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CDC faces challenges

Staff Writer

The Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation is heading into 2013 without funding from either town or county government, with only a virtual presence and no physical office space, without an executive director, with an administrative assistant who is now only a part-time employee, and without a co-chairperson.

“The CDC’s operating expenses have not been funded by the town or the county,” CDC chairperson Muriel Eason admitted to the standing-room-only audience at the Quality Inn on Monday night, “but we aren’t going to consider this a reflection of our past accomplishments. I think we have earned respect, and we will do better as we go forward, but we need to think about doing things a little bit differently. I want to assure the community that the CDC is absolutely going to keep on going.”

Along with the agenda for the meeting, Eason handed out a copy of the CDC’s draft budget for 2013. Whereas the column for 2012 showed $75,000 worth of revenue from the Town of Pagosa Springs and $35,000 from Archuleta County, for 2013 there were only dashes on those two line items.

In fact, the only sources of income the CDC can bank on so far are $100 from interest, $1,000 from membership dues, and $30,000 from charitable contributions from individual and small business donors.

Eason introduced Rich Lindblad as the former executive director of the CDC, explained that his contract had been terminated as of Dec. 31, and asked him to give a summary of the CDC’s activities for 2012.

Lindblad began his remarks by saying, “I am going to thank Mark Weiler publicly, not only for his support as a member of the CDC, but, what many of you don’t know, is Mark contributed a fair amount of money to this board early in 2012 — twenty thousand dollars to be exact. He actually wrote a check out during one of our meetings. I think I was right in the middle of making a presentation, in fact.

“He also funded the ‘Positive about Pagosa’ radio show. For fifty-two weeks we had our own Community Development Corporation radio talk show, and many of you had the opportunity to not only hear what was being presented, but we made a special point of letting the community know what we were doing. We gave board members and community activists an opportunity to get on that show and talk about what was important. Thad McCain was our radio talk show host, and he did an absolutely incredible job.”

Later in the meeting, after Lindblad finished his summary of his accomplishments and Eason finished describing her plans for the future, CDC co-chair Mark Weiler said, “My ability to continue to commit the time I need to be on this board on a weekly basis, unfortunately, I don’t have that time any longer, so this is going to be my last meeting.”

However, Weiler expressed interest in continuing his involvement on a smaller scale and described a project he would be starting the next day in collaboration with the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District to help create infrastructure for the area east of town and south along U.S. 84.

“I think the future for us is bright,” Weiler explained. “We need to create an environment that is supportive of development, and identifies the impediments to development in our community, and I think this is some of the solid, basic work the CDC needs to do.”

Earlier in the meeting, Lindblad spent several minutes talking about what the CDC was like when he took over as the executive director, what he had done to improve the organization, and what projects the board is working on currently.

In the midst of describing his accomplishments over the past year, Lindblad said, “In order for this organization to be more effective, I requested at one point that they (the board) collectively resign. That was not one of my more fun days, but what I suggested was each board member consider resigning, and if they wanted to reapply they could do so.

“The intent was to reformulate the board, and what we now have is a board of directors I am really proud of. For the first time, we have a community focus team that truly represents the citizens of Pagosa Springs. We are a citizens’ group, not a government entity, and I make that point time and time again.”

The irony of the situation seemed to be lost on all of those present in the room. On the one hand, the audience appeared to appreciate that the CDC is a private corporation controlled by citizens and not influenced in any way by the government, but, on the other hand, many seemed to fault local government for not providing the organization with funding from taxpayer dollars in town and county coffers.

“I am embarrassed that an organization like this can go from $149,000 in funding to $31,000 in funding,” Ken Vickerstaff said as he stood up from his seat in the audience. “It’s unconscionable.

“Other than Michael Whiting, who is sitting here, I re-challenge our elected officials to review this budget. We need this help. We can’t do it by ourselves, initially. I call them out. I ask them to look at the facts and the results, and to step up to the plate and contribute, because there are too many silent individuals who give and give and give so that these types of things can happen.

“It takes a small movement to begin, but it takes a community effort, including our elected officials, to fund these organizations. It happens in every single community in Colorado today except for Pagosa Springs. Enough. We need help.”

“The problem that we have,” Weiler said, “is government needs to lead. There is an absence of leadership in government on a variety of levels in our country. They want to do what’s right. They want to do what’s good for the community. They just don’t realize all of the things that are, and they get locked up in something.”

“To reduce our operational cash flow requirements,” Eason explained once Lindblad finished his summary of his tenure, “we will discontinue a few things. Unfortunately, one of those things is Rich Lindblad’s service as executive director. His contract was terminated on Dec. 31. We really wish him well and wish him time to go fishing or whatever he likes to do to relax.”

Eason also explained that in order to cut expenses even further the administrative assistant, Karen Kohake, will have her hours cut in half and the CDC will vacate the office space it shares in the Chamber of Commerce’s uptown Visitor Center in the Country Center.

“We have talked about becoming a broker for business advising services here,” board member Jason Cox explained. “We’re not dropping our phone line, so we will still have the number. We primarily manage it through voicemail, anyway, today.

“The website we are going to get on and develop the way we want it. Basically, we will provide the ability to come in, for anyone who has a problem, ask us, and we will find the resources they need. And it could be Rich. Rich has valuable knowledge of all of these things.

“It just won’t be structured the same way. Before, it was a service-on-demand thing. Now there is more of a monetary cost associated with consulting services, but those services will not go away. We’ll just have to source them a little differently.”

“We’re going to diversify our funding sources,” Eason also promised. “The fact that we have been totally dependent on government funding is really a sad statement about where we are, so we’ve got a whole bunch of ideas about where we can look for funding, but it’s just going to take some time to develop them.

“We’re going to look for grants, donations, and low-cost loans,” Eason continued. “For the City Market acquisition and redevelopment, and other projects, we will request project-specific funding from the town and county, because we have heard there is a willingness to consider projects that they could put money behind. They aren’t interested so much in funding our operational expenses, but they would do projects they thought were important.”

“I did sit down individually with each member of our town council,” CDC board member Udgar Parsons claimed, “and asked them, if the City Market Project was donated to the CDC, would they be willing to give funding towards that particular project, even though they were not funding the CDC, and even though the mayor and the CDC don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye, and they said, ‘If you bring us a realistic plan with some realistic funding figures, we will absolutely support funding the City Market Project.’”

“Yes, that is true,” Mayor Ross Aragon confirmed in a later phone interview. “We didn’t go into any amount, but we did say that we would support that, or at least that I would. I did say that. We didn’t go into detail on how much or what I would support, but I would support them monetarily if they did acquire the building.”

In an attempt to follow proper board procedures, at the conclusion of the CDC meeting, Cox asked Weiler to confirm for the record that he made a motion for the board to accept his resignation. When Weiler affirmed that motion, Cox seconded it, but then quickly added a request to Weiler and Vickerstaff.

“We’ve been talking for a while about having a board of advisors,” Cox said. “The board of advisors versus the board of directors is a lower energy role. It’s not as committed from a time perspective, but it still takes and leverages the expertise we have with all of the business leaders in this community. Essentially, we are looking for projects like what Ken has been doing with City Market or what Mark is proposing as a regional task force for developing infrastructure on the east end of town.”

Cox then made a motion to create a board of advisors and appoint Weiler and Vickerstaff as founding members of that board.

“You might want to ask them,” Parsons suggested, and everyone laughed.

Weiler nodded his assent, and Vickerstaff said, “I would love to work with Mr. Weiler.”

ed.fincher@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on January 10, 2013.