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Town considers five-year plan

The town of Pagosa Springs will consider, over the next few weeks, a structured approach to future capital improvement projects for the next five years. The plan represents a new protocol concerning how the town deals with capital improvement projects.

The plan marks the first time the town has taken a long-range approach to capital improvement projects or has assessed its list of needs and desires across all departments.

“This is the first time we’ve really put something like this together,” said Pagosa Springs Mayor Ross Aragon. “In the past, we just talked about it.”

The Pagosa Springs Town Council voted on one aspect of the plan at the Jan. 5 meeting — the maintenance and repair of roads over the next five years — but were given an overview of how the rest of the plan would address the town’s capital improvement needs in other areas. Those areas included (in order of priority, after roads): Parks and Recreation; Trails and River Features; Economic Development; Planning, Easements and Design; Equipment and Technology; Building and Facilities; New Capital Projects; and Property Acquisition.

The plan was the result of several month’s work by a consulting firm hired by the town last summer. The firm, Schmueser Gordon Meyer (SGM), was retained after the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) offered the town a grant to fund the project. DOLA provided the town $36,250 out of a total $72,500 cost for the project.

“This is new,” said council member Stan Holt regarding the plan’s approach to capital improvements. “Up till now we’ve always flown by the seat of our pants when it comes to projects. This gives us an idea of where we need to go.”

In presenting the plan to council, SGM representative Jerry Burgess explained that capital improvement priorities were set within a “decision matrix” (developed by council members and SGM engineers) and ranked (in order) with the following criteria: Public Health and Safety; Most Benefit to Citizens; Public Support; deferred maintenance backlog; (ability to) Leverage Grants/ Shovel Ready; and Regulatory Mandate/ Environmental Requirements. Furthermore, criteria within the decision matrix were given “weighting factors” to assist in determining the importance of capital improvement needs.

However, within a particular criterion, further factors (such as cost and complexity of the project) were applied to determine which projects would be addressed first. For example, in the road improvement plan, the emphasis in the first year — improving or maintaining roads not in dire need of repair, the rationale being it is more cost effective to maintain good roads than to repave roads in poor condition.

As such, in the 2010 plan, Village Drive would get the most work; from North Pagosa Boulevard to Eaton Drive, crews will provide structural overlay and crack seal or subgrade stabilization (with about 15-percent structural repair) at an estimated cost of $48,651; from Eaton Drive to Talisman Drive, crews will chip seal (with fog seal) at an estimated cost of $6,985; and from Talisman Drive to Pinon Causeway, crews will chip seal at an estimated cost of $10,469, for a total estimated cost of $66,105.

Also part of the proposed 2010 road improvement plan, Lewis Street repairs between 1st and 4th streets would amount to an estimated cost of $189,269, with most of those dollars spent on reconstruction. However, council objected to addressing that portion of Lewis Street, arguing that they felt the portion that should be immediately addressed was the block between 4th and 3rd streets.

“Lewis Street between fourth and third gets much more traffic, it’s right behind the junior high school,” said council member Shari Pierce.

Between 4th and 3rd streets, Lewis Street would require reconstruction with a cost of $242,618.

According to the five-year plan, the town will be looking at spending about $1.7 million over the next five years, with annual costs anywhere between $250,000 and $450,000. In total, the town would maintain, improve or repave about five miles of road in town.

Town Manager David Mitchem conceded that the 2010 budget for road capital improvements would be about $85,000 shy of the money required to fund the presented iteration of the plan; switching the Lewis Street projects means that the budget would be short $170,000 for 2010 road capital improvements.

Addressing the budget shortfall, Mitchem assured council that the town could afford the projects, saying, “Funds can be drawn from elsewhere.”

Having approved the roads portion of the five-year capital improvement plan at the Jan. 5 meeting, council will proceed with other aspects of the plan, presumably addressing each portion as they are ranked. With Parks and Recreation ranked behind roads, council will consider what infrastructure requirements will need to be addressed. With the 2010 budget allocating most funds to administration, programs and services, capital improvements for 2010 would most likely be confined to maintenance and repair (keeping with the rationale used for roads in the plan).

A proposed skatepark should see ground broken in late summer, but would not require any funding by the town (if a Greater Outdoors Colorado grant is awarded for the project).

Ranked next, Trails and River Features would most likely involve maintenance and repair of the town’s Riverwalk trail system (tied together last year with the installation of the Veterans Memorial Bridge at Town Park), as well as the further expansion of river features — improvements that proved popular last year with river users. Both capital improvements have been itemized in the 2010 budget.

Faced with a torpid economy and diminishing revenues from sales taxes, a five-year capital improvement plan could not have come at a better time for the town. Navigating those budgetary constraints, it will be up to council to determine how best to spend available capital improvement funds while planning for the future with the pursuit of available state and federal money to offset project expenditures. It will be up to council, in the coming weeks, to determine how well the five-year plan addresses present needs and future desires.

jim@pagosasun.com