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Ron Decker, Ray Finney: Candidates for PAWSD board

As reported in the April 1 edition of The SUN, a May 4 election will decide which among five candidates will fill two vacancies on the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District Board of Directors.

While that is true, this reporter also suggested that both openings were the result of term limitations. In fact, one is, while the other is due to a director simply choosing not to seek reelection.

For the record, board president Karen Wessels is term-limited and ineligible for reelection. She was originally appointed to the board by the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) in 1999, was reelected to a two-year term in 2000, then reelected to a four-year term in 2002. She was reaffirmed in 2006, serving as board chair from 2004 to now.

Board vice president Harold Slavinski has chosen not to run again, though he could seek another two terms, potentially serving until 2018. The BoCC originally appointed him to the board in December 1988. He was reelected to two subsequent four-year terms, before leaving the board under term limitation. When no candidates stepped up for election in 2006, he was again appointed to serve until now, thereby being eligible for reelection two more times.

Meanwhile, to better understand each of the five candidates now vying for the Wessels and Slavinski vacancies, The Sun interviewed three of those available in late March, and finally caught up with the remaining two on Tuesday. All were asked their background, their potential qualifications for serving on the PAWSD board, and where they stand on what they feel is the most important issue facing the district today.

For comments previously provided by Roy Vega, Allan Bunch and Sue Walan, see Page A-18 of the April 1 edition of The SUN. Those given by Ron Decker and Ray Finney are as follows:

• Decker — “I worked for the U.S. Forest Service in Pagosa for 45 years and am now retired. Born and raised here, I worked in every aspect (within the USFS) at some point, including timber. I worked up from the bottom and in the old days, everyone did everything. It wasn’t so departmentalized as it is now.

“I have a perspective of someone who has lived here all his life. I’ve watched the town and its water services grow over the years. In the past, the town water supply became muddy in the spring, before modern filtration systems came in. Nearly everyone got sick with ‘the Pagosa Plague (giardia).’

“The biggest issue right now is how much water we should plan for in the future. I think Dry Gulch is a serious matter, because of how we’ll pay for it. If we spend too much money, the people already here could end up paying for that. I think growth should pay at least part of the expense. Those creating additional impacts should help cover the costs of water, roads and other infrastructure.”

• Finney — “I’ve been here since the summer of 1995 and worked as executive director of Colorado Housing Inc. until 2003. I was a housing developer then, but have worked in real estate since 2004.

“I was in the Navy for two years (engineering) and have also done a lot of fund-raising for the government. I know most of the staff people for our area representatives and I’d like to work with the district staff to find grants.

“I think I can bring common sense to the dialog regarding PAWSD. There has to be a balance between the water and sewer services we need and the services we can afford. Some (in the community) think PAWSD is the problem, but I think the economy is the problem.

“The biggest issue facing the board is future water development and how to pay for it. If Dry Gulch is the best location for new storage, then we have to consider what’s best for the common good. We should impound water now. If we don’t, it’ll be allocated downstream and we’ll miss out when the need arises.

“I think those living here now should be willing to pay a little more to ensure a good water supply in the future. New arrivals will have to pay more through some sort of water resource fee. The question is, how much? We’re looking for a balance between current and future residents, while stabilizing the economy.”

As mentioned, the election will take place May 4, with the two candidates receiving the most votes taking office at the next regular PAWSD meeting.

chuck@pagosasun.com