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Brain trust

Dear Editor:

A development that has really caught my eye in recent media articles is the gall of the Commissioners and Town Managers; thinking it is their charge is to participate directly in the pursuit of commercial endeavors by risking public funds. Examples are 1) purchase of the 95 acre tract and subsequently proposing to subdivide same into 10 acre commercial tracts for alleged investment gain and b) a public-private joint venture geothermal science project.

The geothermal science project is particularly problematic as quantitative benchmarks from which to gauge whether the endeavor could actually be operationally and financially feasible under reasonable assumptions of timing, capital and commercial expectations have not been clearly memorialized prior to committing publicly funded “seed capital.”

Inasmuch as Pagosa Springs is neither Iceland (an island in the stormy North Atlantic with no access to fossil fuel resources), the Mojave Desert (abnormally high thermal gradient and ready access to the SOCAL electricity market) nor a logistically isolated area of Alaska (no alternative other than running diesel generators to power the local “grid”), it is my opinion this geothermal-to-electricity “vision” and associated “seed capital” commitment is nothing more than a science project with no hope of yielding a commercial return.

I have news for our local brain trust; geothermal energy isn’t a new concept. Geothermal-to-electricity is not cost effective when the competing energy source, LEPA, charges $0.11 per KW-HR to residential customers. Perhaps the local voters/taxpayers find the prospect of higher taxes and energy costs through governmental “investments” gone bad appealing, but I do not. I recall Harrisburg, PA and its “trash to energy incinerator project that did not turn out as planned” and another save the world project in Alabama that never spout its wings after substantial amounts of public funds were “invested” by their respective brain trusts chasing voter-popular pipe dreams. Both of these “investments” resulted in similar outcomes, economic depression of the affected areas.

Perhaps our brain trust is better qualified to identify Tier 1 investment opportunities and steward capital projects … however, can you say “airport” bond issue, “chair-lift,” Dry Gulch debt facility and, a water distribution system reporting a 40 percent loss rate and a drying “greenhouse” that never had a chance to work in the first place, despite the inputs of visionary politicians.

I realize these illustrations cross several administrations and numerous intellectual and agency fences, but give me a break … keep your eye on our roads/bridges, law enforcement, providing basic care for those truly in need, maintaining the rule of law and eliminating regulatory restrictions that impair new small business formation and impede remodeling and new construction projects. Run from funding projects that risk sales and property tax revenue streams, funds needed to underpin delivery of basic services now and in the future.

Please excuse the personal opinions and rants of an old fart lacking the “vision” and knowledge of engineering, physics and business possessed by our public servants.

Bill Egg

This story was posted on March 6, 2014.