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PAWSD candidates speak out

Though several special districts have recently cancelled planned spring elections, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District will offer the electorate a broad field of candidates vying for two upcoming board-of-directors vacancies. Voting will take place May 4.

In each case, the eight districts that called off May 4 elections did so because, “ ... there were not more candidates for director than offices to be filled, including candidates filing affidavits of intent to be write-in candidates.” Therefore, the elections were cancelled, “pursuant to Section 1-5-208 (1.5), C.R.S. (Colorado Revised Statutes).”

However, five self-nominees have come forward with interest in filling the two PAWSD vacancies, which are the result of term limitations. The directors forced to leave office include the current board president, Karen Wessels, and board vice president Harold Slavinski.

To become a candidate for a PAWSD board position, individuals had to file a “Self-Nomination and Acceptance” form with the district’s Designated Election Official (Carrie Weiss) by the end of business, Feb. 26, or file an “Affidavit of Intent to be a Write-in Candidate” by the end of business, March 1.

By the Feb. 26 deadline — listed in order of filing — Sue Walan, Ron Decker, Roy Vega, Allan Bunch and Ray Finney had submitted self-nomination forms. But, for what it’s worth, the order their names appear on the official ballot is as follows: Vega, Decker, Walan, Finney and Bunch.

To better understand the candidates, their potential qualifications for serving on the PAWSD board and where they stand on what they feel is the most important issue facing the district today, The SUN interviewed three of the five on Monday. Unfortunately, Decker was unavailable for comment by press time, while Finney is out of town until mid-April. Therefore, Decker’s and Finney’s comments will appear in a later edition of The SUN.

During separate phone interviews, Vega, Bunch and Walan responded as follows:

• Vega — “I have a degree in political science. I first visited Pagosa Springs in 1971, and left the military to move here in 1974. Prior to the move, I served five years active duty and achieved the rank of Army Captain. Upon my arrival here, I helped form the local fire district and managed it for a time, thus gaining valuable special district experience.

“My five children and all of my grandchildren were born and raised in Pagosa. I have been a small business owner here since 1985, and now operate an insurance and financial services practice, which — through my clients — ties me to the local economy.

“I feel the capital requirements for Dry Gulch (reservoir) are problematic for the district, particularly due to its size and the funding mechanism to pay for it. To date, anticipated revenues have not come in as projected, and I question the population projections being used to justify the reservoir. The district has to be careful in how it taxes and assesses fees, because it can have a counter-productive effect.

“The district has an image problem and needs to open itself up to the community and be more transparent. No taxing entity can be so committed to a goal that it attempts to achieve it without the consensus of the people that will pay for it. I will work on building that consensus. I do credit the district for providing reliable services and a stable workforce.”

• Bunch — “I started as a computer tech in 1969 and have been one ever since. I’ve owned The Malt Shoppe since October 1990, and owned the Riverside Restaurant (now Tequila’s) from 1994 to 2001. With local business and financial experience, including signing the front of paychecks all that time, I am qualified to serve on a special district board.

“There’s no question that Dry Gulch is the most important issue right now, particularly in respect to the amount of debt PAWSD has obligated the community to. There’s only so much money in Archuleta County and PAWSD has garnered more than its fair share. Other worthwhile entities, such as the school district, could use some of that funding.”

• Walan — “By June, I’ll have lived here 14 years. I’m a licensed civil engineer (chemical engineering) and I understand what it takes to provide water and sewer services. I understand the process of treating potable and waste water. I used to be the (Archuleta) county engineer and dealt with PAWSD on a regular basis.

“I’m now employed by a large Minnesota firm, working as a bridge inspector for CDOT and others. I’d like to be on the PAWSD board to serve the community in which I live. This community has been good to me.

“I believe the periodic maintenance of existing and future infrastructure, as well as long-term planning, are most important in order to provide adequate water and sewer services to district customers. The biggest issues are the necessary expenditures and how to pay for them. The best use of capital is to maintain infrastructure on an ongoing basis. It’s important to plan for future water sources and storage, and to keep up with constantly increasing federal and state requirements.

“The district is doing a good job of maintaining sewage treatment facilities, and they are obviously putting together long-term plans for storage (Dry Gulch). These are extremely important. However, I’m not convinced that Dry Gulch is the best place for a reservoir. I’d like to see what else is available and how much they’ve put into Dry Gulch.”

As mentioned above, Decker and Finney comments will appear once they’re obtained.