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County requests delivery of PAWSD documents

A special meeting Tuesday concerning the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District, held by the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners, seemed to again further the rift between the two entities.

The BoCC called the meeting to consider the passing of two agenda items: the first a request by the BoCC to PAWSD to provide an annual report to the county, on the basis of C.R.S. 32-1-207(3)(c).

In part, the subsection of the statue reads, “A board of county commissioners may request any special district located wholly or partially within the county’s unincorporated area ... to file, not more than once a year, a special district annual report.”

The statue further elaborates that the annual report “shall include but shall not be limited to information on the progress of the special district in the implementation of the service plan.”

The statute also states that “The board of county commissioners ... may review the annual reports in a regularly scheduled public meeting, and such review shall be included as an agenda item in the public notice for such meeting.”

In response to the first agenda item, Carrie Weiss, PAWSD manager, asked that a letter addressed to the county dated Monday be entered in the minutes, then summed up the content of the letter in comment to the commissioners.

“The district is happy to provide the annual report. As my letter stated. We will work with Greg (Schulte, county administrator) on compiling this (the report), a time frame, with the exact content you would like. We’ve never done this before, we’ve never been asked to do this before, I should say,” Weiss said, adding, “A phone call would have been appreciated and sufficient.”

The second agenda item was a request to approve sending a letter to PAWSD (and, more specifically, to Karen Wessels, chairman and president) requesting that the PAWSD annual report be made available to the county as per the statute.

In the letter, the BoCC demands that PAWSD file an annual report with the county that “shall address information on the progress of the District in the implementation of its Service Plan and shall specifically address” a number of matters.

The letter then lists 25 questions, concerns and requests for information relating to the service plan, mainly in terms of the Dry Gulch reservoir project, population and usage projections, impact fees, other fees relating to service, as well as concerns over budgets and debts.

The letter requests the information by April 30.

The second agenda item garnered more discussion.

Before allowing public comment, Commissioner Clifford Lucero asked County Attorney Todd Starr to read a portion of the statue involved.

“We have been very open to any requests made by the county commissioners over the last year and a half, at least, and we will continue to be open for any records requests. We would like it to be casual,” Wessels said, citing PAWSD’s cooperation with the county and public, informative programs concerning Dry Gulch.

“Our meetings have not been attended very well in the last several months and we take that to be a signal that we are giving out information adequately to the public.”

Local resident Bill Hudson then noted his opinion on the matter, indicating that he, possibly among others, feels he’s not always heard at PAWSD meetings.

Lisa Reeve, with the Pagosa Springs Area Association of Realtors, agreed with Hudson’s sentiment and asked if the BoCC and PAWSD still planned on having a joint meeting between the entities in a public setting.

Lucero simply replied, “Right now, there is not a meeting planned.”

Reeve followed, asking if they planned on scheduling a meeting, to which Lucero responded, “At this point, I have no comment.”

“I think that what you can take from the letter and statute is that once we get the annual report, the board will notice it for a public meeting and will have an open and frank discussion concerning the report’s information,” said Starr. He further elaborated that, as for a timeline, the open meeting could possibly occur at the mid-May regular BoCC meeting (Weiss later explained that a PAWSD audit would not be complete until June, making May premature for a meeting on the subject).

“My only concern is, it would be really nice, as a community, to have you guys working together, the PAWSD board being available and having an open meeting to discuss the issues and concerns,” Reeve said, adding, “This is critical to our community and I really would like to see a meeting happen before it turns into something where it’s being mandated by one side or the other.”

“We really did want to have a meeting occur in a neutral forum of sufficient size so the general public could attend and, unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in getting that,” Commissioner Bob Moomaw said.

Reeve then attempted to question PAWSD, but was met by Lucero’s statement that she was out of order.

Commissioner John Ranson then read a prepared statement. “According to state statutes, the BoCC has the authority and the responsibility to protect the interest of the community. We do not take this lightly in any environment, but, with the current economic conditions that we are all faced with, careful consideration must be given to any policies that can, and do, affect our local economy.”

The statement further laid out the BoCC’s goals in discussions with PAWSD: to amend the service plan, “establish a prudent and reasonable plan that will address the amount of debt that this community can absorb,” and to evaluate alternatives for meeting long-term planning needs.

The meeting then ended with more discussion indicating that the public would, indeed, have access to documents in order to be informed throughout the process between the entities.

randi@pagosasun.com