BoCC: $50,000 for new skatepark

Signing on for support for a proposed skatepark to the tune of $50,000 on Tuesday, the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners made its first commitment to parks and recreation development in 2009 from Ballot Issue 1A funds.

However, with the town of Pagosa Springs still undecided on how to proceed with the project, a starting date for construction remains questionable.

Presenting a resolution for the funding request, Archuleta County Special Projects Manager Karin Kohake told the commissioners that support for the project was a broad-based effort, “with over $40,000 in in-kind business donations and over $21,000 in private donations.”

Adding a voice of support for the request, Parks Recreation Open Space and Trails (PROST) committee chair Michael Whiting said, “This is an example of what 1A funds are all about. The business support indicates a broader support within the community.”

As reported in The SUN last week, Ballot Issue 1A parks and recreation funds remained virtually untouched throughout 2008 until December 2008, when commissioners Bob Moomaw and Ronnie Zaday voted to take $150,000 from the Ballot Issue 1A parks and recreation funding pool to construct an equestrian arena adjacent to the Archuleta County Fairgrounds.

In January, commissioners Clifford Lucero and John Ranson took office, and as one of their first legislative acts voted, with Moomaw, to put the $150,000 back in the 1A parks and recreation pool.

The commissioners voiced unanimous support for the skatepark Tuesday. “I’d like to point out that this is the first project brought forth by PROST,” said Moomaw, “I’m excited as this is an example of the town, county and community working together.”

“The community is stepping up in a huge way,” added Lucero. “It shows that we’re blessed, it’s just an awesome place here.”

Although Kohake expressed a willingness to work with town Parks and Recreation Director Tom Carosello in submitting a Greater Outdoors Colorado (GOCO — money collected from state lottery earnings) grant by the March 2 deadline — Carosello’s view, stated at a town work session several hours after Kohake’s presentation, indicated a later date for submitting the grant.

Speaking on behalf of Carosello, Parks Superintendent Jim Miller told the Pagosa Springs Town Council that, rather than scrambling to meet a March deadline for submitting the GOCO grant, “Tom recommends an August submission date for the grant.”

Set for presentation at today’s mid-month council meeting in Town Hall chambers at noon, Carosello’s update and discussion for the project summarizes a number of points suggesting the merits of waiting for an August submission date for the GOCO grant. Of primary consideration is a GOCO suggestion that a project budget include a cash line item for contingencies. As sponsors of the grant, the town would be responsible for any cost overruns necessary to complete the project. Although Carosello’s report states that there is no “hard” rule for determining a contingency amount, the suggested number is 10-percent of the project cost estimate — about $35,000.

According to Miller, about $20,000 would be available for contingencies and, if the 10-percent amount is an appropriate number, about $15,000 remains to be raised.

Miller also reported that Carosello had been told by Brad Siedlecki, project designer from Pillar Designs, that, even if a March grant were awarded (and attained mid-June), construction would probably not be completed until spring 2010. An August grant submission, with award notification made in mid-December, would see ground broken on the project in early spring 2010.

However, in a phone interview with Siedlecki, a different timeline for construction emerged. “In cold climates, I always like to start in the springtime,” he said. “A park of this size takes about three months to complete. If we started construction in July, we could have it completed by September.”

Siedlecki added that an advantage to starting earlier in the year is that it gives skaters a chance to use the park after completion but before the concrete is covered in snow. “To finish it up only to have it buried in snow is just a tease,” Siedlecki said.

Council brought another issue to the table: location. With the proposed location set just south of the town’s sports complex, council member Shari Pierce wondered if its remote location might raise some problems for local law enforcement. “My concern is that there might be an issue with out-of-sight, out-of-mind.”

Pierce added that, if the skatepark was meant to be a showcase amenity of the town, the proposed location did not lend well to visibility for the park.

“Someone asked me why not build it next to Town Hall, “ said Pierce. “Well, we don’t own that land, but it got me thinking about why couldn’t we put it closer to downtown where more people could see it and enjoy it?”

Pierce’s law enforcement concern was echoed by a resident at the BoCC meeting. Will Neder, speaking to the BoCC, said, “I was one of the people who helped build the current skatepark (in South Pagosa Park), and I was appalled by some of unintended consequences of it. (The county) needs to write in increased police and sheriff surveillance for the park.”

Miller disagreed that skaters were the problem and said that, in his experience as parks supervisor, problems at the skate park were no more pronounced than in other areas of town. Furthermore, Miller pointed out that PROST committee member and Pagosa Springs High School Athletic Director Jim Shaffer, though initially opposed to the proposed location, supported the skatepark’s site and design.

In a conversation with SUN staff last month regarding the proposed location, council member (and former police chief) Don Volger said, “I think providing recreation for local youth far outweighs law enforcement issues. If we’re talking about public safety, giving kids something to do is money well spent, because it’s proactive.”

Agreeing to further the discussion at the mid-month meeting, council will consider Carosello’s recommendation for an August submission date for the GOCO grant. However, location for the project may also become an item for discussion. As Miller pointed out, although the project is not locked into a specific location and surveying an alternate site would “cost a few thousand dollars, at the most,” it would, nonetheless be an additional expense for a project that, in these economic times, could seem like a luxury to many residents.

Supporters of the skatepark will most likely fill chambers today in anticipation of what the town decides. While location of the project will only a part of the larger discussion, it is sure to generate some ideas and even more chatter. As one local skater suggested, a downtown skatepark that was geothermally heated (like some of the sidewalks on Lewis Street) would definitely make a Pagosa Springs skatepark something to talk about.

jim@pagosasun.com