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Dear Editor:

Last week, five town council members made a decision to scrap a largely successful Visitor Center operation run by the Chamber of Commerce for the past 25 years.

Council is betting on an unsupported claim that the Visitor Center can be run cheaper and more effectively by the TTC. That is definitely worth looking into, but I have reviewed every document provided on the subject so far, and I have still not yet seen a coherent argument, business plan, or proposal that warrants radically changing the management or funding of the Visitors Center. The Visitor Center may well need a tuneup, but it ain’t broken.

Council’s decision was premised entirely on a four-page thumbnail sketch, with no handle on the costs, and no track record or experience running a visitors center. They also have no location because the Visitor Center is owned by the Chamber, not the town. The decision was made with none of the most basic, bottom line questions answered. It also relied on wild assumptions about county funding, but ignored county input.

This BoCC is building a different leadership culture than that. Our decisions on spending are based on complete proposals, firm numbers, measurable outcomes, and meaningful public input. These are things you need in advance to make a decision, not after the fact to justify one.

The county provides half of the Lodgers Tax to operate the current Visitor Center. Council surely must have known that their decision would put the BoCC in a very tough spot, forcing us to support their move, regardless of the quality of the plan, or risk having no Visitor Center at all.

If this was an honest look at how well we are spending the Lodger’s Tax, then the town would start (as we have) by looking at how it’s all being spent, or by asking why we have spent only 20 percent of the $2.7 million raised in the past four years on “External marketing,” which was the original central purpose for the tax.

We (I) have an obligation to question any and all town council decisions or actions that affect the county, and to remind them of our expectation of a higher standard of due diligence, transparency and accountability with tax dollars than this decision demonstrates.

Michael Whiting

Editor’s note: The Visitor Center building is owned by the Chamber of Commerce. The land beneath the center is owned by the Town of Pagosa Springs.

This story was posted on October 3, 2013.