As summer heats up, water bills rise. That is especially true of the Town of Pagosa Springs after a May decision by the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District’s board to begin charging the town for water.
Temperatures rose as well as tempers at the Pagosa Springs Town Council meeting Tuesday night.
After Pagosa Springs Town Manager David Mitchem explained the PAWSD board decision, council responded with exasperation and some anger.
Trustee Stan Holt asked Pagosa Springs Mayor Ross Aragon if he recalled that the town had awarded water rights to PAWSD in exchange for free water.
“Phil (Starks, Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District supervisor) did some further research and that expired in 1998,” Mitchem explained. However, it was not clear if the trade had expired or if the water rights agreement had expired. Mitchem added that both the town attorney and water rights attorney were looking into the matter.
Aragon asked, “How much water does the town have?”
“As I understand it, we gave up those rights,” Mitchem responded.
Aragon continued, saying, “We have two storage tanks that we have never charged them for, in the spirit of cooperation. I think PAWSD could have been a little more businesslike.
“They could have been a little more community oriented,” Aragon added. “I think they could have shown a little more class and called us to say, ‘We have some wrinkles that we need to iron out,’ instead of making this a headline issue.”
The meeting began on a friendly note, however, as Bob Hart took his appointed position on council, replacing Jerry Jackson who resigned his seat last month (Hart was the only applicant for the position). Jackson resigned after moving out of town. Jackson’s seat is an at-large seat and not subject to district restrictions. That seat will be up for reelection next April.
In other business:
• Council discussed if it would continue with a 50-percent waiver of building and planning fees after hearing that the county would consider no longer waiving those fees.
At last Thursday’s joint town/county work session, Archuleta County Administrator Greg Schulte told both boards that, “Because of new assessments, the county is facing a significant revenue shortfall. One of the things we’re going to have to look at, we’re going to have to return to our original fees. We worked hand-in-hand with the town on this, but our circumstances have changed.”
On Tuesday, Holt asked council whether there should be a discussion regarding the town’s fees.
“I don’t think what the county is doing is right,” said Hart (also a local builder and contractor), explaining that he felt the fee waivers encouraged building.
Trustee Kathie Lattin asked how much revenue the town had lost as a result of fee waivers.
“It’s been very minuscule,” Mitchem said, indicating that little building had taken place in the town despite the waivers (initiated in mid-2009).
“Well, maybe that means more people will come to us to build since we’re still waiving our fees,” Lattin said.
• Despite possibly pursuing a portion of a $50 million Regional Tourism Act grant offered by the state’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade (see related story), Town Planner James Dickhoff indicated that staff would seek a $200,000 grant to complete a portion of the town’s Riverwalk project.
In his report, Dickhoff said that an environmental analysis of the portion of the Riverwalk crossing the recently acquired Watters property (purchased late last year) should be completed later this month, at which time engineering would begin.
Dickhoff also stated that the town’s sidewalk project would begin, at the earliest, after the July 4 weekend. As reported in the May 5 edition of The SUN, council approved a plan that will provide property owners in the U.S. 160 corridor in town a 50-percent match to pay for sidewalk maintenance and construction.
• The Parks and Recreation Department reported that surveying and research has begun on five additional whitewater features in the San Juan River in town. Two of the features are planned in the river adjacent to Yamaguchi Park while the other three are planned near the highway bridge on the east end of town.
It was also reported that bids are being solicited for construction of the proposed skate park. According to the report, construction on the skate park could begin in early July and would take anywhere between four to six weeks (weather permitting).
The report also stated that a Great Outdoors Colorado grant for proposed restrooms in Yamaguchi Park had made it through the first two rounds of “cuts” and that an award for this grant cycle had an 80-90 percent probability of success. If awarded, construction on the facility could be completed this fall (given reasonable bids).
Council meets again at noon in Town Hall.