Town council awards Archuleta Seniors Inc. another six months of rent relief


By Derek Kutzer  | Staff Writer

At its June 6 special meeting, the Pagosa Springs Town Council heard an update from nonprofit organization Archuleta Seniors Inc. (ASI). The update was part of a previous agreement between the town and ASI that the organization come back before the council to give it an update on ASI’s current activities and financial situation.

In November 2022, the council heard a presentation from ASI and ultimately approved a “waiver of rental payments” for ASI’s use of kitchen and office space at the Ross Aragon Community Center, “as well as an expanded use of the commercial kitchen for ASI to conduct catering outside of their regular hours,” states agenda documentation on the matter. 

The year-long lease agreement was entered into on Dec. 6, 2022, waiving any rental payments for six months of the lease and allowing ASI to occupy 3,249 square feet in the community center for the purpose of running a senior center, according to the lease agreement. 

The lease states, “Beginning in July of 2023, a monthly payment in the amount of $2,4518.76 per month shall be due by the 15th day of each month during the term of this Lease Agreement for the remaining six months of the year.” 

Rose Chavez, representing ASI at the June 6 meeting, came before the council to ask for another six months of waived rental fees. 

Chavez said, “Basically, what we are doing is helping older adults in our community by providing home-cooked meals, some supplemental nutrition through groceries and meal kits, at-home wellness checks and monitoring devices, educational workshops,” and “congregate social activities.” 

She said that ASI serves residents 55 years “or better” so that they can remain in their homes and “have regular nutrition and retain their physical and emotional well-being.”

ASI currently operates “about four days a week,” since reopening about one year ago for congregate dining, but she also said that the organization delivers meals through a Meals on Wheels program five days a week and “grab-and-go” meals Monday through Friday and frozen meals on the weekends. 

She said that ASI served about 25,000 meals in 2022 and that its catering contract with the Head Start program also serves meals to youths. 

Had the town been collecting the $2,618 monthly rent from the organization over the last six months, the town would have collected about $15,700, meaning the town lost this potential revenue; rental costs also go toward custodial services, building maintenance and all utilities except phone and Internet, Town Manager Andrea Phillips said. 

Chavez mentioned that 90 percent of ASI’s projected expenditures for the year have been met through fundraising efforts, but that the town’s extension of the rental waiver would allow ASI to continue to expand its programs in the midst of higher food costs with inflation. 

She said that the rent relief has been “a huge benefit and it has allowed me the bandwidth to really get in the grind and apply for all these funds.” 

She added, “What I am here to ask you this evening is to extend that rent relief,” which would “allow me to have some bandwidth to expand our programming.” 

She mentioned three new programs that ASI would like to launch in the near future. 

“With the support of the rental relief we are hoping to also do some of those classes bilingually by this spring,” she added. 

When Chavez completed her presentation, the discussion turned to questions and comments from the council.

Council member Mat deGraaf wondered if the town awarded the rent relief again, if ASI would come asking for relief again soon. 

“Are we gonna see you again in six months?” he asked. 

He then questioned Chavez on what ASI’s plans are to “become more self-sufficient.” 

She replied, “Hopefully we have demonstrated to you that we have been trying to diversify our funds by a whole list of private and public that we’ve gone to.”

She said that “we wouldn’t necessarily be coming back to you every six months. We’re just using this rent relief over the next six months to expand our additional programming, and then that will allow us to be open 100 percent.” 

Council member Leonard Martinez suggested that he thought that it looked like the organization was on a path to self-sufficiency and encouraged Chavez to “stay on your path” and that “it appears that you are on target.” 

There was a suggestion amongst the council that ASI should list the more than $15,000 in rent relief that the town donated to the organization as part of its funding in its financial statements. For example, in Chavez’s presentation, the section about secured funds from local sources only lists the Town of Pagosa Springs contributing $3,300.

Mayor Shari Pierce said that the town should be “recognized for the donation we have given, but part of that donation, I feel, is that we’ve been giving you a reduced rate on your lease fees. I don’t know when we last raised those rates, but I feel like it’s already highly subsidized.” 

Phillips added that the rate of the lease fee has not changed “since at least 2015.” 

She explained that the lease includes the usage of a 3,200 square feet of commercial kitchen space, which “we just upgraded all the equipment in there,” and an office space in the northwest wing of the community center, with custodial maintenance and utilities all included. 

She said that the $2,618 rental fee is “a pretty good rate.”

Council member Madeline Bergon said that she would love to support the continued rental relief, but that she would also like to see continued steps to self-sufficiency. 

Martinez added that ASI’s work with Head Start and Seeds of Learning Early Childcare programs are noteworthy because the organization is “working intergenerationally” to support what he called “communities in need,” saying that “if there’s anybody that deserves to be subsidized, this is the kind of effort” the council should support. 

Pierce wondered where the council would pull funds from if it decided to extend the rent waiver. 

“Is that gonna come out of this year’s budget?” she asked. 

Council member Gary Williams suggested that it would come out of the reserves fund. 

“Do we have any idea how much we’ve spent out of reserves yet this year?” Pierce asked. 

“I’m just concerned that we’ve spent a lot of money so far this year,” she said. 

Martinez explained that he thought, from what he could recall, that the reserves “were capable of absorbing” the rent relief for ASI.

deGraaf noted the positive impact this would have on community members “far outweighed the small dent that the reserves would take from this,” with council member Brooks Lindner agreeing. 

A motion was then made to grant $15,713 in rent relief to ASI, coming from the town reserve funds in the form of payment relief or a grant. The motion would also require ASI to come back before council in six months time for another update. 

The motion was carried unanimously.