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Letters to Editor


Dear Editor:

I wish to apologize to the gentleman for my letter he judged offensive about his airport. It had been my understanding that the taxpayers, acting through their elected officials, had paid for the airport and therefore the airport is a matter of public interest.

In my first letter on this matter, in the interest of brevity, I neglected to fully document the references that lead to my erroneous conclusion. The purpose of this letter is to fully document the statements cited in the first letter.

James Robinson reported In the Sept 4, 2008, issue of The Pagosa Springs SUN (PSS) that county commissioners Bob Moomaw and Ronnie Zaday voted in favor of awarding a snow removal contact to Hart Construction Co. for the years 2008-9, 2009-10 and 2010-11 for 42,000, 45,000 and 46,000 dollars, respectively. Commissioner Robin Schiro was absent.

J. Mencor Valdez wrote a letter to the PSS, published on April 14, 2011, complaining that the county would not work on his road. Mr. Valdez stated that the county road foreman laughed in his face when he requested a few loads of gravel. No mention of the airport was made in Mr. Valdez’s letter. The point of my original letter was to point out that the county commissioners are willing to spend hundreds of thousands on the airport, but not a dime on roads in the outlying areas of the county.

I was unable to find the article on the county-Hart Construction Co.-insurance company law suit in the PSS archives. It was mentioned in the April 14 presentation by the then potential commissioners, Hart and Wadley. I have no knowledge of the merit and status of this lawsuit.

The 620,401 dollars for the 2011 airport expense was obtained from the Archuleta County budget, page 101. I should not have used the word astronomical in connection to this number. In Pagosa, 620,401 dollars is mere pocket change. The projected income of 10,000 dollars I reported in my original letter seems to missing from the current edition of the budget. I was unable to find any reference to the airport income in the current issue of the county budget.

Again, I wish to apologize to the gentleman for writing about his airport. I wrongly assumed it was public property, paid for with public funds and hence the subject of taxpayer scrutiny. I hope the readers of The SUN will forgive an old man for making such a grievous error.

Bob Dungan



Dear Editor:

My husband and I attended the opening night of Les Miserables and we were “blown away” by the quality of the production. All of the high school students and the younger children did a fantastic job. Dan and Venita Burch are to be given much credit for all of their efforts. What a blessing they are for our town of Pagosa Springs. Many thanks also to the professional orchestra, keyboard, piano and percussion artists. Wow, there are just no words to say how wonderful this huge production is! Be sure to attend.

Diane Goheen


Dear Editor:

Last week’s “Whaddya Think” question for the week asked, “How well are local teachers compensated?” You really can’t answer unless you actually know what our local teachers are paid. At the district’s website, you can get some idea, even though the published figures don’t actually reflect what the staff receives. Nevertheless, using these figures as an approximation of salary, you can see how our teacher’s salaries compare.

The average teacher in the nation starts off at $39,000 with a bachelor’s degree and retires with a salary of just over $67,000, usually with a master’s degree (New York Times). Pagosa teachers receive about 17 percent less at the start and 28 percent less when they retire.

Colorado is ranked 48th in its financing of public education. Since salaries are the major component of expenses, one could expect that salaries statewide would be lower than the national level … and they are. The average teacher in Colorado starts off with a salary around $35,500 and tops out after 25 years at around $55,000. Pagosa’s teachers are paid 8 percent below the state average to start, and about 12 percent below when they retire. Typically, Colorado resort towns pay teachers a salary which places them in the top 25th percentile for Colorado (Center For Tax Policy). Pagosa teachers are near the bottom 25th percentile.

Pagosa starts teachers with a bachelor’s degree and no experience with a salary slightly higher than the neighboring districts. After that, comparisons are difficult. Based on 2009 reported salaries, Pagosa pays lower maximum salaries than Durango, Bayfield, Alamosa and Del Norte, but better than Lake City and Creede. For each additional year they receive “experience credit.” Pagosa pays an additional 32 cents an hour to its teachers for each additional year that they successfully complete. This “experience credit” was not paid this year.

This year, Colorado cut the financial subsidy to the school district by $875,000. In response, the school board cut teaching staff by 10 percent, raised class size, implemented two furlough days (later rescinded) and eliminated the experience credit. With these cost cutting measures, the board hoped to weather this fiscal crisis. How well did they do?

According the auditor’s report posted online, Pagosa can expect to add 1.2 million dollars to their unreserved bank account (Fund Equity). They started the year with 6.1 million in that account and will end with 7.3 million by July 1. Fund Equity is the amount of money that the district has in the bank on July 1 of each new fiscal year, which can be used without restriction. After July 1, the district begins to receive its share of local, state, and federal funding.

In Pagosa, a new teacher’s salary won’t qualify for a home mortgage. If married with two children, the teacher would qualify for federal food stamps. If they acquired a master’s degree and worked for 18 years here, they could exceed the 2009 average Colorado teacher’s salary … by $5.

Now … how well are local teachers compensated?

Jim and Kris Miner


Dear Editor:

One more reminder for folks to vote in the LPEA board elections. In the upcoming years we will continue to face challenges in energy and we need a board that is creative and willing to challenge the status-quo.

I heard back from two candidates:

Q: Thoughts about locally generated sustainably produced electricity?

Ken: I totally support researching alternative energy sources. Locally, we have a potentially great geothermal resource. Testing, to ascertain how great, is upcoming. I believe there is real potential associated with the Pagosa Bio Mass endeavor. With over 300 days of sunshine per year, I think additional solar capacity could be tapped into.

Brad: I am all for locally generated electricity! Whether it’s from those taking advantage of net metering or on a larger scale, the consideration of feed-in tariffs. I know of farmers that are engineering ways to create hydro electric power during the summer months and others, like myself that have researched solar or wind generation with net metering employed. For many though, cost is what hampers progress. I hope to see more incentives offered that will allow us all the opportunity to produce more locally generated electricity.

Q: LPEA conservation and sustainable energy production goals?

Brad: From what I read and hear, LPEA already has the co-op members best interests in mind; with the mission statement, “To provide our members safe, reliable electricity at the lowest reasonable cost while being environmentally responsible.” I believe we’ll always find conservation as a primary goal of LPEA as it impacts each of us directly. The complimentary energy audits, the replacement of incandescent bulbs, etc., is conservation at its simplest form. We need to remember that La Plata Electric Association provides us power through their transmission lines but does not generate or produce their own power.

Ken: LPEA currently has goals in this regard, in the 2011 Strategic Plan and the 2011 Corporate Goals. (These, and other good sources of information are available on their website.) I might mention that over an hour was dedicated during the April 20, 2011 LPEA Board of Directors Monthly meeting, to this very subject. Dr. Lori Schell briefed the Board and Staff on solar potential. Finally, LPEA Policy 358 and 361 deal specifically with Renewable energy and conservation efforts.

Q: Energy security, innovation and sustainability?


1. Continue to build on existing plans, goals and policies in this subject area

2. Remain “open” to new innovations and technologies as they develop, to allow for less reliance on traditional sources of energy production.

3. Continually look to what other electrical providers are doing, and if applicable to our area, implement locally their energy saving, innovative and sustainable practices.

Brad: The LPEA board is empowered by its members to consider and implement new technologies or methods that makes sense for a broad range of electric consumers. Without some foreknowledge of what the board has already tackled, I believe they can be forward thinking in considering new advances in security, innovation and sustainability. Board members should seek continuing education to assist in their business decisions, and to seek out and learn from other companies that have been successful in these areas.

Kirsten Skeehan


Dear Editor:

Ms. Kirsten Sheehan sent me a letter, which I received on Saturday. I am a Jew and do not do things on Saturday or Sunday unless it is really important. In her letter to the editor, she said she would write responses the next week. I have tried to contact her without success on terms. Frankly, her letter is set up giving me little if no time to respond. I am not willing to give out an e-mail for a terrorist or crooks to cheat me on the Internet.

I will deal with what I think she is after. Can you have your own project for electricity? Yes, if you follow the law, and have the money to do it. I am very concerned about fire danger on some solar self-made projects. Also, present rules limit that to 5 percent of the total usage of the co-op if that figure were increased to, say, 20 percent, it would seriously affect the entire operation of La Plata Electric that is a great concern.

As to alternative fuels, wind, etc., yes, of course, but within cost effective means. Some people feel we can overnight do that at no cost. It is not possible. Also, most of the electric power to La Plata Electric comes from Tri-State, which all of some 20 Colorado co-operatives belong we can’t go off on our own voodoo power system. For time being, we’re locked into Tri-State. The state legislature can change that. La Plata Electric lobbies the state legislature, and sends one delegate to Tri-State meetings.

Everyone is concerned about the environment, but some ideas are not cost effective and in a depression not possible as some would like.

J.B. Smith


Dear Editor:

Re: Geothermal study: To fund or not to fund?

How much did that ski lift cost again? And what was all the extensive research town council did before purchasing a defunct lift that does not meet Colorado state safety standards?

Pagosa Springs has the fortune to sit on one of the biggest natural resources in the world. But, let’s continue to make sure no sustainable economic development ever happens here.

Lisa Jensen

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