Positive moves

We do not hesitate to admit it: It has been easy pickings here, and throughout Pagosa Country this past year, for anyone wanting to criticize Archuleta County government. Despite what some in that government say, at least in these quarters, that criticism has not been overly extensive — given the opportunities.

It is only fair, and squarely in the interest of keeping readers informed of the full picture, that note be made of significant positive moves we have reported on during the last year — one rife with the pressures of the financial crisis and hampered by less than full and productive participation on behalf of the citizen on the part of some elected officials.

The county made some serious, positive moves in 2008 — and a great deal of the credit must go to county staff and to those volunteers who lent expertise to the process.

The first move: the hiring of Don Warn as the county director of finance. Much of the county’s financial crisis originated in the finance office and Warn has worked diligently to bring that office back into top shape.

The county managed to end 2008 in the black — a prospect that was debatable at points during the year. In the process, staff managed to solve a $1 million budget error, without further layoffs from the county rolls.

Continuing under the umbrella of the financial crisis, the county instituted key policies long missing from the administrative arsenal. In 2008, a cash handling policy was created and approved, as was a procurement policy. Further, the county hired a contracts and procurement officer.

The county also submitted the first undisclaimed yearly audit in several years time.

The last year also saw several key regulatory policies and concepts move through the public process to approval by the board of county commissioners.

As of the end of last year, Archuleta County has revised oil and gas regulations on the books. This comes just in time: the certainty that this part of the country will be under increasing pressure from the demand for oil and gas, and the development, drilling and operations that follow, required adjustments of the regs — and could likely require more.

While growth is stagnant at the moment, it can also be safely assumed that pressure for development will, at some time in the future, also be revitalized. The county will be better prepared to deal with it as a result of action taken last year, specifically, the completion of an amendment to the Community Plan — the Urban Services Area plan (USA). The amendment was shepherded through the planning commission process and approved by the board of county commissioners, adding to the planning toolkit used by the planning department, planning commission and BoCC.

Finally, the county created and approved a nuisance ordinance — one long missing from the regulatory process.

In terms of the Town of Pagosa Springs, we can find progress there as well.

The town hired a new manager and, if all works well, will be better able to meet the demands of several major annexation and development projects now at various points in the approval process. These are major projects that require effective and precise administrative handling if the town council is to have a firm foundation upon which to base decisions — something other than hasty long-term commitments spurred on by the influence of vested interests and the anxiety created by a stagnant downtown economic environment (mitigated only by the creation of a major hotel project at The Springs Resort).

The Town was also able to complete two useful capital improvement projects in 2008 — the large outdoor recreation complex on South 5th Street and the Lewis Street reconstruction project, in the 400 block of Lewis Street in the downtown area. Karl Isberg