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Town finds funds for street projects

With some creative budgetary wizardry, town staff found the monetary means to fund street improvement projects for 2010, a plan the Pagosa Springs Town Council approved at a Feb. 2 meeting.

The street improvement plan had been presented at the Jan. 5 council meeting and was approved by the board at that meeting. In the plan, Village Drive would get the most work; from North Pagosa Boulevard to Eaton Drive, crews will provide structural overlay and crack seal or subgrade stabilization (with about 15-percent structural repair) at an estimated cost of $48,651; from Eaton Drive to Talisman Drive, crews will chip seal (with fog seal) at an estimated cost of $6,985; and from Talisman Drive to Pinon Causeway, crews will chip seal at an estimated cost of $10,469, for a total estimated cost of $66,105.

However, at the Jan. 5 meeting, council revised the initial proposal, voting to improve the portion of Lewis Street between 4th and 3rd streets (instead of between 1st and 2nd streets as had been originally proposed). Changing the 2010 plan added $53,349 to the original estimated cost, bringing in the final estimate at $308,724.

Presenting the funding scheme to council on Feb. 2, Town Manager David Mitchem proposed financing (rather than purchasing outright) a new backhoe for the town, saving $50,000, while redirecting funds for sidewalk paving for an additional $40,000. In order to make up the difference, Mitchem proposed utilizing $38,724 in excess reserves, $23,202 from General Fund reserves and $15,522 from Capital Improvement Fund reserves.

The 2009 projected zero dollars in generated reserves for the year. In fact, due largely to a 10-percent budget cut initiated by the town for most of last year, the town generated over $550,000 in reserves — what Mitchem was referring to as excess reserves.

Council member Stan Holt said, “I think this is premature,” referring to Mitchem’s proposal. “I can think of a couple scenarios where we can find excess monies in the budget. I’m just wondering if we can leave this open for other funds that pop up.”

Mitchem responded that money allocated for a fiber optic project could be available if the town was not awarded a grant for the project.

However, council member Darrell Cotton disagreed with Holt, stating that the money needed to be approved before the town could solicit bids for the plan.

“I think it’s time to bid,” Cotton said. “Asphalt people bid cheap when there’s 10 feet of snow on the ground. I think we need to open it up for bids in the next month, if not sooner.”

Council member Mark Weiler agreed, adding that he believed all excess reserve funding should come from the Capital Improvement Fund.

Cotton agreed to Weiler’s idea, unsure if General Fund reserves were fungible. Mitchem responded that it was the other way around, that Capital Improvement funds were dedicated strictly for capital improvement projects whereas General Funds could be used towards anything.

Champing at the bit to get road improvements underway and to begin the bidding process, council member Don Volger made a motion to approve Mitchem’s funding proposal, with the exception that all excess reserve funds be drawn from Capital Improvement Fund reserves and with the condition that, if other funds become available, reserves would not be touched. After Weiler seconded the motion, council approved the motion with a unanimous vote.

The town will most likely announce it is soliciting bids for the four street projects within the month. After bids have been approved, town residents should see street construction by early summer.