trujillo residents, past and present. As many as 200 attended these reunions.
Down through the years, Perfecto nourished his reputation as a caring, honest man. In 1916, he had bought what was probably the first car in Trujillo, a big event for the small community. Not content with using the expensive vehicle for his own comfort, Perfecto delivered supplies to neighbors throughout the neighborhood. If someone needed to visit a doctor, Perfecto was there with his wheels to provide transportation.
Perfecto and Emilia did their best to raise a family in the little red house, but tragedy was a constant companion. Three children died in infancy. A son, Santiago, died in 1958 as the result of a shooting accident. Daughter Carlota, most folks know her as Charlotte, and son Sammy survive. The little red house knew tears as well as laughter.
Years later, knowing the house has outlived its usefulness and is threatened, Carlota looks and remembers. Papa Perfecto has been dead since 1978. After suffering from diabetes for many years, he had both legs amputated, then passed away Aug. 24.
His memory is fresh in Carlota's mind.
"When I was born he wanted a boy, so he called me Carlitos instead of Carlota," she recalls. "He used to take me with him to do all of the work as if I was a boy."
She remembers him telling her their house was small, but they could be proud of it and take good care of it. He described how they ate during the early days when they traveled around in the covered wagon. A 5-gallon can was packed with biscuits, a lamb roasted and potatoes fried. Wooden boxes of dried fruit were stored on the wagon. At night, the wagon was stopped and everyone ate, then went to sleep wherever they were.
Life in the little red house was hard by modern standards. Water had to be carried up the hill from the river in barrels or buckets. There was no electricity, therefore no radio or television. Hard times? What the little house knew in abundance was love, caring, and sharing, perhaps not yet obsolete, even in 2002.
"I tell my children I would rather have it that way," Carlota says. "We sat around together in the evening and played games. Sometimes daddy would ask us riddles. Those were not bad times. I would go back, when compared with life today."
Many buckets of water have run down the San Juan River and through Trujillo since Charlotte (English for the Spanish Carlota) graduated from the eighth grade at the little schoolhouse which used to sit behind the church. Carlota went through the eighth grade twice, since she didn't have anything else to do and by returning a second year she could be with friends at school.
The teacher, Tuffy George, boarded at the Garcia home. For years, neighbors purchased certain staples at the Garcia place. Perfecto stocked up on a few things because he knew his neighbors couldn't get to town. If they didn't have any money, well they could pay later, if they could.
Down through the years, the Trujillo community changed. Lumbermills came and went. Hard economic times made survival on the little farmsteads almost impossible. World War II appeared, with jobs in the big cities building the weapons of war. People moved away from Trujillo. Only a few remained, greeted occasionally by former residents sneaking a quick, nostalgic look at the past.
And now, suddenly people are returning. These are a different breed of people, people with money in their pockets and willing to pay more for 35 acres of barren land than Perfecto earned in a lifetime of hard work. The newcomers will drive past the little cemetery full of Santos art where Perfecto, his family, and his friends are buried. They'll look at Montezuma Mesa on the horizon, skip rocks on the river, or point to the plentiful mule deer and elk leaving the pinon and sagebrush each evening for a sip from the San Juan River.
Will they also see the little red house on the hilltop, the house that Perfecto Garcia built?
Feeding the Multitudes
Food service staff tackles meals for hundreds
By Tess Noel Baker
Worried about cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 10? Have a big enough turkey for 23? Concerned about where the children will sit?
Just think about serving a turkey feast for over a thousand. No, it's not impossible &emdash;just ask the Pagosa Springs school district's food service staff. They served 836 at the elementary school alone last week. Adding in the junior high, intermediate school and high school mouths to feed, they cooked and served about 1,500 Thanksgiving meals over two days last week.
The feast was almost more than one person could carry. The lunches included turkey breast, mashed potatoes, gravy, dressing, cranberries, salad, pumpkin pies with whipped cream, a roll and milk or juice.
With volunteers and high school students to help, the food service staff opened two serving lines at the elementary school to get everyone through. Plates were passed out as soon as they were loaded down with food. As some served, a few others waited in the wings to help with minor emergencies.
"We need a mop over here," sent one person scrambling while another answered the call for "Scissors, please."
Food service director Charlotte Lee said the ingredients for Thanksgiving, as well as regular meals, must be ordered at least a week ahead of time just in case certain items aren't available. Perishables, like the lettuce for salads, arrive the Monday or Tuesday before. Some items, like the mashed potatoes, called Potato Pearls, and dressing, are purchased basically pre-made. However, the cooks did decide to tackle almost-homemade pumpkin pie. The recipe came from a book on feeding 50.
"We're graduating that to 500 and then doubling it for the elementary school," Lee said. The recipe for 500 included 22 cups of eggs, 10 cans of pumpkin, 15 teaspoons salt, 50 cups of sugar, 80 teaspoons cinnamon, 40 teaspoons ginger, 15 teaspoons cloves and 40 cups milk. The crusts they bought ready-made.
Of course, serving food for hundreds is something the 12 members of the school's food service staff have practiced many times.
On a regular weekday they start arriving at 5:30 a.m. Before the day is over, they cook and serve around 450 breakfasts and 800 lunches for students attending elementary through high school. Making Frito Pies alone requires 100 pounds of meat and three cases of Fritos for just the junior high and high school.
In fact, nearly everything is purchased by the case, Lee said. For instance, feeding the students pizza takes 12 cases with 72 pieces in each. Spices are bought by the pound and desserts are stirred in a mixer capable of holding dough by the gallons. For the Thanksgiving feast, they bought 26 turkey breasts just to feed the crowd of parents and siblings at the elementary school. To cover the rest of the schools required 45 turkeys in all and six cases of turkey gravy mix.
Deciding what to serve on any given day depends on past history of daily counts, the monthly commodities that arrive and a little selective decision-making. Stuffed-crust pizza is popular with most age groups, Lee said, so it makes the menu frequently.
"The elementary school loves macaroni and cheese, but I don't put it on the menu often because the other schools don't like it," Lee said. Because most of the food is prepared at the high school and transported to the other schools, everyone eats the same.
Next month, Lee will have to put in her order for next year's commodities, food that comes monthly from the government. She might receive what she asks for, she might not, but whatever it is, she will have to find a way to use it and a place to put it. Right now, she has a freezer half-full from floor to ceiling of chicken tenders, patties and nuggets that will have to be worked into the menu somehow to leave room for future shipments.
"My last shipment of commodities was over 8,000 pounds of food," she said. The bulk of the remainder of the food needed comes from Sysco. That truck can deliver supplies up to three times a week, but Lee tries to keep deliveries down, getting her biggest load Wednesdays. When a Sysco truck arrives, she said, it carries between $4,000 and $6,000 worth of food and 300-plus cases of products. Added to all that, they contract with other companies for bread and drinks.
Lee said when it comes to the budget the goal is to break even at the end of the year. Last year, food service ended up a little under budget because lead cooks became salaried positions and gained benefits. This year, it's back to about even. Cost to the students is minimal. Breakfast, an entrée, milk and juice is just $1. Lunch costs $1.25 for elementary students, $1.50 for junior high students and $1.75 at the high school.
Visitors to the biggest lunch of the year - Thanksgiving - paid a little more but came away with smiles. The students, too. Some could be found licking the whipped cream off their pumpkin pie before they ever got to the tables. One boy, when asked what his favorite part of the meal was just smiled and shrugged.
"He must have liked it all," the person across the table said.
His plate was completely empty, scraped clean of even the last drops of gravy.
For several years, the Upper San Juan Health Service District has dealt with financial problems and the spin-off of disgruntled personnel. The tax-supported district operates the Dr. Mary Fisher Medical Center, the Urgent Care Center and Emergency Medical Services - valuable assets to the community - and the district's problems have far-reaching significance.
The most obvious problem at the district is financial, going back, at least, to the summer of 2000 when a $230,000 budget shortfall was discovered. A donation of $125,000 kept the operation afloat and another donation allowed the district to open an Urgent Care Center. At the time, many questioned the advisability of a tax-supported entity relying on donations.
The district board began in 2001 to find ways to increase revenues, to restructure billing practices at the clinic and contend with the maddening trio of insurance, Medicare and Medicaid. With increases in ambulance fees a substantial EMS revenue increase was predicted and, with major tax revenues expected, there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel
It was not to be. In the summer of 2001 a $50,000 shortfall was discovered at EMS and a cash crunch in the division was expected. A move was made to modernize EMS billing practices but by mid-summer 2001 the district was at least $177,000 short, with the next chunk of tax revenue not due for months. At that point, directors arranged a line of credit with the Dr. Mary Fisher Foundation and changes were made in the bookkeeping department.
As of July 2001 the district had $51,800 in the bank and $104,000 in bills to pay. It tapped the line of credit for $45,000. In September 2001, a ballot question asking for a mill levy increase was crafted to provide an additional $346,000 in tax revenues to insure services would not be cut. Voters approved the increase and the district board began a search for a new manager - one whose primary duty would be to reestablish financial stability. That manager began work in February 2002. Changes were made and the district set out, after an audit, to trim $200,000 from the 2002 budget during the first eight months.
Last week, preliminary figures on the 2003 draft budget were released. If they hold, it is possible the district could end up with a surplus of nearly $250,000.
Something right is happening with district finances.
There is another side of change, however: staff morale. Anyone who reads The SUN's Letters to the Editor section, knows that many staff members at the district are dissatisfied.
According to district figures, the district saw a 44 percent turnover (due to a variety of reasons) in personnel in 2001. That percentage dropped to 35 in 2002, but many employees remain disgruntled; the long-dependable volunteer component at EMS has eroded.
In any process that requires hard-line change, feelings will be bruised, people angered. Surely, there are more changes to come at the district, following on close inspection of policies and practices. It will benefit the community if some salve is spread soon, if some pain is soothed, some ruffled feathers smoothed. Perhaps, after last week's district board meeting, directors and management will make a move in this direction.
Continue to refine the system, make the tough decisions, criticize those not worthy of praise, trim ineffective elements and let go those employees who do not benefit the organization. But, for the sake of the community, take care of that majority of employees who are dedicated and loyal to clients and the organization; they work hard to provide a critical service and should be shown respect to insure they continue to do so.
A time to practice thankfulness
(This Dear Folks was first printed Nov. 24, 1999)
I am really looking forward to Thursday, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. A day of rest, a day with family and friends, a day to be thankful for the blessing of being able to celebrate Thanksgiving.
I can't remember celebrating a Thanksgiving day without having many good reasons for being thankful.
I'm thankful that for the most part, unlike Christmas or Easter, Thanksgiving has remained unchanged down through the years. It has escaped the distortion or contamination of commercialism. No elves, no jolly old man, no gifts, no bunnies, no dyed chicks, no candy or hard-boiled eggs.
Thanksgiving doesn't create the same excited anticipation as Christmas, it's void of the anxiety, guilt or frustrations fostered by the commercialization of Christmas.
Other than no longer being a designated day of worship and listening to a pastor, the day is still somewhat similar to what the Pilgrims observed. I'm thankful for life. I'm thankful for family. I'm thankful for freedom. I'm thankful for Thanksgiving memories.
Thanksgiving has escaped the drawbacks of hoped-for gifts, broken toys, strained budgets or wasted money.
My earliest Thanksgivings were special because Dad killed and plucked the turkey himself. This provided a supply of feathers for headbands and crude homemade arrows. Using a razor blade, Dad also made quill ink pens out of some of the turkey feathers.
It mattered not that some years the turkey was not as large as the one from the year before. There were a couple of years that we didn't have the traditional turkey. But the explanations as to why we were instead eating goose, baked hen or ham were so convincing that I was thankful I didn't have to eat turkey like everyone else.
It was the same with having oysters in the corn bread dressing. Some years there were oysters and giblets. Other years, only giblets were mixed in with the celery, onions, eggs, dried corn bread and seasonings. But always, there was corn bread dressing and gravy.
It took me years before I could be thankful for cranberry sauce. Only the future will tell whether candied sweet potatoes will ever be appreciated on my plate.
Sweet potatoes didn't interest me one bite. Pecan pie or mince meat pie was another matter. The only thing better than a piece of pecan pie was a big piece of pecan pie.
I'm sure I wasn't the only one at the table who was thankful that the corn bread dressing and pecan pie was going to taste better on Friday after it had been in the ice box over night. And by Friday, I was already looking forward to having a turkey sandwich in my sack lunch at school on Monday.
But Thanksgiving was more than food.
I loved Thanksgiving because it provided a special family time. Not simply time for doing things, but a time for being together in the kitchen and around the table. A time for talking with Mom and Dad and hearing about the Thanksgiving of their youth. It was a time of simplicity.
I remember it as being an era when integrity was more important than income, self-respect took priority over self-fulfillment, greater emphasis was placed on service than success and thankfulness was based on personal convictions rather than present conditions. It's hard to explain Thanksgivings past to folks whose lives are too busy to have time for experiencing thankfulness.
Know you are loved and please keep us in your prayers.
David C. Mitchell
90 years ago
Taken from Pagosa Springs New Era files of Nov. 29, 1912
The Citizens Bank, starting in March, 1908, with a capital of $16,000, has grown in five years to be one of the biggest banks in the San Juan. The reason for this is apparent - it has done a square business and treated its patrons with every consideration that safe banking will allow.
W.H. Norton is substantially improving his residence grounds on San Juan Street near the creek bridge. The property was badly damaged by the flood a year ago and Mr. Norton made some temporary repairs on both buildings and lots following that disaster. Recently he has added more rooms to the dwelling and is now building a retaining wall next to the creek that is expected to withstand future floods.
75 years ago
Taken from SUN files of Dec. 2, 1927
Frank McCoy has just completed erecting a fine new log eight-room house for Whitney Newton at the East Fork Ranch and is now engaged in building several houses at the West Fork Ranch, which will require several months to complete.
In reply to the communication in the last issue of the SUN, Dr. A.J. Nossaman, county health officer, authorizes us to state that the county will furnish diptheria anti-toxin free to anyone unable to pay for the same, upon application to him; also, that if a goodly number of the residents of the Trujillo section will congregate at one place on any specified day, he will personally make the trip and administer antitoxin to all without expense to the residents.
50 years ago
Taken from SUN files of Nov. 28, 1952
Town officials report that the lack of water this past week has been caused by slush ice running so heavily in the river that the water works could not operate. The town has been out of water the major portion of the time since Saturday evening. The officials reported that they hoped to have the trouble taken care of this week.
School officials here have received notice that accreditation of the local high school has been continued for anther year. This accreditation means that students from the local high school are accredited at all colleges and universities in the state and receive full credit for work done at the high school and that the courses here meet the standards set by these colleges and universities.
25 years ago
Taken from SUN files of Nov. 24, 1977
A storm over the weekend left four inches of snow on the ground in town, two feet of new snow on Wolf Creek Pass, and slowed travel when high winds accompanied the storm. A power outage Sunday night was attributed to line failure cased by the high winds the night before.
The directors of the Chamber of Commerce voted last week to sponsor a Christmas party for the young people of the community. This free Christmas party, at which Santa Claus will be present is scheduled for December 17 at the Mesa Theatre. A special children's movie has been ordered for the program. Tickets for the free show will be obtainable from member merchants of the chamber.