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Town asks county’s help with clean-up

Frustration with the county and county residents marked discussions regarding the town’s annual Clean-Up Week during Tuesday’s meeting of the Pagosa Springs Town Council.

The lead-in to the discussion, an issue regarding an ongoing nuisance violation, dovetailed into the town’s proclamation for its annual Clean-Up Week.

Regarding the nuisance ordinance violation, town building inspector James Dickhoff told council the resident in question had been, “Very cooperative. He’s responded immediately to every complaint we’ve had.”

According to Dickhoff, the resident has a garage in which he restores cars for a hobby and complaints had to do with auto bodies and parts stored outside the garage. Dickhoff said that installing a fence around the property had been proposed as a way to mitigate the situation.

Council agreed and directed Dickhoff to allow the resident to proceed with the installation of the fence while lauding Dickhoff on seeking a solution with the resident rather than making the situation a matter of litigation.

Of course, the matter of trash in residents’ yards was of concern as council approved a proclamation for the town’s annual Clean-Up Week, May 17 through May 21.

While last year’s Clean-Up Week was wildly successful, it came at a cost to the town as the county charged the town around $11,000 in additional dump fees.

One of the problems has been allegations that county residents have been taking advantage of a program that is designated for town residents. A solution to that issue is that, instead of stationing Dumpsters throughout town to collect trash (as has been done in previous years), the town will designate a single location — at the town shop — and will ask for identification to ensure the person resides within town limits.

According to Dickhoff and some council members, another problem has been county residents, seeing trash piled in a town resident’s yard for Clean-Up Week pickup, will dump trash in that resident’s yard in an attempt to save a trip to the dump and the dump fee.

County residents caught leaving trash on private property (or otherwise dumping trash illegally) will be prosecuted by the town.

However, council and Mayor Ross Aragon saw the issue as a larger problem involving lack of cooperation by the county. Aragon and Dickhoff said that, despite numerous pleas to county officials to make the clean-up effort a communitywide project, the county has not agreed to a broader, more inclusive project.

Dickhoff claimed he had spoken to staff at the county’s building department, all of whom told Dickhoff they would pursue the matter with the Board of County Commissioners. They later told Dickhoff the BoCC had no interest in assisting the town. Likewise, Aragon said he had spoken with BoCC members and Archuleta County Administrator Greg Schulte, but had been told the county could not participate, “Due to funding shortfalls,” Aragon said.

However Schulte denies the county has been approached by the town regarding the matter of a communitywide clean-up.

“It’s not been officially communicated by the town to the county,” Schulte said, adding that if it had, the BoCC “would consider it.”

Questioning how town staff could determine that the extra burden on last year’s Town Clean-Up week was the result of county residents (and how staff could determine that additional trash in town yards was left by county residents), Schulte nonetheless stated he understood why the town would no longer place Dumpsters throughout the town for the clean-up effort.

“We used to do that,” he said. “The county used to do its own clean-up and it was too difficult to administrate.”

Apparently, town staff is familiar with Schulte’s sentiment. In fact, aside from limiting Dumpster access, Dickhoff stated the town would pursue residents who have neglected nuisance complaints in the past, stating the town has been lenient so far, but, with residents who have accumulated repeat complaints, the town will begin to crack down on those residents.

In preparation for what most hope will be a bustling tourist season, the town of Pagosa Springs hopes to get all town residents on board from May 17 through May 21 to create a tidy town for this summer’s swarm of visitors. However, with the county so closely aligned with town in various ways, council aired their frustration that the county was not so closely aligned when it came to the issue of cleaning up the area.

jim@pagosasun.com