The holiday season is upon us in Pagosa Country. It will be a White Christmas, with the storm early in the week providing more snow on the ground.
This time of the year is marked by a number of annual events, most of which we look forward to, some that inspire us.
First, and very important this year, is the arrival of visitors who come here to vacation, to ski and enjoy other activities in the outdoors, to spend this week or next at a timeshare, a vacation rental, a second home. There are also those visitors who come for a day or two, spending their nights at local lodging establishments. These folks are a boon to the local business establishments — stores, restaurants and all — and they also lend a sense of increased activity and energy to the atmosphere here. They are valuable in many ways and we should treat them accordingly. People who visit Pagosa Country are a major element in our local economy and should be made to feel appreciated, and encouraged to return.
Second, is the wrap-up of government business for the year. Local governments (with the exception of the school district, which operates on a fiscal year) approve their budgets and the county certifies mill levies in preparation for the collection of revenues. This year, the preliminaries have been difficult — in particular the assessment of value of local properties for taxing purposes and the appeal process that followed. The budget process has not been easy for any entity, in particular for the Town of Pagosa Springs, whose elected officials have worried over a budget with revenues down as sales tax revenues decline (the town being dependent on said revenues, unlike the county and districts that obtain major revenues from property tax). The town councilors have performed yeoman duty for some time now, implementing a phased budget and expenditure plan, each councilor sincere in their efforts, regardless of the approach they advocated. Now, the board has adopted a 2010 budget aimed at saving jobs on town staff. We commend these officials, and all similar individuals in the community who perform important public service as unpaid members of boards and councils. It is never easy work and at times it is extremely stressful and difficult. We are fortunate there are those among us who are willing to step up to the plate.
Third, is the great number of holiday celebrations that take place between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Theatrical productions, community gatherings and parties, services and productions at local churches, school programs — they all give residents and visitors a taste of the holiday spirit. Read Jim McQuiggin’s column in this week’s PREVIEW for a personal take on one of those events.
And, finally, there is the incredible charitable activity that puts a positive shine on the local scene at the holidays.
There are numerous efforts made locally to provide items for local food banks — programs that have been stressed by the economic downturn. Loaves and Fishes produces a free meal, served each week at the Parish Hall. Local churches lend their help to those in need of food and shelter. Individuals and organizations of all kinds band together to donate money, food, clothing and gifts to the Operation Helping Hand program, for distribution to families and seniors in need. Volunteers spend long hours organizing the donation programs, then putting together gift, food and clothing packages and distributing them to families. This year, 301 families received help via this communitywide effort.
With all the nasty dialogue, all the whining and rancor that goes on throughout the year, these selfless activities provide us a breath of fresh air and a renewed confidence in the basic decency and goodness of most of our fellow citizens.