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Fits and starts in geothermal research process

Movement on the proposed expansion of area geothermal resources experienced some fits and starts last week during the May mid-month Pagosa Springs Town Council meeting, when trustees heard progress on a work plan developed to conduct research on the extent of those resources, then learned that the single response to the town’s RFP regarding the development of a geothermal utility was rejected by the RFP review committee.

Town Planner (and RFP review committee member) James Dickhoff presented an update on the work plan, stating that the final draft could take, “A couple of weeks. He (Gerry Huttrer) is midstream and he’s pulled in a hydrologist who was involved in a previous study conducted in the eighties.”

Huttrer is president of the Geothermal Management Company (GMC) and one of the geothermal energy experts who has visited Pagosa Springs on numerous occasions to scope out area geothermal resources. Along with John Lund (principal engineer for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s geothermal program) and Elaine Wood, the trio was charged by the town in February to not only provide a work plan for proposed research on the totality of area geothermal resources, but also to review the utility RFP.

Despite initial enthusiasm late last year from the town on a proposed expansion of geothermal heating within the town, Town Manager David Mitchem said, “We had a review plus a look at the Hardin (Hardin Geothermal) proposal and we’ve received some answers to the questions we raised and, frankly, we’re not satisfied with those responses.”

Among various issues was a Hardin proposal to post a $1 million dollar bond on a proposed $15 million first phase of construction.

“The Hardin proposal, as it stands, is unacceptable,” Mitchem said.

Trustee Shari Pierce asked Mitchem, “Have we asked Elaine and John and Gerry if we should refine the RFP and reissue it?”

The initial RFP for a geothermal utility had an unusually brief time period for response — just a month (including latter extensions) — and required fine-tuning midway through the process.

Mitchem responded that the review committee had provided some indication that a refined and reissued RFP was probably the best direction, at this point.

With geothermal resources appearing to be an economic shot in the arm for Pagosa Springs and Archuleta County, the process must appear to move at a snail’s pace for area workers seeking employment (see related article, A1). Despite the inclination to hurtle headlong and make things happen, council exhibited restraint last Thursday, preferring to see a glass half full and not half empty.

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