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PAWSD delivers annual report to BoCC

In a discussion in which the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District board of directors ultimately referred to the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioner’s request for an annual report and additional information as beneficial, the board also approved the 2009 annual report Monday evening.

The report was then delivered to the BoCC Tuesday.

In a March 8 letter to PAWSD, the BoCC demanded that PAWSD file an annual report with the county that “shall address information on the progress of the District in the implementation of its Service Plan and shall specifically address” a number of matters, as per C.R.S. 32-1-207(3)(c).

The six-page letter then listed 25 questions, concerns and requests for information pertaining to future population and water use projections, the proposed Dry Gulch Reservoir, related impact fees, relevant service fees, and budget and debt matters.

The letter requested the information by April 30.

The subsequent report, dated April 26, is 25 pages; however, with 41 attached exhibits, about 600 pages were delivered to the BoCC.

The report follows the format suggested for special district annual reports by the Colorado State Auditor’s Office and offers an overview of PAWSD; the district boundary; and agreements with other taxing districts, service providers, specific project contracts, water provision service agreements and reimbursement agreements.

The report then delves into the service plan, including its creation, powers and adherence to the plan in terms of service area, water and wastewater service, and fiscally; includes project development progress; and the financial plan and financial activities.

Another section addresses more specific issues brought up by the BoCC that were not answered in other sections of the report, such as Dry Gulch project size and cost, water loss and the economic effects of connection fees.

In approving the letter at the BoCC special meeting in March, Commissioner John Ranson read a prepared statement that clarified the intent of the BoCC: “According to state statutes, the BoCC has the authority and the responsibility to protect the interest of the community. We do not take this lightly in any environment, but, with the current economic conditions that we are all faced with, careful consideration must be given to any policies that can, and do, affect our local economy.”

The statement further laid out the BoCC’s goals in discussions with PAWSD: to amend the service plan, “establish a prudent and reasonable plan that will address that will address the amount of debt that this community can absorb,” and to evaluate alternatives for meeting long-term planning needs.

The conclusion to the PAWSD report, perhaps in response, states: “The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District has vast responsibilities for the health, safety and welfare of its customers within the Town of Pagosa Springs and parts of Archuleta County, for the health of the environment and for the fiscal repercussions to the District and community of its decisions.

“The Board of Directors does not take these responsibilities lightly, and often decisions that are in the future best interest of the community are difficult, particularly given the current economic climate and the mountains of misinformation, despite the District’s best attempts to curtail, that continues to circulate regarding the district.”

The conclusion also points out a lack of political support for PAWSD: “It is no secret that economically, water is the future oil of the southwest. Those communities who have it will prosper; those who do not will languish. Given the desire expressed by local governments to stimulate and grow a diverse and vibrant economy, the PAWSD Board and staff are dismayed that there has not been a higher level of political support for Board decisions that insure this economic vitality via high quality and reliable water and wastewater services provision, planning and finance.”

In discussing the report at the meeting, Carrie Weiss, PAWSD manager, informed the board that at least 208.5 hours were put into preparing the document, including 52 hours from legal counsel.

“That’s not cheap,” Bob Huff said, asking how much money had been spent on legal fees.

“At this point, we’re probably looking at about $15,000 in legal involvement,” Weiss said.

Special Projects Manager Sheila Berger noted that, in future years, the annual reports would be shorter. “A typical annual report is a fraction of this,” she said. “Most of the work involved and most of this information is as a result of their 25 additional requests.”

“It is a well-written document,” offered board member Harold Slavinski.

“I have to say, I don’t know what they’re going to do with this, I really don’t,” Huff said. “It took all that time for you to put it together, now, if you’re not well-versed in what this organization does and you try to take this document and go through all of those (the accompanying exhibits), you’re going to be lost.”

Board secretary Windsor Chacey pointed out that the document addresses misinformation and will help the community to better understand the workings of PAWSD.

Huff added that the report is not only educational for the community, but is also an education for the board, solidifying their confidence in the work of the district and knowledge about it.

“Having these people goading us and asking these questions, I don’t think that was their intent, but it’s really had a payoff for us, for the internal organization,” Huff said, adding, “There’s been a huge benefit to the controversy that we’ve had.”

Staff member Shelley Tressler echoed the comment by Huff, noting that the board members need to continually remind themselves that this is the start of a new level of transparency and a less defensive attitude.

Following the completion of the report, Weiss sent a letter to the BoCC on April 19, requesting that the report be added to the BoCC’s May 4 agenda. In response, County Administrator sent a letter stating that more time would be needed to “digest the contents so that we may be adequately prepared to discuss the material in an informed manner with PAWSD staff and the general public.”

“Right now, we don’t have a scheduled time (to hear the report in a meeting). We all have to look at it first, there’s a lot here,” said BoCC chair Clifford Lucero, adding that the BoCC would look to schedule the meeting next week, to be held at a later date.

The report, as well as some of the accompanying exhibits, is available on the PAWSD website,