Bleak … but not so bleak

A glance at the obvious aspects of the current economic downturn can quickly lead to an obsession with dismal facts. And that obsession can easily turn to depression. International and national economic situations continue to be dicey, at best. The stock market swings wildly, pushed in one direction or the other by any given day’s news. Funds continue to flow to banks and other financial institutions, with no sign yet that credit markets are loosening appreciably. Executives claim bonuses, people are enraged, questions are asked, few concrete answers arrive.

Take a look at columns in this week’s SUN from Sen. Jim Isgar and Rep. Ellen Roberts; both touch on the topic of the state budget, and the news is not good. A recent report to the Legislature indicated there is a $208 million shortfall that must be dealt with prior to June 30. The forecast for FY 08-10 shows a $1.4 billion shortfall and cuts to critical state programs seem inevitable — programs that serve an increasing number of people in need during difficult times.

But, all is not lost and all is not grim.

Locally, there is a brighter side to the picture, both in terms of the general economy and in terms of things getting done in the midst of what is supposed to be a depressed environment.

Granted, local unemployment figures reveal as alarming a situation as we have experienced in more than 10 years. But, while governmental entities expected a dip in sales tax revenues, for example, reports show a much better return than anticipated in December 2008 and in January of this year.

Take a look at recent reports in The SUN concerning the county’s financial situation. A year or so ago, there was serious debate as to whether the county could survive 2008 without going bankrupt. Not only did the county weather the storm, it seems to have sailed into calmer waters. The county commissioners are now contemplating banking reserves, with a goal of having $1.2 million (or 10 to 15 percent of General Fund expenditures) banked by the end of 2012.

And, to further perk us up, there is the sight of a number of projects moving ahead and being completed locally, on both private and public fronts.

A major construction project is set for completion soon as the Springs Resort finishes and opens it’s new luxury hotel addition downtown. This is a big deal: there are few hotels of this quality being constructed in towns similar to Pagosa.

A project was just finished, with the aid of volunteers and donations, to replace a whitewater feature in the San Juan River downtown. A pedestrian bridge project is underway downtown as well.

Progress is being made on a proposed geothermal greenhouse project for the downtown area. The county is moving ahead with a major bridge replacement in the southern part of the county and is readying for a significant road improvement project in Pagosa Lakes — with a detailed road maintenance schedule in place for this year.

The health services district is making headway in solving a collections problem and is busy establishing a Rural Health Clinic, to go along with a Pagosa Mountain Hospital that continues to serve a greater population.

Plans are complete for a variety of large, summer activities for the area — many of which will draw significant numbers of visitors to the area.

Yes, times are tough for many people — around the globe, and here in Pagosa Country. But, tough times call for extra efforts and, while we work on creating jobs and enterprises to support our population, while we wait for a revitalization of all local industries, while we hold to the hope that the tourism business will remain steady, or grow, this summer and throughout the remainder of the year, we can take heart as we acknowledge the very real, positive changes that occur in seemingly bleak times. We’ve still got what it takes, and we can’t forget it.

Karl Isberg