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Pagosa First committees to focus on specific concerns

Hunger.

Voting Rights.

Downtown Revitalization.

Sustainability.

Money.

These were the words written on five large sheets of paper hanging on the wall in front of the audience of 25 citizens at last Thursday’s Pagosa First meeting.

These, explained the meeting’s facilitator, local businessman Morgan Murri, were the five problem areas identified and agreed upon by the majority of people attending the two previous community options public forums held by Pagosa First.

Pagosa First is a grassroots group formed after the announcement that Wal-Mart may be locating a store in Pagosa Springs. The three objectives of the group: 1) Stop Wal-Mart; 2) Educate the public about the practices of Wal-Mart; 3) Offer an alternative facility.

Before the five problem areas were discussed in-depth, Liz Alley said she was reminded of a Community Development Corporation meeting held several years ago. Concerns were voiced, different groups were formed and, ultimately, nothing happened. “How is this group different?” Alley asked.

“We seem to be an active group of people that can get things done,” Murri answered and then, as an example of the group’s forward movement, mentioned a town shopping list which Old Town Market’s marketing director Ken Vickerstaff proposed and began to implement.

In a phone interview with The SUN, Vickerstaff explained that the concept came from the initial Pagosa First meeting. According to Vickerstaff, the “Give Us Your Grocery List” campaign would, in theory, operate with families or individuals in need ordering groceries each week through Old Town Market, at cost.

“The pricing is contingent on what people buy,” said Vickerstaff, adding also that the program cost is relative to how much participants buy, in order to pay for the product and shipping.

Vickerstaff estimated that somewhere between 75 to 100 people would have to order nonperishable groceries each week. Thus far, Vickerstaff has had only three responses.

The “Give Us Your Grocery List” is an idea that would fall under the heading of Hunger.

Relating to the five problem areas discussed during the meeting, five committees will be formed, dealing in-depth with each issue.

The Hunger committee will deal with people in the community who struggle to feed themselves and their families, but the group will also discuss food and produce for the community.

Voting Rights, a group that many people showed interest in, will concentrate on exactly what the name implies. Topics Murri said were currently being researched include annexation of Pagosa Lakes properties and subdivisions and home rule government for Archuleta County.

Downtown revitalization, a well-known topic of discussion in town, will have the committee concentrating on ways to bring new businesses to Pagosa and finding a solution to the glaring downtown vacancies.

“Nothing inspires vacancy more than vacancy,” Murri said.

The Sustainability committee will discuss not only how Pagosa Springs can become a self-sustaining community, but also how this can become a marketable trait for the town, marking the town as a destination for those wishing to help their community become sustainable.

Local businessman Jerry Smith mentioned the work he and Puja Parsons were doing to put on a Gateway to Sustainability Conference, bringing in renowned speakers to educate people on the topic.

Udgar Parsons, owner of Growing Spaces and founding member of Pagosa First, said his company may create a 26-foot dome to be used by locals, but nothing is yet set.

The last committee will be the Money group. Self-described “systems designer” Sway Vera was the first to speak to this topic, and mentioned the creation of a Pagosa Springs credit union.

“All you have to do is go to your bank, get your money, close your account and put it in the credit union,” Vera said. He clarified that he was not suggesting people give him their money, but that the project would have to involve a group of people doing this together.

According to Udgar Parsons, the committees will begin meeting next week. All interested community members are welcome to join a committee.

For information on meeting dates, e-mail Pagosa First at pagosafirst@gmail.com.

lindsey@pagosasun.com

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