TTC cuts trout project funding

The Pagosa Quality Fishing Project may have suffered a financial setback Tuesday when the Town Tourism Committee (TTC) voted to provide $1,300 of the group’s $25,000 funding request for a fish stocking project in the San Juan River in Pagosa Springs.

“I see it (the project) as a wonderful additional asset to people. We take this seriously. We’ve looked for creative ways to find the money, but there is no money,” said TTC board member Morgan Murri.

Prior to Murri’s comment, TTC Treasurer Dan Rosenblatt provided a sobering financial report.

“What was never taken into consideration is cash flow. We’ve got a cash flow problem. We don’t have the money to pay any of this stuff,” Rosenblatt said, and he referenced a series of outstanding bills exceeding $75,000. “As lodging money comes in we can pay it out.”

While Rosenblatt’s report was intended to provide an overall picture of the TTC’s financial health, board member Janis Moomaw provided an Events Committee (a subcommittee of the TTC) budget update. The Events Committee funding pool would provide revenue to fuel Cano’s request.

According to Moomaw, the Events Committee budget topped out at $20,000, thus project organizer Thaddeus Cano’s request exceeded the committee’s total budget by $5,000. Moomaw then added that all but $1,300 of the Events Committee budget was spoken for.

“$1,300 is all the committee can recommend,” Moomaw said.

TTC board chair Bob Hart said the TTC was able to meet Cano’s $25,000 request last year because the TTC dipped into, and virtually exhausted, the TTC’s reserves after promises of astronomical returns on their investment.

“We were promised a 700-percent return on our investment. It didn’t happen,” Hart said.

Moomaw echoed Hart.

“We went into reserves last year to do this project; we don’t have the money,” Moomaw said.

Despite the financial reports, Cano urged the TTC to, “Dig down deep. You can do it. We can’t.”

However Cano said the project would go forward with or without full funding from the TTC.

Cano said he could likely raise $15,000 to $20,000 from donors other than the TTC. He said he had already raised $2,100. Cano said businesses and individuals outside of Pagosa Springs have been enthusiastic supporters of the project.

Detailing the group’s project strategy, project co-organizer Wen Saunders said, “It’s pretty simple: Put fish in the river, that will bring anglers.”

And in turn, Saunders and Cano have argued, those anglers will bring in millions of dollars worth of sales and lodger’s tax revenue.

Although project supporters have attempted to establish an incontrovertible linkage between anglers, the stocking project and lodgers tax and sales tax revenue — Cano and Saunders argue that $2.1 million had been spent locally on fishing alone — nailing down angling dollars and their impact on the local economy remains a mercurial exercise at best.

While the TTC agreed Cano’s project had merit, they reiterated that meeting his $25,000 funding request was not possible at this time. However, they encouraged Cano and other project supporters to work closely with the TTC to ensure the project receives more timely budgetary review.

james@pagosasun.com