Schanzenbaker appointed to Pagosa Waters board

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The Pagosa Area Geothermal Water and Power Authority (PAGWPA) decided during a Monday night meeting to appoint David Schanzenbaker as its representative to Pagosa Waters, LLC.

PAGWPA is a governmental entity formed recently to oversee operations related to the geothermal resource located in Archuleta County. The PAGWPA board is comprised of all three county commissioners (Clifford Lucero, Steve Wadley and Michael Whiting), three town council members (Schanzenbaker, John Egan and Mayor Don Volger), as well as one unaffiliated member — Mike Alley.

The role of PAGWPA is to represent the public’s interest in any and all endeavors involving local geothermal energy. However, the only such activity so far, and the reason the authority was formed, is the exploration activity undertaken by a local private company owned by Jerry Smith called Pagosa Verde, LLC.

These two entities (PAGWPA and Pagosa Verde) are in the process of forming a public-private partnership, which will be called Pagosa Waters, LLC. Pagosa Waters will be a working board, providing direct supervision over the day-to-day operations of the project, and will consist of three board members — Schanzenbaker, someone from Pagosa Verde and a third person to be determined later.

“I have the utmost confidence in you,” Volger told Schanzenbaker, “and I know that you would be very capable of doing it. I know you will take the responsibility seriously … You have my full confidence that you can handle it and handle it well.”

After thanking the mayor for his consideration, Schanzenbaker said, “On seeing this agenda item, my first thought was, ‘What does that person have to do?’ We need to have that conversation before we decide if anyone is up to the task. I don’t know yet what the task is, I guess.”

While Lucero suggested the main duties of the post would be to report back to PAGWPA, Volger asked Smith how much time the position would require.

When given the opportunity to speak, Smith pointed out that his original idea was to appoint either Town Manager Greg Schulte or County Administrator Bentley Henderson to the position, since they already draw salaries from the town and county, respectively. They would also provide more of a sense of stability and continuity, since they are not elected officials.

However, he also agreed that Schanzenbaker would be a good choice for the position. “Pagosa Waters will be my boss,” Smith explained, “whether or not I decide to be the board member from Pagosa Verde and help boss myself … essentially I’ll be reporting to that board, so I want that board to do enough homework to give me good advice.”

Smith reiterated that the Pagosa Waters board would not be there to simply rubber-stamp the work of Pagosa Verde. Not only would the appointee have a duty to report back to PAGWPA, he would also be expected to provide guidance and help make a lot of tough decisions.

“I do think David would be a good choice for that,” Smith continued. “In terms of time, getting up to speed is not going to be that tough, because it’s going to be fun.”

He speculated that it would take two to three hours worth of initial briefings from Pagosa Verde staff, and then eight hours per month after that to stay on top of things.

Lucero then brought up the question of compensation. “I just don’t want to leave him out in the cold since he will be putting in all this extra time. That doesn’t seem very fair. We get paid as commissioners. You guys don’t get paid.”

Lucero’s statement was almost true. Until last April, the mayor and the town councilor positions were voluntary, but a ballot issue passed this year to provide compensation for town council. However, it is only $300 per month for the mayor and $200 per month for each councilor, not a full-time salary such as what the county commissioners receive.

When County Attorney Todd Starr suggested that the Pagosa Waters board should be the one to decide how much to pay its members, Schanzenbaker agreed, pointing out that the third member of that board would be an at-large position and would not be able to draw compensation from any other source.

“I’ve assumed from day one,” Smith added, “that we want to compensate the Pagosa Waters board members, because there may be times when there is more work … This could be a forty-year process we are engaged in here.”

When Schulte asked where the money would come from to pay the Pagosa Waters board, Star suggested that it would be up to that board to figure out, once it is in place, and Smith offered to do further research to see if the money could come out of the federal Department of Energy grant.

When Star asked what would be a fair rate of compensation, considering the type of work involved, Smith answered that $50 per hour would be reasonable.

At this point, Schulte pointed out that it would be inappropriate for himself or Henderson to accept the appointment, since they already get paid, and Schanzenbaker agreed that if he were compensated for his time instead of performing the duty as a volunteer, he would be able to devote the necessary effort to the job.

Volger then made the motion to appoint Schanzenbaker to the Pagosa Waters board, Whiting seconded the motion, and everyone voted in agreement … before Schanzenbaker could “change his mind.”