PAWSD and its long-range plans for future water storage and treatment capacity have become the focal point of controversy in our community. Few are questioning the need to plan and prepare for future water needs. Land has been purchased for the Dry Gulch Reservoir. That land must be paid for over the next 20 years. The Snowball Treatment Plant must be enlarged. These, and other projects, are needed to accommodate growth. The question is, who should pay for the water needs required by growth?
There are two alternatives:
(1) Have growth pay its own way through fees placed on new taps. In order to accumulate the funds necessary for future water system expansion, PAWSD has placed a Water Resource/Capital Investment fee, the total of which is $9,196, on a new tap for a typical home; or
(2) Place a surcharge on every monthly water bill. The surcharge on each future water bill to accumulate the same amount of funds would be approximately $40 per month.
After years of study and community involvement, PAWSD has adopted the policy of having growth pay its own way as much as possible. Some believe it would be more appropriate and fair to have current water customers pay for growth through a surcharge on each monthly water bill. Their argument is that growth benefits everyone through the creation of jobs and the enlargement of the tax rolls.
In effect, a surcharge on monthly water bills would result in current residents subsidizing new development and growth. Also, if a surcharge is placed on monthly water bills in anticipation of significant growth and little growth occurs, funds will have been collected on an erroneous assumption and the bill payers will have had a financial strain for unneeded projects.
Under this funding method, those who pay a surcharge over a long period of time will carry the bulk of the financial burden while those who arrive later will pay a relatively smaller amount.
The PAWSD 50-year plan states emphatically that PAWSD will only build what it can afford, when it can afford it and when it is required by growth. The only way to collect funds directly tied to growth is through growth fees on new taps. If the current approach of fees on new taps is continued and little or no growth occurs, the accumulated capital will only fund minor growth projects. In addition, through fees on new taps, new water users pay the same amount regardless of their arrival in the community.
If neither funding source is utilized and no funds are collected and significant growth does occur over the decades ahead, there will be no financial capability of expanding our water infrastructure to accommodate economic growth and community welfare.
PAWSD has important planning and financial decisions to make and the Board of Directors needs input from a broad cross section of our community. We can finance our plans for future growth either by collecting fees on new taps or by eliminating these fees and placing a surcharge on monthly water bills. Which will it be? Please visit our Web site at www.pawsd.org for more information and direct comments and questions to PAWSD at 731-2691.
The PAWSD Board of Directors:
Karen Wessels, Windsor Chacey, Bob Huff, Steve Hartvigsen, Harold Slavinski
Progress! The county and now the town have passed ordinances to waive impact fees. On the 20th of this month the town council will hold the second reading of the town’s proposal to revoke Section 2.4.5 regarding large retailer development (i.e., Big Box) in the Land Use Development Code. The Archuleta County/Pagosa Springs Economic Development Plan has been launched … or has it? Let’s examine the premises upon which each of these actions is based.
Impact fees benefit development and construction. Region 9 data for jobs and earnings in 2007 reveal that services accounted for 40 percent of jobs and 30 percent of earnings; wholesale and retail trade for 15 percent and 17 percent; government (includes the school district) for 11 percent and 18 percent; and finance, insurance and real estate for 11 percent and 16 percent, respectively.
Compare those figures to 15 percent of jobs and 15 percent of earnings for construction and I have to conclude that we have quite a diversified economy and waiving impact fees will benefit one of the smaller segments. And, of course, questions remain: who pays for infrastructure costs if development ceases to pay impact fees? And who collects fees for the school and fire protection district fees when the town ceases to do so?
Big Box development brings competition, jobs and tax revenues. In June of 2005 a Citizen’s Task Force presented the council and commissioners with a Summary of Findings resulting from a year of study regarding Big Box development. As a result the town Land Development Code was modified to include limited regulation of large retail development.The regulations do not eliminate, they simply control and they allow structures larger than our supermarket which comes in at over 53,000 square feet.
I also found the report’s general conclusion and supporting evidence interesting. Unregulated Big Box development produces a negative net impact on communities. Yes, a short-term gain is realized as tax revenue leaked to other communities is retained and more jobs become available; however, those gains have costs of their own as a result of the consequent closure of small businesses and the increase in lower wage jobs. Interesting, the average retail salary in Pagosa in 2005 was $9.28. Big Box retailers paid salaries between $7.50 and $8.50.
If the above economic development options are not sound, as I believe, then what is our course? I don’t have the answer but I do have more questions, both of them focusing on sustainable development: Is anyone or any group investigating the idea penned by another letter to the editor writer of last week? That idea: “develop a long term economic plan that focuses on attracting knowledge-based firms that produce goods and services that can be marketed to the outside world.” My second question: What has happened to the geothermal greenhouse plan? Here is an idea that is sustainable, would increase our unique appeal, and would provide us with local produce year round. These ideas provide alternatives to the quick and questionable solutions that simply repeal what has so laboriously been constructed.
By the way, public comment is invited at the Aug. 20 meeting of town council.
At age 78 and with health care such a hot topic, if I were 40 years younger I think I’d be asking myself some of these questions in regard to the plans being proposed by the some politicians and some that are not. So, what difference would it make:
(1) if I pay a school premium instead of a school tax, or call what I pay for health insurance a premium or a tax?;
(2) if the person evaluating and processing my medical claims is an employee of a for-profit insurance company or a disinterested public employee?;
(3) if the cost of my medical coverage is based on the care and service I receive from medical providers with or without a profit factor included for a non-productive investor somewhere?;
(4) if the emphasis in my medical care could be shifted from after-the-fact treatment to preventive practices rewarding physicians for reducing the chances of my need instead of paying commissions and giving bonuses to executives who don‘t set broken bones or take out appendixes?;
(5) if the cost of my medical coverage would be the same as everyone else’s, that the kind of policy, the procedures covered, my “max” and my deductible, would not be determined by the company I work for or the union or association I belong to?;
(6) or if I don’t receive medical benefits, that I could be assured that the price I pay for goods and services does not include the costs other employers pay to “give” those things to their employees?;
(7) if I become unemployed or my company goes out of business and my coverage is terminated and I have a serious illness?;
(8) in comparison to school principals and school boards, if the persons who have designed and administer my plan are responsible only to a distant corporate board or ultimately to a publicly elected body?
Whether all Americans are covered under a health care insurance policy is not critical. Nobody is refused treatment now. Yes, health care insurance is expensive and the cost is rising far more quickly than the rate of inflation, but the free market will take care of this matter. Sadly, the media and party leadership focus on health care provider freedom of choice and quality of service.
The Democrat and Republican leadership have failed to focus public attention on a far more serious issue, trillions of unfunded liabilities associated with current and proposed entitlement programs that arise due to changing demographics (i.e. declining birth rate). Americans, like the Chinese and Europeans, are growing older. Non-retirees, as a percentage of taxpayers, are a declining segment of the population. Fewer taxpayers will bear the future burden of entitlement programs. These are undeniable and simple truths and free market can’t cure that problem. Deficit spending certainly can’t cure this shortfall either. One can fiddle with cost projections, but one can’t fight an undeniable conclusion — our nation is on an unsustainable fiscal path. It is irresponsible for elected officials to represent they hold the key to becoming more efficient. Think about it. Do you believe expanded government is a realistic solution for achieving process efficiencies? Do you believe government is a cost containment organization?
It’s a national disgrace that voters allow the Congress and President the luxury of avoiding implementing solutions that address unfunded entitlement liabilities and oppressive interest payments that fund an entrenched policy of deficit spending. States can’t deficit spend, and the Feds work for us, so why is federal deficit spending tolerated? Why do we taxpayers allow elected representatives to bury their heads in the sand while Rome Burns? Fiscally sound decisions about the future of entitlement programs must be made, and fast. Obama Care, whatever that means, or maintaining the status quo are not acceptable outcomes for our offspring.
Political leadership and bi-partisan solutions are required to solve our national problems: 1) unnecessary programs stemming from corporations feeding from the public hog trough at the explicit invitation of the current and prior administrations, 2) growth of government employment, 3) massive unfunded entitlement liabilities, and 4) and an end to our political leaders demonizing those expressing alternative views. These are fundamental issues and courtesies that all Americans understand and expect. We must right our ship so that our offspring will have a fighting chance for decent futures rather than transferring a parental debt that cannot possibly be repaid. Comprehensive solutions must come from the ongoing health care debate.
I’m fed up with elected knuckleheads telling me how to run my life and the blood-sucking taxing authorities taking ever deeper cuts. Flash to elected officials — your constituents are fed up with unrealistic property tax valuations, out-of-control local, state and federal spending and oppressive governmental mandated codes of personal conduct! The pendulum swings both ways and will soon swing sharply right. Let your elected officials hear you are fed up with fiscal irresponsibility and then pointing their fingers at everyone except themselves. Exercise your option to effect change by speaking up and by voting incumbents that “just don’t get it” out of office. Pitchforks Unite!
Bill and Lisa Egg
I can understand the anxiety that all Americans have concerning health care reform. We need common sense, not the smoke screen and scare tactics that are being used to turn voters against health care reform.
I fully support the need to cover all Americans with basic health care. As an ex-Navy man and the son of a career Navy man, I benefited from Military Medicine for the first 20 years of my life, most of my working life was covered by employer paid health insurance and now I am under Medicare. Some Public Option should be tried, whether that is a Public Insurance Option, the extension of Medicare to all, National health insurance, etc.
We also must address the need for more doctors and medical professionals “laying on hands” not filling in forms. Most medical providers would rather deal with Medicare than big insurance company forms and denials. There should be Federal Scholarships for doctors and other medical professionals willing to go into general, family and rural practices. Tort reform and an emphasis on wellness and preventive health care must be part of the mix and we must be willing to imitate those who are providing effective treatment, Kaiser Permanente, Mayo Clinics, Veterans Administration, local clinics, etc. We need to talk to our elected officials and their local staff giving our support to common sense reform.
Someone said, “The greatest fear is fear itself.” Let’s take a page from the Navy CBs and Marines, “The difficult we do immediately, the impossible takes a little longer.” Let’s get this figured out!
Raymond P. Finney
I find it an interesting anomaly that our concerned realtors, developers and builders are so ready to attack the impact fees that PAWSD carefully developed to properly plan for the long-run future of the community, that they are willing to sacrifice those goals for their own short term interests. At the same time, the Saturday issue of the Durango Herald carried a front page article highlighting the urgent need for just that sort of long-range planning to meet projected Western Slope water needs.
PAWSD has an excellent briefing on the background and construction of their planning for the future. It behooves all of us to educate ourselves on this vital issue before listening to misguided calls for short-term changes in the name of economic stimulus which ultimately would affect only a vociferous minority.
My husband and I would like to express our thanks to the great staff of the Pagosa Springs Visitors Guide.
In our five years of RVing full time, we have not come across a guide as well put together as this one. We have been in Pagosa Springs since May and will stay until September.
The guide helps us find where to shop, where the restaurants are and most of all, where to hike!
We were so impressed with the area and the friendly folks in Pagosa that we will return next year.
Nanci and Jim Holler
Here are some suggestions for a direction we may take to promote “swing’n hammers” and improve quality of life for all that live here.
Turn the empty Circle T complex into a state of the art re-cycling center (thanks, Sue, for the idea). A giant grid tie solar system could be installed on the massive roof. This could create 20-plus full-time jobs.
Finish the river project, build nice small sidewalk cafes along the river walk and support more events on the river!
The geothermal greenhouse could be expanded to twice the size that is being planned now, and have employees. Next to it we could have a real “Farmers Market” with all of the shade structures made of PV solar modules for another grid tie system. A micro hydro system could be installed with the greenhouse to produce even more renewable energy.
This direction may bring people back to buy all of the empty places we have now and make developers stand in line with open checkbooks to get in to our progressive town.
I have been a subscriber to the paper for years, and I want to congratulate the city council on their recent decision — as follows:
Congratulation to the city council of Pagosa Springs:
The simply brilliant recent decision to allow “big box” stores to move in was a mark of real leadership. By doing this, you have assured that “our Pagosa” will never be the same. Goodbye to the little mom and pop businesses and the small shops that make the town unique.
So, small business owners can now make plans to sell and move before the reality hits. Salvage what you can! The last one out on main street, turn out the lights of all the small shops and let the council know that you appreciate them making this move for you.
John O. Peck
I received an incisive e-mail from Colorado AARP this week concerning the various healthcare reform proposals on the table. Its key points bear repeating for the sake of fact-based public discussion of this issue.
Fact 1: Medicare will not be ended, and no benefits or services will be cut. Your services will not be ended, nor will your benefits be cut.
Fact 2: No legislation currently in Congress would mandate the rationing of care. Period.
Fact 3: There is no provision of any piece of legislation that would promote euthanasia of any kind. The rumors out there are flat out lies. Right now Medicare does not cover counseling for end-of-life care. The portion of the bill in question would simply provide coverage for optional end-of-life consultations with doctors, so that the patient can be aware of all of the treatment options on the table. It is not mandatory and it has nothing to do with euthanasia.
So what is AARP fighting for in health reform?
1. Stopping insurance companies from charging older Americans unaffordable premiums because of their age.
2. Ending the practice of excluding people from insurance because of pre-existing conditions.
3. Holding down health costs and making insurance coverage more affordable for all Americans.?
4. Making prescription drugs more affordable by narrowing the Medicare doughnut hole, bringing generics to market faster, and allowing Medicare to negotiate better drug prices.
Read more at: www.aarp.org/health/articles/health_reform_get_the_facts.html, www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2009/jul/30/e-mail-analysis-health-bill-needs-check-/.
What is going on with the town and our county elected or appointed officials? They want to give tax breaks to builders both residential and commercial — currently we have an overload of residential and commercial locations available for sale or rent. Did anyone consider maybe giving small business owners a tax break or giving residents a tax break? That type of stimulus would help keep our community going and our residents would do more shopping in Pagosa which in turn would help our local economy.
Sometimes I think our elected officials need to look at the big picture and see what would really help our community — development is not the ultimate solution.
Up With People
Hello my beautiful Pagosa Springs! It has been a little over a month since I left and the journey has been amazing. It’s almost impossible to explain this experience because it has been so complex and new. My cast is made up of 90 young people from 22 different countries. We have worked so hard on this show and by the time you read this we will have preformed twice already for a live audience.
This past weekend we did community impact days at the Food Bank of the Rockies and packed over 1,200 boxes. On Saturday we went to a woman’s shelter, funded by individuals and transformed their homes. Their playground, back yard, nursery and kitchen each had a new special touch when the UwP cast left. We have just begun!
We have five months left and we are coming to Durango Thursday Aug. 20, and Friday, Aug. 21. We will perform at Fort Lewis College in the Community Concert Hall at 7:30 p.m. You can get tickets online at www.upwithpeople.org/durango or ticketswest.com. I can’t wait to come home before I leave the country. Thank you all for your contiunued support and love. See you soon.
Naquita Rae Rivas
Twenty-two days to learn that there’s an upcoming election for two seats on the school board; decide you might be interested; determine you’re in the district in which the election applies; meet with appropriate individuals to be informed about the position; determine you’re interesting in running for the seat; get a petition from the County Clerks’ office; obtain 50 valid signatures and turn in the petition.
A lot to do in 22 days; seems an impossible timeline.
When organizations are recruiting new board members — either by appointment or election — it’s often forgotten that you are “hiring” people to do a job and that job is one of the most critical jobs in the whole organization: leadership and governance.
All boards should be constantly thinking of and recruiting potential members and providing an open forum for engaging and informing the possible constituents. Especially a board that is responsible to a large public audience or the entire community.
Notice to this community for the open school board positions, at a minimum, should have been months ago and the school board should be actively seeking potential candidates in an effort to promote a democratic forum, give citizens a choice and engage people in an important process.
The newspaper clearly saw the urgency as they posted the election in a skybox on the front page to draw attention to the article and classified announcement that were within the content of the newspaper.
Informing and engaging the community provides a greater opportunity to ensure that all parents, students, educators, and taxpayers understand what is happening within the school district to create a lasting impression in how this community is educating our children.
I’m giving notice now. The next election for positions on the school board will be in two years.