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Mayoral candidates speak out on issues

Registered voters in the town of Pagosa Springs will have a choice between two mayoral candidates on Tuesday, April 6 — to either reelect long-serving Mayor Ross Aragon for an unprecedented ninth term or to seat a new face, local resident Bill Hudson.

A lifelong Pagosa Springs resident, Aragon has served as the town’s mayor since 1978 and is one of the longest-serving mayors in the state, if not the U.S.

A town resident since 1993, Bill Hudson operates an Internet business in the area.

Earlier this week, SUN staff sat down with both candidates to ask them about their stand on several issues regarding local politics.

What is the most pressing issue facing Pagosa Springs today?

Hudson: “An inability of government entities to come together and form a unified vision for Pagosa. We basically have a turf war going on between various government entities’ lack of cooperation and lack of communication.”

Aragon: “The school system, it has a lot to do with economic development in the community. If you don’t have a good school system, you’re not getting anybody here. Economic development is directly tied to that (the school system), it’s a very, very important issue.”

What is your take on economic development in Pagosa Springs?

Hudson: “I think that the folks in charge of economic development are looking at an old model for what worked ... I think that the folks working on economic development need to step out of that old box and accept any new ideas that come along.”

Aragon: “Buzzsaw activity in our town, where there’s more tourism, marketing. That’s the thing, it’s a global situation and we’re not the only town suffering through this. Some people are moving out of town and that really bothers me.”

What is your take on the proposed Geothermal Greenhouse Project?

Hudson: “I’m really disappointed that, after a year of planning, the community still has not been invited to a community meeting to discuss what would be built in Centennial Park. I’m really disappointed that, after a year, we still don’t have a business plan that shows the project can survive without taxpayer subsidies. I’m disappointed that the town is applying for federal taxpayer’s subsidies without a business plan and without having held a community meeting.”

(Note: In fact, the town has not dedicated any financial resources to the project nor has it made any commitments for ongoing financial support. Furthermore, it was not the town that applied for federal money but the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership — a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.)

Aragon: “This is going to put us on the map, it will be a showcase of utilization of the natural resources that we have here.

“When you talk about economic development, this is just one example of that. At one time I had some ambitious goals for the project, but after many reality checks, maybe if they can come up with six full-time jobs, that’s a realistic goal. I think our group (the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership) is hard-working. In reality, with some optimism and hard work, we can make this happen.”

What is your take on Big Box development in Pagosa Springs?

Hudson: “Looking around the town at all the empty commercial spaces, I doubt there’s a Big Box in our immediate future. I think the town and county should come together and develop some reasonable regulations to help preserve the small town atmosphere, should a Big Box come to town.”

Aragon: “I hate to deal in hypotheticals. I look at our population base, the economic climate — those are the considerations we have to look at.

“The bottom line is, it probably won’t happen. But here, golly, even small restaurants are having a hard time staying open. I was raised here and I know it’s seasonal. I don’t know if it would be nicer to have all that traffic, hypothetically. I’m just a firm believer that it probably won’t happen.”

How do you view a proposed Village at Wolf Creek?

Hudson: “I still have not seen an economic plan of the impact that village would have on Mineral County and Archuleta County. I don’t think anyone can make a decision on the economic value of the village without seeing some economic studies.”

Aragon: “That’s another hypothetical, because it’s been happening so long. I guess I have to realize, as a community leader, there’s going to be some impact on our local area. I hope it would be positive as far as more skiers, more shoppers.

“It’s really frustrating to deal with things that are talked about, and it’s been almost 40 years. All-in-all, I would welcome any development if it had a positive impact on the area.”

Anything you’d care to add?

Hudson: “I have a vision.

“I think our current mayor and town council have tried to do their work without input from our citizens, rather than involving us in the decisions that are being made.

My vision for Pagosa is where the citizens are actively involved, where discussion is welcome and our leaders encourage us to come together in cooperative ways.”

Aragon: “We have a very good board. This town is fortunate to have the representation that we have. Any issue is very well thought out, is focused on the best interest of the community.