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Town amends capital improvement plan

The Pagosa Springs Town Council voted last Thursday to amend its 5-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) to integrate plans for the completion of construction in and along the San Juan River as well as to include a proposed vehicle bridge crossing from the southern terminus of Fifth Street to property across the river directly west of The Springs Resort.

Late last year, town staff was informed it had been approved for the second round of funding determination for a River Corridors Initiative Grant from Lottery-funded Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO).

Town Planner James Dickhoff told council last December that, if the town gets GOCO funding for the river improvements, it could delay the proposed project for as much as a year. If the GOCO grant is awarded, the town would have to complete the project by June 15, 2015, or risk losing that funding.

Last Thursday, Dickhoff told council that the town could be getting $6 million to fund the completion of the project. Until recently, staging for completion of the project had been slated for as early as this spring. Dickhoff stated that the town would have to provide a partial match for that funding, committing to over $300,000 a year over the next three years, amounting to around $8 million in costs for the project.

Last December, Dickhoff reported to council that it would apply for $2 million in GOCO River Corridors Initiative Grant money.

According to a December GOCO press release, $18 million is available for grants in 2012 for projects centered on river corridors. That available amount doubled earlier this year.

Pagosa Springs Town Manager David Mitchem said yesterday that the amount of GOCO money applied for increased due to that doubling of available money, leading town staff to leverage the entire scope of the proposed plan rather than pursuing funding for individual elements.

That project would include finishing the trail from the current terminus to the Sixth Street river bend, then tying the system in with the trail on the opposite side of the river with a new pedestrian bridge. The project also proposes installing other trail amenities such as shaded river observation structures, educational interpretive displays, restrooms and parking.

Currently, additional features are being added to the river (for fishing and boating), with in-kind donations on that work, as well as capital improvements funds allocated towards those features, applied to the required GOCO match.

Following a Request for Concept Papers by GOCO issued last August, 63 papers were submitted, with just 17 projects invited to apply for grants, and the town of Pagosa Springs being one of the towns invited to apply. Final determination for which projects get funded will be made in June.

Council additionally amended the CIP to allow for the construction of a bridge fording the San Juan River from Fifth Street to vacant property along the southern side of the river.

The vehicle bridge is estimated to cost around $7.5 million and, if approved, is expected to be constructed before 2017.

As explained during a January meeting of the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership, that bridge would connect to a proposed road that, Mitchem said, could either merge with Spring Street (just south of The Bank of the San Juans building) or further south at the delineated (but undeveloped) Innsbruck Drive.

At that meeting, Dickhoff and Mitchem told GGP members that discussions were taking place with property owners Matt Mees and Bill Dawson regarding disposition of land the two own, to be connected by the proposed bridge.

Dickhoff further explained that the possibility existed for the construction of a bridge linking Fifth Street to the Mees and Dawson property.

“My intent was to ask the GGP to be flexible,” Dickhoff said, regarding the possibility of the new bridge.

Pagosa Springs Mayor Ross Aragon said ideas for a Fifth Street bridge had been brought up to council before, saying, “That has been going on for years.”

However, when the GGP was granted a lease on town land (through the fiscal agency of the Southwest Land Alliance) on the west end of Centennial Park, the issue of a bridge was never raised. In fact, the GGP had twice presented site plans for the project — the latest presented at mid-December’s GGP meeting.

January’s meeting put the GGP on notice that those previous plans would need to be shifted east to accommodate the right of way for potential construction of a Fifth Street vehicle bridge.

Last Thursday, council not only approved plans moving the proposed geothermal greenhouse complex further east in Centennial Park (with the potential for moving the existing park gazebo to accommodate the greenhouses) but also approved shifting a lease on acreage in the park from the Southwest Land Alliance to the GGP, in a resolution unrelated to the CIP but central to the issue of a vehicle bridge.

In presenting revised plans for the greenhouse complex, both Dickhoff and engineer Mike Davis reported that, in order to suit a bridge right of way, the footprint for a downtown geothermal greenhouse complex would most likely need to be reduced.

With almost $16 million potentially at stake (between river corridor improvements and a Fifth Street bridge) for proposed capital improvements, council passed amendments to the CIP with unqualified support while failing to question where money for a Fifth Street bridge would come from or why improvements to the San Juan river corridor increased by $6 million in a matter of two months.

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