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Here’s the game plan on the recreation center:
The facility will cost $28 million dollars in debt payments over 20 years. Or maybe $44.9 million in debt payments over 25 years.
The time to build is now: interest rates are historically low. Or maybe that interest rate will be 8.9 percent. (Greek government bonds were 6.96 percent at the close of February.)
The sales tax hike proposed will cover the annual debt payment. Or the forecasts are 25 percent high, and there will be a $500,000 annual deficit (equal to the entire Town Hall and Community Center budgets).
The proposed facility will require a $200,000 annual operating subsidy (equal to the existing Recreation Department budget), but only if it generates 250 percent more per capita revenue than the Cortez and Durango recreation centers. If not, that annual subsidy may be $600,000 (equal to total personnel costs for the Police Department).
The only clear aspect of this project is the comic confusion. It’s not clear the ballot was ever legally approved. No member of council — and none of the advocates in the audience — knew what the ballot meant. So they called their lawyer in Boulder and followed his lead.
He was wrong as well.
The day after passage, the investment bankers told everyone what they had just approved.
One thing is certain: The investment bankers like their plan -— including the potential 8.9 percent interest rate for a quarter century — very, very much.
Many things haven’t changed since this recreation center was first seriously proposed in 2006.
In 2006, 5,000 million-dollar homes, triple-decker condos and 6,000 square foot “cottages” were planned to circle the town of Pagosa Springs. All were going to pay recreation impact fees, and all were going to pay “voluntary” real estate transfer taxes. One million square feet of commercial space was proposed along Highway 84 to cater to the condos and “cottages”.
Eight years later: Not a single unit has been constructed. Not even a “cottage” the size of a cottage.
In 2006, sales tax revenue had been increasing by nearly 10% each year for more than a decade.
Eight years later: Sales tax revenues have not budged from 2006 levels. After eight years of inflation, our economy has shrunk by almost 25%.
The size of the recreation center — designed as the recreational center of a trail network connecting 7,000 homes — has not shrunk one square foot, however. It still features the Hilton lounge fireplaces, more meeting rooms and a multi-million dollar “lazy river” where expensive pumps relieve the kids of the effort of actually swimming.
Maybe I am a fathead, but just how do luxury fireplaces, meetings rooms, lazy rivers and latte cafes combat childhood obesity?
Still, advocates claim “It’s for the children.” They are clearly right here on two counts.
First, our kids and grandkids will be paying off this debt for 25 years.
And, second, the advocates of this silly and selfish plan sound like spoiled teenagers.