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County, town cooperate on park project

The Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners has pledged $20,000 toward the construction of bathrooms at Yamaguchi Park, with conditions to help the county ensure the money won’t be flushed down the drain.

With an overall project budget landing at around $191,000, including in-kind donations and contingency funds, officials at the Town Parks and Recreation Department hope to see the construction of ADA-compliant, energy efficient bathrooms begin this summer, should the town receive funding from a Greater Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant.

The facility would also include some equipment storage space.

The town will submit a proposal for the spring GOCO grant cycle. Should the town not receive the grant, it would attempt again in the fall grant cycle, said Parks and Recreation Director Tom Carosello.

Carosello said the town is contributing $60,400, with cash and in-kind contributions at 31 percent. He said the town’s contribution would likely stay in place through the two grant cycles, then other alternatives would be looked at.

Aligning with the town, the BoCC also decided to pledge its contribution through 2011 to allow for the two grant cycles, citing looming possible 2012 financial changes as the reason for the funding deadline.

County residents present at the meeting showed concern for the project’s cost, with Chalyn Fitzgerald noting that a house could be built for the same budget, and Don McCloud stating that the park is “going to have gold commodes for this price.”

Carosello said that, while the price may be high up front, the energy savings in the end would pay off, as would building bathrooms that would not have to be added onto or changed to make them more energy efficient or ADA-compliant.

Carosello also said that, while the 16-acre park is technically a neighborhood park, it serves as a regional park and saw over 20,000 visits last year.

In other news at the BoCC meeting:

• The BoCC approved a resolution allowing Archuleta County Clerk June Madrid to hold a coordinated mail ballot election for the Nov. 1 general election.

Due to an emergency, Assessor Natalie Woodruff presented the request in the place of Madrid.

Woodruff said a coordinated mail ballot for an odd year has been done before and is a cost savings for the county, being less expensive to execute with no pay for election judges and other expenses.

In response to a question from Commissioner Clifford Lucero, Woodruff said she believed voter turnout for a mail election would be the same, if not slightly better than a normal election, because every registered voter will automatically receive a ballot.

Other agencies qualified to participate in the coordinated election have been notified of the format, Woodruff said.

• In airport news, the BoCC reappointed three members of the Airport Advisory Commission to three-year terms — Michael Arbuthnot, Ralph Goulds and Kate Alfred.

Airport Manager Bill McKown said no outside applications were received to compete with those up for reappointment.

The BoCC also approved a request from the AAC to “embark” on the creation of a 10-year economic development plan for the airport, which is slated to incorporate the Stevens Field capital improvement plan and financial goals, as well as outline possible land acquisitions and long-term economic development for the facility, Arbuthnot said.

Arbuthnot said the document will include complete justification for each step and is expected to be presented to the BoCC in July 2012.

Also playing into the plan is the debt on the airport that is expected to sunset in 2014.

• Department of Human Services Director Erlinda Gonzales said the food assistance program saw a record increase in the number of households between December 2010 and January 2011, from 440 households in December to 488 in January.

In November 2010, 427 households received food assistance.

Gonzales said the increase included many people the department didn’t normally see, while Commissioner Michael Whiting called it a “canary in the coal mine that we’re not done yet” (with economic troubles).

“We know times are tough out there,” Lucero added.

• Becca Smith, of the Pagosa Ranger District, updated the commissioners on two projects now underway — the East Side Road Management Plan, which rounds out the public scoping phase Friday, March 4, and will then undergo an environmental assessment; and the Boone Federal No. 16-1 Exploratory Oil Well, which is currently undergoing an environmental assessment.

Following the completion of the environmental assessment, it will be open to a 30-day public comment period before finalization.

• The BoCC approved a new job title to be added to the county’s pay grade for the position of computer and network support specialist, for which the county is currently hiring.

Previously, the county had the position split between two employees who are no longer with the county, but whose salaries were budgeted for 2011.

• Unnamed easement roads for three different property owners were named, with the names approved by the BoCC, for the purposes of health and safety (named roads are easier for emergency personnel to find, county staff explained).

In accepting the names of the roads, Planning Manager Cindy Schultz said the county is not assuming maintenance responsibility for the roads.

• By a 2-1 vote, with Commissioner John Ranson dissenting, the BoCC approved a letter of support for funding from the Governor’s Energy Office for geothermal work in Pagosa Springs.

“On behalf of the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners, we would like to indicate our strong support for the recent Geothermal Strategic Vision and Work Plan presented by Dr. John Lund, Gerry Huttrer and Elaine Wood during their visit to the Pagosa Springs community during February 15-18, 2011. Archuleta County has ownership of two geothermal wells within the area,” the letter states in part.

Despite amendments to the letter’s wording, Ranson voted against it. He had expressed concerns the group that presented the plan was the only group capable of doing so, and about the fact the letter originally said the BoCC had reviewed documentation when, in fact, at least two members, including Ranson, said they had not reviewed the material.

• The BoCC thanked Jennie Green of Town Tourism Committee for her “hard work and enthusiasm in making the recent Pagosa Springs Tourism Conference an enormous success.”

The next regular BoCC meeting will be held March 15 at 1:30 p.m. in the courthouse.

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