A budget hearing held last week by the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners concerning the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation posed a question: How long should local government entities continue to support the CDC, a private corporation?
The budget hearing came on the heels of financial requests by Seeds of Learning and the Four Corners Film Office.
At the meeting, the PSCDC was represented by Executive Director Rich Lindblad and board member Mark Weiler. They asked the BoCC to consider funding a total of $60,000 for the PSCDC, including $10,000 for a grant writer position.
The PSCDC has also asked the Town of Pagosa Springs to contribute the same amount.
In the letter asking the county to consider the funding request, Lindblad wrote, “As you are aware, the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation has experienced some major growing pains during its first year of operation. I truly believe though that we are on the right track to turn 2012 into a banner year that will be loaded with measurable accomplishments and a year that will see many new CDC members.
“It is my goal that as the Community Development organization matures we will be able to rely less on local government support and more on local businesses so that we will become self sustaining in the future.”
At the meeting, Lindblad set out to back up the PSCDC’s request by discussing the current condition of the U.S. Postal Service, based on written notes he had prepared.
Lindblad stated that, last month, the U.S. Post Office announced a $9 billion loss.
“Recognizing that they, the post office, had a problem, they indicated that they would institute measures, effective immediately, which would include new premiums put on most postal services and, more importantly, reduce services,” Lindblad said. “What a plan, what a plan. I’m being facetious.”
Lindblad continued to discuss the increasing revenues of private companies UPS and FedEx.
Lindblad said a few relevant factors contributed to the problem USPS is currently facing — a view that the USPS has a top-down approach and a view that they are a “cost center and distributes income proportionally across its business units,” and that the private companies take a bottom-up, “profit-center” approach to ensure the profitability of their businesses.
Lindbland continued, saying that the private companies assess each business unit annually to continue it, modify it or eliminate it.
Completing the comparison, Lindblad stated that the PSCDC is a profit center that should be measured by its return on investment.
Lindblad said that, over the last seven weeks, 12 new jobs were created by two new businesses in Archuleta County and that, since January, the PSCDC has been instrumental in creating over 60 new jobs.
Lindblad also stated that the PSCDC helps generate profits that affect the entire community.
In wrapping up his statement, Lindblad said the amount requested from the county was “insignificant” and “keeps the lights on, quite frankly.”
With that, the commissioners began the question portion of the hearing, starting with Chair Clifford Lucero, who asked how much PSCDC held in reserves.
Lindblad replied that the organization held about $60,000 in reserves and that $35,000 was recently spent to retrofit the PSCDC’s new office in the Country Center, near City Market.
From there, Lucero asked how many of the new businesses were brought to the community by PSCDC, versus how many Lindblad was involved in as an individual.
No clear answer was given.
Lucero continued, asking about PSCDC’s fund-raising plan.
Lindblad responded that the CDC was damaged when it launched eight months ago and all credibility was lost.
Lindblad said the next six months would be used to gain exposure for the positive work of the organization, then the entity would reach out to businesses to help support PSCDC.
“We’ve got to prove ourselves,” Lindblad said.
“You have the respect of the community,” Lucero said, urging Lindblad to begin raising money sooner.
Commissioner Steve Wadley was next, stating he didn’t feel government could continue its support forever, asking how long until the PSCDC would be self-sustaining.
Lindblad responded that it would be when the organization formed a relationship with businesses.
Weiler, though, began talking about area businesses, including Parelli Natural Horsemanship (of which he is president), stating that Pagosa Springs doesn’t have a success story to tell like Durango does (with Mercury Payment Systems) and that the PSCDC should be considered an investment, not an expense.
Weiler indicated the PSCDC would need the county’s leadership forever.
From there, Wadley asked if, perhaps, Lindblad would be the best grant writer, to which Lindblad indicated that entities may be better off hiring a grant writer on their own.
It was then the turn of Whiting, who rejected the claim that the county doesn’t look at finances in terms of return on investment and said comparing the USPS and companies like UPS was comparing apples and oranges, also criticizing other statements made by Lindblad and Weiler.
Whiting, who sits on the PSCDC board, said the entity had yet to prove itself and that he took issue with “unlimited planning horizons with nonprofits.”
“No fund-raising plan is problematic,” Whiting said.
Whiting also suggested the PSCDC needed to track what it was directly responsible for and to develop a strategic plan and budget.
“Let’s back up everything you said,” Whiting said.
While no decisions could legally be made at the meeting, Lucero said the county would “definitely” do something.
The BoCC is expected to approve the 2012 budget on Dec. 13.