1A report card

Archuleta County promised a report on how Ballot Issue 1A monies were spent in 2008, and it is in hand. The next stage: a report card, grades assigned to the work done, or not done. Ballot Issue 1A revenue in 2008 was $1,532,133. The overall total was increased with grant money.

While we believe most Archuleta County voters cast “yes” votes for Ballot Issue 1A expecting funds would be put to the task of improving roads in the county, the issue was never disguised: 40 percent of the revenues were to go to roads, 20 percent to general county services, 20 percent to parks and recreation, and 20 percent to facilities.

Let’s consider each of these a course of study, and assign a grade. Let’s start with the highest grade.

If the county gets an A, it is in the category of general county services. Technology improvements were made via an integrated software project and replacement of computers, bringing the county out of the information Dark Ages. Plus, there is a six-figure carryover of funds to the 2009 budget.

From there, the grade-point average takes a hit.

Facilities? C, at best. Failure is averted in that the financial crisis put a halt to the county’s plan to create a government campus, and a new jail. By April 2007, there was no chance the county could honor a commitment made prior to the crisis. Ballot Issue 1A monies spent in 2008 include a share of funding with the Town of Pagosa Springs for a narcotics officer, purchase of generators and a jail monitor. There is a major carryover of funds to the 2009 budget but few, if any, plans for anything but short-term projects.

If there is a failing grade given out on this report card, it concerns the parks and recreation category. The county didn’t spend anything. A major amount of money goes into the 2009 budget. If there was progress made here, it was in the establishment of the Parks, Recreation, Open Space and Trails taskforce, which will help guide the use of more than $480,000 in 2009.

Then, there’s the category about which Pagosans care the most, a class needed for graduation: roads. There was more than $600,000 committed to roads in 2008. The county spent a bit more than $150,000, most of it on magnesium chloride. Little was spent on maintenance: gravel, grading, culverts. Why? There was no complete maintenance plan, so the decision was made to go with mag chloride applications and roll over more than $460,000 to 2009 when a plan could be in hand. With a maintenance plan available, there is more than $1.1 million to fund projects. Officials believe a plan should be complete by early spring. We need to remember: Ballot Issue 1A funds are earmarked for maintenance, not for bigger construction projects. How to fund and manage those projects remains a consideration.

The grade in the roads category: C- or D, with hopes for a better performance next semester.

As extra credit, let’s give an A grade to the work county officials did to keep the spending of Ballot Issue 1A funds in check, in line with stated parameters. This, perhaps more than the other categories, is one that involves building public trust. Administrators kept those parameters from being stretched — and several attempts were made. The integrity was there as they acted as stewards of the guidelines understood by voters. The county also made good use of Department of Local Affairs grants, in particular with funds directed to the software project.

Overall, the GPA is C, average. But, skills are improving, transparency is there and, with continued study and hard work, the Honor Roll might be just around the corner.

Karl Isberg