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Letters to Editor


Dear Editor:

I appreciate the “Whaddya Think” column in the Dec. 22 edition of the SUN. Seeing that 79 percent voted to support our work to expand the clinic appears to be a strong vote of confidence.

For the 21 percent who voted no on the expansion question, I have a request: I would like to hear directly from our community folks who don’t believe we need to expand. Your input is valuable to me.

There are several ways for me to receive that input. One is simply to come by and visit. I would be happy to buy a cup of coffee for someone who would like to sit down and talk with me about their views of our proposed clinic expansion or any other health district issue that might be on their mind. Or, anyone can e-mail me at and express thoughts via e-mail.

Another opportunity will be Jan. 10, at 3 p.m., when we, in conjunction with San Juan Basin Health, are hosting a community needs assessment, and the public is invited to come to the hospital and talk with us and others about community needs and health care.

I look forward to having a quality dialogue with our community.

Brad Cochennet

Reservoir Hill

Dear Editor:

In attending some of the Reservoir Hill task force’s meetings, I can see the committee’s thrust is to bring in more tourist dollars to help downtown’s businesses. Worthy objectives, but an equally important goal is to create a park experience that locals will repeatedly enjoy. Let’s not forget in our rush for tourist stay days and tax revenue that this gem of a park can be tweaked to provide us with a superior experience worthy of visiting more regularly than if geared solely towards tourists.

Enhancing the park’s suitability for expanded music venues with an upgraded facility supports a proven track record for attracting a broad demographic of visitors that stay more than a day and spend generously. Funding for this should be prioritized and is far less controversial than expensive tourist attractions that I fear will escalate into a honky tonk amusement park. Other locations exist for that type of commercial use than our pristine public park.

Upgraded trails for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, vita course, Frisbee golf and a Nordic skiing center would improve local and tourist attendance. These are appropriate for a wooded park and complement each other. Shouldn’t these features, along with road and infrastructure installations, be the initial focus? While there is plenty of national forest outside of town, that hardly substitutes for the attraction of a convenient downtown oasis with added amenities.

Adding a rustic snack facility, lookout tower, zip line, nature trail signage and nature art sculptures are complementary enhancements that would make visiting the location more interesting and hospitable to all.

Not in the good idea column is the already purchased ski lift. It requires 500K-plus for its installation and factor in high cost of operation, stringent legal requirements, ADA compliance and liability concerns pertaining to chair lifts. To many, it seems since the push for its purchase to its central position in the latest plan this is a case of the tail wagging the dog. There are superior alternatives such as a quiet electric bus.

As the lift is to be used below its capacity and after expensive modifications and clear cutting a path for it, will they then continually add more Disney World-type activities to justify its costly use? Amusement style proposals could diminish the intrinsic beauty of the park while incurring public debt even though long term impacts are risky. Public opinion queries have shown little support for this ski lift idea, yet it remains central to the committee’s planning. Ending up with a commercialized park is quite a change — one the public has just not signed off on yet, and it should be vetted thoroughly.

Yes, meetings have been open for discussion, but to many that have attended it has seemed that the ski lift proponents have controlled the direction to the exclusion of differing views. Personally, I would like to see a more balanced committee set up, with more sensitivity to the interests of the local residents and not just dominated by preconceived commercial agendas. After all, the park is a public property and precious resource meant to serve the entire community.

Ken Levine


Dear Editor:

If ever there was a time to ask, “What else is possible,” it is now! As I read last week’s front page article about a big box store for Pagosa, I could not help but detect a sense of fear and desperation among Town Council members. Comments like, “… any new development that would come into the community would be good” and “I just want to support development at any cost” speak very clearly that perhaps our town lacks a clear vision. There is an old proverb that addresses this issue quite succinctly stating, “where there is no vision, the people perish.” It is quite possible if we continue on this type of trajectory that “perishing without a vision,” may very well be what happens to Pagosa.

How long will we give away our power in this manner? “Any new development … would be good!” “Development at any cost!” Really? Why? So we can continue to be controlled by individual and corporate interests that do not have the best interest of our community at heart. Come on Pagosa! Do we really want to become just another rural ghost town with a big box store on a corner which does nothing more than run other small businesses out, provide low paying jobs, cheap goods, and keep people working two or more jobs to make ends meet? Please, Pagosa, it is time to start thinking outside the box and particularly outside the “big box.” That system is antiquated, broken and irreparable. A new system must be considered and developed if we are to prosper rather than perish. Creating a clear vision for our town that preserves our beauty, our uniqueness and draws on our abundant resources is possible.

What if we work together and put the unity back into community! We can shift from a competition based model to one of cooperation, setting criteria that puts the best interest of all first in any decision making process that effects us all and become an eco-friendly, self-sustaining, self-reliant and abundant community. Let’s face it, none of us came here because Pagosa was a run of the mill, rural town. Pagosa Springs is a very special place, and we have the opportunity right now to shape this community into one of the most unique, beautiful, healthy, life sustaining places on the planet. As a fellow resident, I plead with you to stand up, think outside the box and be the change we need.

Andrea Lyle


Dear Editor

“A big box for Pagosa?” isn’t a hypothetical debate about a potential, un-named big box. It is a real discussion about an imminent development by Wal-Mart. I’ve been told by Town Manager David Mitchem, that “it” is Wal-Mart, “it” is on the “west side,” Wal-Mart is “very serious” and we are “very close to a deal.” As recently as last Wednesday, Mitchem told an interested citizen, “Wal-Mart is a done deal.”

Jim McQuiggin did a great job recapping the facts and I’d like to add a little more information.

Mitchem used the data provided in the 2005 Economic Planning Systems (EPS) report for Pagosa Springs when presenting the big box case to town council and concluded that we are “giving up” an estimated $2 million-$3 million annually in tax revenue.

I’ve read the 2005 EPS report and it does say that. But, it says this is the projected loss from all sales leakage across all categories, not just categories Wal-Mart could fill. So, what are the real numbers to consider?

Here’s a fact reported by NASDAQ: Wal-Mart sales for 2011 are projected at $434 per sq. ft. This means that the proposed “small” 100,000 store will generate $43.5 million in annual sales. The 2005 EPS study reports that, in a “large format development scenario (Wal-Mart), 40 percent of sales will shift from existing businesses.” This means the actual additional sales from Wal-Mart would be (at best) $26.1 million. That means an additional $522,000 in taxes each for the town and county. Significant, but nowhere near the $2 million reported to town council.

The EPS study also reports, “a single large format discounter will cannibalize or take sales away from the forecasted Other Shoppers Goods retail growth.”

Protecting our community — council members’ and Mitchem’s statements that it’s not their job to choose who does or doesn’t do business here doesn’t hold water. It is their job; they’ve done it in the recent past, denying applications for business licenses to medical marijuana dispensaries.

If it’s not their job to choose who does business in town, why did Mitchum tell me “Wal-Mart will not have an automotive component here; we’ve made it clear that would be unacceptable and would have a negative impact on our local businesses.”

So, we can regulate departments but not a business?

So, it’s okay to push for less expensive food and toilet paper but pay more for tires and automotive services? Why not limit sporting goods? Are local sporting goods businesses not important?

Certainly the automotive limitation has nothing to do with the involvement of a county commissioner and a town councilwoman’s associations to tire and automotive businesses in town?

What and who are driving these decisions?

I’ve been told by council members, “Council has not given David this task.” “His job was to make Pagosa more business friendly and improve our reputation.” Is putting existing small businesses out of business improving our reputation?

The math question is simple: Is $500,000 a year in extra taxes worth the negative impacts? More businesses closing, the additional boarding up of buildings, the cost of $2,100 per employee Wal-Mart places on our social systems? The net loss of jobs, the further reduction of our wage level in a community that is defined as one of the poorest in the state?

The town council and staff question is more difficult: Who is running the town, who is in charge of making this full-court press for Wal-Mart and how far is he/they willing to go to make it so? What price are they willing to pay to both our wallets and our way of life?

We are at a crossroad in our community. We have a choice to make. We have the right to say “no.” Voice your opinion and your rights with members of the town council.


Morgan Murri


Dear Editor:

The U.S. Congress has continued to bargain away our future with the constant error of logic that compromise is necessary to get along with their political adversaries. Ninety percent of the incumbents are re-elected every two years. The same politicians that have caused all our problems are put back in office to continue the same mistakes over and over.

GOOOH (get out of our house) will challenge those incumbents in the primaries with citizen representatives chosen by the members of their district. This is no third party movement. We will compete against the entrenched politicians in the primaries. The few good representatives there will grow stronger with honest competition. Almost every person in America supports fair and honest competition. The politicians are the only ones who seem to disagree. They care more about their party than fairness to the process. For more information: GOOOH.COM.

Roy T. Newsom

Granbury, Texas


Dear Editor:

Why destroy the charm of our local tourist industry with a big box? Tourists aren’t coming here to go to a big box. They’re coming here to get out of the box.

Paul Roberts


Dear Editor:

Last week an editorial in this newspaper made a case for shifting the emphasis of our educational system from sports and arts to science, technology and math. Our son, who is visiting us for the Christmas holidays, provides support for Mr. Isberg’s view.

Barnes & Noble’s need to serve its customers provides an example of our dependence on technology and our lack of technical competence. On Christmas morning, over 500,000 Nooks were registered on the Barnes & Noble website. At the same time, 245,000 electronic books and apps were downloaded in an hour.

My son is a member of the Cloud Server Group, which is one of several tech groups that manage the approximately 1,000 computers comprising the Barnes & Noble website. Of the 10 computer geeks in his group, over half were drafted from other countries, including Pakistan, India, Iran, Cambodia and China. That is, fewer than half of his group was born in the U.S. Science and picking fruit are similar. Too few Americans like this kind of work.

Mr. Isberg concluded his editorial saying that, “Our task, now, is to make sure our children and grandchildren are competent and not pawns for those who are.” This challenge is being met right here in Pagosa Springs by a new junior high after-school program managed by the Education Center in cooperation with the Archuleta schools. This program introduces youth in grades 5-8 to a curriculum based on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Let’s give our children and grandchildren a very special gift. Let’s give them an opportunity to be leaders in a world dominated by science and technology.

David Smith

Ready Fire Aim

Dear Editor:

This letter begins with a request to all community business owners to please plan on attending the town council meeting at 5 p.m. on Jan.3. It sure looks like our town councilors could use the benefit of our collective existing business voices on the upcoming vote to extend a 50-percent abatement incentive to a new big box store scheduled as imminent according to the town manager in last week’s SUN article. The issues facing our community need to be clearly defined and transparently equal and equitable to all business owners.

1. Have you as an existing business owner ever received a 50-percent abatement incentive?

2. What exactly is a 50-percent abatement? Building permits, taxes waived, CDOT concessions, hookup fees, what?

3. The town manager said, “I would advise council to pass a 50-percent abatement program in a timely fashion because we have parties in discussion regarding future development and they are looking at that abatement as an assistance.” My question is how can you advise council to adopt these abatements when they are not defined and the potential new business entities are not required in writing to address exactly what this new box store will give back to the community in regards to business longevity and employment guarantees?

4. Trustee Holt’s comment, “I just want to support development at any cost.” Really, at any cost?

5. What are we going to offer other new businesses that want to open here?

I have no problem supporting new business in Pagosa. I do have a problem with that support coming on the backs of existing businesses that are taxed at three times the rate of residential properties, to what, pay their hard earned money as an incentive for the town government to invest that money against a potential competitor that will put them out of business? What we desperately need is a written strategic plan for both existing and new businesses that rewards the creation of quality jobs for our citizens. The continued policy of our elected officials to “Ready Fire Aim” needs to be called to question by the business community.

Why has the town manager, as the council’s appointed economic expansion point person, seemingly negotiated in secrecy with these big box owners? We as voters said yes, we will allow facilities over 40,000 square feet, but we did not give an authorization to incentivise these potential businesses at will.

Lastly, let’s really look at the facts surrounding what happens to small communities when a big box store enters the landscape, particularly in communities less than 10,000 in population. Ask the citizens and what business owners are left in Cortez if they are glad Walmart came to their downtown.

Our elected officials could make uninformed decisions that would negatively effect the entire future of our community if YOU do not make your questions and opinions known to them as local business owners. Show up on Tuesday the 3rd at 5 p.m. in council chambers to let your voice be heard. There are positive solutions to growth in hard times and it is my belief that we can all benefit in a transparent, written, approved incentive program that helps us all play on an equal business landscape.

Ken Vickerstaff

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