News – The Pagosa Springs SUN http://www.pagosasun.com The most trusted source for news and information about Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Wed, 29 Jan 2020 15:12:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.5 School district names new superintendent http://www.pagosasun.com/school-district-names-new-superintendent-copy/ Wed, 29 Jan 2020 15:12:04 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=196256

Dr. Kym D. LeBlanc-Esparza

Following a special meeting on Tuesday evening, the Archuleta School District (ASD) Board of Education (BOE) announced that Dr. Kym D. LeBlanc-Esparza, current state director for Rocky Mountain Region AVID Center, Pueblo, will be the district’s new superintendent starting in July.

The four finalists for the position were LeBlanc-Esparza; current ASD assistant superintendent Laura E. Mijares; Dr. Thomas C. Heald, current interim superintendent of Aspen School District; and John W. Pandolfo, current superintendent, Barre Unified Union School District, Barre, Vt.

Those finalists were announced at a special meeting of the ASD board on Dec. 19, 2019.

LeBlanc-Esparza has been the state director  Western Division – AVID Center, Rocky Mountain Region, since January 2019, according to her resume.

Prior to that, she was the executive director of secondary education and career and technical education at Pueblo School District 60 in Pueblo, Colo. from  June 2018 until January 2019.

According to her resume, from June 2012 to June 2018 LeBlanc-Esparza was superintendent of Newberg School District, Newberg, Ore. 

The ASD board began its search for a new superintendent after current Superintendent Linda Reed announced her retirement in a letter to parents on June 2, 2019.

Reed noted in that letter to parents that the 2019-2020 school year would be her last with the district.

For more information, see this Thursday’s issue of The SUN.

 

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PAWSD addresses affordable housing fee waivers, making up for lost revenue http://www.pagosasun.com/pawsd-addresses-affordable-housing-fee-waivers-making-up-for-lost-revenue-2/ Wed, 29 Jan 2020 12:00:40 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=195900 By Chris Mannara
Staff Writer

During a regular meeting of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors on Jan. 16, the board discussed potential fee waivers for affordable housing developments and how to make up for potential lost revenue.
The majority of the discussion at the board meeting on Jan. 16 centered around a worksheet crafted by PAWSD District Manager Justin Ramsey.
In a follow-up interview on Jan. 21, Ramsey clarified more about what the fee waivers could mean for PAWSD.
Currently, PAWSD charges about $4,898.68 per equivalent unit (EU) for its water capital investment fee (CIF), according to the worksheet.
For its wastewater CIF, PAWSD charges $1,079.44 per EU.
PAWSD has 5,961 water connections, 3,382 wastewater connections, 7,837 water EUs and 4,581.5 wastewater EUs.
Within the worksheet, variables are also noted, and for potential affordable housing developments that would serve those making under 60 percent of the area median income (AMI), PAWSD would be willing to waive 100 percent of its CIF fees.
For developments that are 60 to 80 percent AMI, PAWSD would be willing to waive 50 percent of its CIF; for developments that are 81 to 100 percent AMI, PAWSD would only be willing to waive 25 percent of its CIF, according to the worksheet.
“An AMI is either a mortgage, or rent of $1,269. It gets more complicated than that. It depends on if you’re single, married, kids, all that stuff, but in general, that’s what it is,” Ramsey said.
PAWSD has not figured out who exactly will tell them what the AMI is, he noted.
“We’re not going to let the contractor tell us that,” he said. “If somebody comes in and they are going to build a home that’s less than 60 percent AMI, we’re not going to charge them a capital investment fee.”
Assumptions
Within the worksheet, it is noted that PAWSD will have 2 percent growth annually; this equates to about 157 water EUs, or $768,092.76, and 92 wastewater EUs, or $99,308.48.
“That’s where we came up with for our capital investment plan and it’s what we use for our rate study. So, it’s consistent with that rate study,” he said. “Based on 2 percent, we’re going to see 157 water EUs this coming year and 92 wastewater EUs, assuming 2 percent growth.”
Additionally, PAWSD assumes that, of those 157 EUs, 5 percent will be workforce housing that is less than 60 percent AMI, 8 percent will be 61 to 80 percent AMI, and 10 percent will be 81 to 100 percent AMI, Ramsey explained.
If there is 5 percent of workforce housing that is less than 60 percent AMI, that equates to eight EUs, which also equates to $39,189.44 that PAWSD could lose in water EUs, Ramsey explained.
Additionally, that would equate to five wastewater EUs, which equates to $5,397.20 that PAWSD could lose.
For units that are 61 to 80 percent AMI, it would be 12 water EUs and seven wastewater EUs, which means PAWSD could lose $29,392.08 and $3,778.04, respectively.
On developments that are 81 to 100 percent AMI, that equates to 16 water EUs and 10 wastewater EUs, respectively, which means PAWSD could lose $19,594.72 and $2,698.60.
“Everything is based off that rate study and that capital investment plan, which assumes you’re going to have that money,” he said.
Impact
Under the assumption that there will be 157 new homes built next year, and that 5 percent will be under 60 percent AMI, 8 percent will be 60 to 80 percent AMI and 10 percent AMI, PAWSD could lose $88,176.24 in water CIF and $11,873.84 in wastewater CIF, according to Ramsey.
“We’re going to make an assumption. We’re going to go out on a limb and say this is how many we’re going to get,” he said. “If there’s more, we lose more. If there’s less, we don’t lose that much.”
If everything goes according to PAWSD’s assumptions, PAWSD will have to make up about $100,000 in lost water and wastewater CIFs, Ramsey noted.
The way to make that up is to increase the remaining CIFs for all of the homes that are being built for over 100 percent AMI, Ramsey explained.
For homes above 100 percent AMI, water CIFs could go up $728.73, making the new water CIF $5,627.41, Ramsey explained.
This would be a 12.9 percent increase for the water CIF, he added.
For the wastewater CIF, homes over 100 percent AMI could see an increase of $169.63, making the new wastewater CIF $1,249.07.
This would be a 13.6 percent increase for wastewater CIF, he noted.
“If all that happens and all of our assumptions are correct, that we do get exactly 157 new homes built and 5 percent of those are less than 60, 8 percent of those are 60 to 80 and 10 percent are 81 to 100, PAWSD breaks even,” he said. “If it’s less than that, we’ll actually bring in more. If it’s more than that, we will lose some. But we’re assuming, over time, that’s what we’re going to average.”
These assumptions could be adjusted later, Ramsey explained later.
“The board represents the people. So, they have to make a decision on if it’s worth — every house that’s built out there that’s not affordable is now going to cost an extra $900,” Ramsey said. “Is the benefit of having affordable housing worth that additional cost to the public as a whole?”
Ramsey explained that this proposition will be a decision item for the PAWSD Board of Directors at its next board meeting on Feb. 13 at 5 p.m. at the district office, 100 Lyn Ave.

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Paden Bailey named Fall Player of the Year http://www.pagosasun.com/paden-bailey-named-fall-player-of-the-year-2/ Wed, 29 Jan 2020 12:00:18 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=195909

Photo courtesy
Stacey Barker
Pagosa Springs High School senior Paden Bailey was recently named an Intermountain League Fall Player of the Year for his work as part of the Pirate football team.

By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

Pagosa Springs High School’s Paden Bailey recently received the honor of being named one of the Intermountain League’s two fall players of the year.
Bailey, a senior, received the honor for his work on the gridiron this season, having helped his team to a 5-5 record, which included a perfect 4-0 league record, and a playoff appearance.
Bailey logged 14 touchdowns in the 2019 campaign.
He also logged 1,073 rushing yards on the season, averaging 6.2 yards per carry and 107.3 rushing yards per game, and notched 201 receiving yards.
“I’m happy for him. It’s a great honor,” Pirate football coach Myron Stretton said in an interview on Wednesday. “Obviously he was a huge part of our success. Offensively and defensively, and of course statistically. You look at his stats statewide in rushing, scoring, even total offense, I think.”
Bailey was also the leading punter in the state, Stretton indicated.
“I think he was top 10 in most offensive categories where he would receive some stats,” he said. “Just a huge contributor and a big part of our success and, more importantly, a great kid on top of that.”

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Historic Preservation Board seeking public input on future of Water Works building http://www.pagosasun.com/historic-preservation-board-seeking-public-input-on-future-of-water-works-building/ Wed, 29 Jan 2020 12:00:07 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=195993 By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

The Town of Pagosa Springs is seeking input on what should be done with the town’s only public historic site, the Water Works site near U.S. 160 and 1st Street.
To help determine the future use or uses of the site, the town’s Historic Preservation Board is slated to host a series of three design vision exercises to help garner ideas, with the first set for 5 to 7 p.m. on Feb. 5 in the Ross Aragon Community Center.
The design vision exercises are the next step in a planning and repurposing process for the site that dates back to 2016.
The site includes the historic Water Works building and tanks, as well as an older stone arch bridge known as the Rumbaugh Creek bridge, which have all seen restoration work in recent years thanks to grant funding received by the town.
“The Water Plant in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, was built in 1938 as one of the projects built under the auspices of the federal New Deal’s Works Progress Administration,” a historic assessment of the site notes. “The rustic stone building and its three associated water-settling tanks, which cost $4,630.00, provided domestic water to the residents of the town from the San Juan River.”
The assessment further explains that water flowed into the first settling tank, where dirt settled on the floor and clear water flowed over the gaps in the tops of the walls to the second and third tanks.
It continues to explain the water was pumped from the third tank through the Water Works building, to a pipeline to a water tower on the west side of town, where it was gravity-fed through pipes into homes and businesses.
It is unknown when the building stopped being used to treat water, though it is believed it was used until the 1960s, Senior Planner Cindy Schultz told The SUN.
“What should be done with the wall? Or the stone arch bridge? Or the structure? What would make your kids want to visit here? What do they want to see? What would make this a cool place to visit? This is your public historic site, help us make your wishes reality,” a town press release states.
The second of the design vision events is slated for the same time and place on Feb. 19, with the third following on March 4.
The press release notes the site is also slated to eventually host the Riverwalk trail connection from Cotton Hole to the River Center area east of the river.
“We hope you will attend and take part in creating this vision for this place that you will feel connected to and cherish into the future. Make history now,” the press release states.

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School district names new superintendent http://www.pagosasun.com/school-district-names-new-superintendent/ Wed, 29 Jan 2020 00:46:12 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=196246

Dr. Kym D. LeBlanc-Esparza

Following a special meeting on Tuesday evening, the Archuleta School District (ASD) Board of Education (BOE) announced that Dr. Kym D. LeBlanc-Esparza, current state director for Rocky Mountain Region AVID Center, Pueblo, will be the district’s new superintendent starting in July.

The four finalists for the position were LeBlanc-Esparza; current ASD assistant superintendent Laura E. Mijares; Dr. Thomas C. Heald, current interim superintendent of Aspen School District; and John W. Pandolfo, current superintendent, Barre Unified Union School District, Barre, Vt.

Those finalists were announced at a special meeting of the ASD board on Dec. 19, 2019.

LeBlanc-Esparza has been the state director  Western Division – AVID Center, Rocky Mountain Region, since January 2019, according to her resume.

Prior to that, she was the executive director of secondary education and career and technical education at Pueblo School District 60 in Pueblo, Colo. from  June 2018 until January 2019.

According to her resume, from June 2012 to June 2018 LeBlanc-Esparza was superintendent of Newberg School District, Newberg, Ore. 

The ASD board began its search for a new superintendent after current Superintendent Linda Reed announced her retirement in a letter to parents on June 2, 2019.

Reed noted in that letter to parents that the 2019-2020 school year would be her last with the district.

For more information, see this Thursday’s issue of The SUN.

 

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Youngsters make meatballs at Seeds of Learning http://www.pagosasun.com/youngsters-make-meatballs-at-seeds-of-learning/ Tue, 28 Jan 2020 12:00:12 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=195822 By Ursala Hudson
Special to The PREVIEW

After washing up and donning oversized plastic gloves, the 4-year-olds in the Seeds of Learning Ladybug classroom began forming the beginnings of their morning snack in the palms of their hands. Culinary chef, native Pagosan and Ladybug mother Nikki Macomber led the week’s cooking lesson on how to whip up authentic meatballs using a simple yet flavorful recipe straight from Italy.
Some of the playdough hobbyists masterfully rolled the mush into light, uniform balls, while others were satisfied with simply getting their patted meat onto the baking pan before it fell apart. They lined up the balls into the straightest rows they could manage and Macomber slid the pans in the school oven to bake — just long enough for a little play break before snack time.
After witnessing only the finest and freshest ingredients get grated, chopped, crumbled and folded in the big steel bowl — and skillfully baked by a credible mom — each child boldly tasted the warm creations as soon as they were plated in front of them. A couple boys speculated that they tasted an awful lot like blueberries, the majority recognized the fresh Parmesan flavor and everyone agreed that they were worth devouring to the last crumb.
On a regular basis, parents and community members visit the various classrooms at Seeds with unique lessons from their area of expertise. From art and music projects, to science and naturalism, the children are exposed to hands-on experiences that spark further inquiry and broaden their perspectives.
Seeds of Learning is a nonprofit, high-quality early child care and education center in Pagosa Springs. If you are interested in learning more about the center, please call 264-5513 or visit www.growingseeds.org for more information and a tour of the center.

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No fooling: Electric rates will increase April 1 http://www.pagosasun.com/no-fooling-electric-rates-will-increase-april-1-2/ Tue, 28 Jan 2020 12:00:12 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=195907 By Lonnie Tucker
Special to The SUN

To maintain and improve electricity infrastructure and to prepare for the future of the electric grid, the La Plata Electric Association (LPEA) Board of Directors approved new rate changes last week that will generate $3 million for the association. The new rates will go into effect April 1.
LPEA has not had a rate increase since 2016 and has been unable to keep up with inflation and the increasing cost of equipment and services that an electric supplier must provide to its members. For example, during the last year, LPEA experienced major outages caused by old and decaying infrastructure.
“Electricity is critical to maintaining our economy and our lives in the 21st century,” said Bob Lynch, LPEA’s board president. “We must continue to invest or we will fall behind in providing the excellent electrical service that LPEA members expect.”
LPEA’s base and energy charge for the General Service rate (residential and small commercial) will remain the same, but LPEA will be adding a new peak-power rate charge. This new peak-power rate charge will encourage LPEA members to monitor their energy use at periods when demand for electricity is highest — from 4 to 9 p.m. The new peak-power rate will be $1.50 per kilowatt and it is estimated that the average monthly bill will increase just $5 per month. The peak-power charge gives the members an ability to lower this increase through their choices of how and when they use electricity.
“As a board, we voted to add a peak-power rate to assist LPEA in meeting our 2020 financial obligations and increasing our cooperative’s safety and reliability,” Lynch said. “It also allows for our members to have more choices in controlling their bills, giving them the flexibility to manage their energy during peak-power pricing.”
LPEA’s peak-power rate will encourage members to understand their energy usage and make different choices of how and when they use electricity. To support our members in this effort, LPEA will be developing new programs and enhancing current tools to assist members in managing their daily usage. That information will be available to members by the end of March.
LPEA’s SmartHub application already allows members to see their usage hour by hour, allowing them to understand how they are using energy and make simple changes, like running your dishwasher or drying clothes outside the 4 to 9 p.m. peak hours.
“LPEA’s peak-power rate is important for the future as LPEA modernizes its electric grid which will include new technologies for controlling usage, and to accommodate things like battery storage systems, more alternative power sources and electric vehicles,” said Jessica Matlock, LPEA CEO.

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Fire board approves chief’s contract, discusses $50,000 donation http://www.pagosasun.com/fire-board-approves-chiefs-contract-discusses-50000-donation-2/ Mon, 27 Jan 2020 12:00:49 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=195905 By John Finefrock
Staff Writer

At its meeting on Jan. 14, the Pagosa Fire Protection District (PFPD) Board of Directors approved a new contract for its chief and discussed a $50,000 donation made to the district in memory of Electra Churchill, who passed away in a structure fire on Oct. 11.
PFPD Chief Randy Larson had been negotiating his contract for months and insisted that negotiations be made in the public portions of the PFPD board meetings instead of in private during executive session.
Larson requested that his contract include a stipulation that his health care be covered for about six months after he vacated his post, should he resign, and the PFPD board spent the last few months finding a way to address Larson’s request.
Larson explained in an interview Tuesday that he and the board came to a “compromise” in which the board passed a policy regarding paying out sick leave that now applies to all qualified PFPD employees.
The policy states that any full-time employee who has worked at the department for at least 10 years “will be eligible to receive a lump sum payment for their accrued sick time, not to exceed 240 hours (30 days)” according to PFPD’s policies manual.
Larson’s salary is now $96,305, about $3,000 more than what he earned previously.
PFPD staff noted this is a cost of living increase only and prior to this raise Larson received a performance-based pay increase in January 2019 for the first time since becoming fire chief.
Larson began his post as fire chief in 2016.
The contract does not specify a certain length of time for Larson’s employment, but can be terminated by him or the PFPD board upon 30 days written notice to the other party.
$50,000 donation
At the same meeting,Larson reported to the board that PFPD received a donation of $50,000 from Churchill’s family.
Larson reported that the donation would be used to buy a new fire prevention vehicle and that, with the family’s permission, PFPD will inscribe it with “In memory of Electra Churchill.”
Fred Phillips, Churchill’s life partner, submitted a statement to The SUN on Tuesday.
“I lost my best friend and the love of my life of 25 years,” Phillips wrote. “I was so proud when I heard my son Cassidy Phillips and [his] wife Carin Phillips had made a substantial donation to the Archuleta Fire Department. I am delighted that the fire department has considered buying a new fire truck and dedicating it to the honor of Electra Churchill. Electra was a special person and Pagosa Springs was absolutely her favorite place in the world. As for me, my recovery has been amazing and I look forward to getting back to Pagosa. I thank each and every one of you for the efforts you made to save Electra and for granting me the opportunity to live my life for her each and every day.”
Fred Phillips was seriously injured in the Oct. 11 fire.
The next PFPD Board of Directors meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 11 at Station 1, located at 191 N. Pagosa Blvd.

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January is Cervical Health Awareness Month: San Juan Basin Public health provides free screenings http://www.pagosasun.com/january-is-cervical-health-awareness-month-san-juan-basin-public-health-provides-free-screenings/ Mon, 27 Jan 2020 12:00:14 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=195833 By Claire Ninde
Special to The PREVIEW

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month and San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) encourages women ages 21-74 across Colorado to start the year by talking with their health care providers about scheduling a Pap test.
A Pap test is the first line of defense against cervical cancer. When cervical cancer is found early, more than 92 percent of women had a five-year survival rate.
Every year in the United States, approximately 13,170 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and about 4,250 women die of the disease. African American women and Latinas have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer and African American women have a higher cervical cancer death rate. SJBPH acknowledges that social, economic and environmental inequities result in adverse health outcomes and have a greater impact than individual choices. Reducing health disparities through systems change can help improve opportunities for all Coloradans.
SJBPH’s Women’s Wellness Connection (program provides free screenings for cervical and breast cancer for eligible women between ages 21-64 in Colorado. Breast exams, Pap tests and pelvic exams are included. Referrals for free mammograms are available for women who qualify.
To schedule an appointment for a well woman exam and for more information about the HPV series, call the SJBPH Sexual Health Clinic at 335-2015. More information about the clinic is at sjbpublichealth.org/sexualhealthclinic/.

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Working toward higher education affordability http://www.pagosasun.com/working-toward-higher-education-affordability/ Sun, 26 Jan 2020 12:00:27 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=195933 By Representative McLachlan
SUN Columnist

The Making Higher Education Attainable interim committee met this summer, where I learned that more students than ever are older. No longer the 18-year-old who just graduated high school, supported by parents, this growing sector is working full time, often has children and bills, and is pursuing college for a better life.
Higher education affordability is a huge issue, both in Colorado and across the country. Students who want to pursue a four-year degree face the prospect of mountains of debt and many students are deterred from this path altogether for financial reasons. A four-year degree isn’t — and doesn’t have to be — the right path for everyone, but we need to make it a viable path for those who want it
We have been holding joint hearings between the legislature and state departments for annual updates on the departments’ goals, progress toward them and any key initiatives. This is an important oversight function of the legislature to know what the departments are working on and ensure they’re staying on track.
As chair of the House Education Committee, I was particularly glad to hear from the Department of Higher Education and its focus on increasing affordability and improving student completion of their degree.
My first bill this year is College Credit for Work Experience (House Bill 1002). This bill is a bipartisan effort with my fellow Rep. Mark Baisley which we worked on throughout the summer and fall in the interim committee.
The goal of this bill is to give formal recognition for certain skills and knowledge gained from work-related experiences. This can help students avoid spending time and money on unnecessary prerequisite and foundational courses and expedite their path toward a degree, making their overall higher education journey shorter and more affordable. This also fits in with the efforts we’ve made over recent years to increase the availability and usage of concurrent enrollment courses and I’m excited to see how it helps Colorado students.
My second bill, Higher Education Student Emergency Assistance Grants (House Bill 1110), will also help students with higher education affordability by preventing disruptions and dropouts.
One of the key goals we’re striving toward as policymakers is increasing degree completion. Students make a large investment of money and time — frequently taking on a lot of debt — to obtain a higher education degree, in the hopes that their investment will pay off over time in the form of expanded career opportunities and (generally) higher-paying jobs.
But their plans can be derailed by many things, most frequently by unexpected financial hurdles. When students are unable to finish their degrees, they’re hit with a double whammy — they’ve built up significant debt but don’t have the payoff of the completed degree. It’s particularly heartbreaking when a relatively small, but still very real, financial hardship like a car breaking down causes a student to drop out when they’ve already spent substantially more than that in pursuit of their degree.
This bill, which I’m sponsoring with my colleague Rep. Tony Exum Sr., creates small emergency assistance grants to help students stay on track toward their degrees in the face of these types of challenges. This can make the difference between students completing their degrees on time, or at all, and improve affordability by decreasing overall time towards completion.
Finally, I am sponsoring one other bill on the topic of higher education that is of particular importance to our community. House Bill 1108 will expand the board of Fort Lewis College in order to ensure representation by Native Americans and our local Ute tribes. Representation matters; this legislation will help ensure the Native American community, which comprises more than 40 percent of the Fort Lewis College student body, has adequate seats at the table in decision-making at our beloved local institution.
Last year, we made great progress on this goal of improving affordability. We were able to hold tuition flat for Colorado students at our state universities — helping avoid additional financial burden for students and their families. We also passed a bill to increase oversight of student loan lenders operating in Colorado and helped parents plan for their kids’ futures by encouraging them to open college savings accounts when their children are born. It was exciting to see that the very first beneficiary of this program was born in neighboring Montrose — baby Jorge Esteban Herrera-Delgado, born just after midnight on New Year’s Day.
I’ll continue working on ways to invest in our future, expand opportunity and protect our Colorado way of life.

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