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I’ve attended several of the public meetings regarding the proposed recreation center and have heard opinions from the group who so vocally opposes the one-percent tax hike to fund the project. At the most recent public meeting on March 20th, sitting Archuleta County Commissioner Clifford Lucero spoke strongly against the rec center, with his reasons being that the Town of Pagosa should first spend money on fixing roads and building sidewalks and trails, and also that the poor kids in the community won’t be able to afford the new rec center fees. He also stated concern that the Town and the County weren’t working jointly on the project and that we should wait for a better time to build a rec center together.
While it would be fabulous to see the Town and County come together to build a community recreation center, there have been groups approaching leadership in both the Town and County for over a decade to do just that, but with no results to show for it. The response has always been that a recreation center would cost too much to build and is not sustainable. Several audience members at the meeting addressed Commissioner Lucero’s remarks by commenting that the county could have fixed roads and sidewalks by now but hasn’t.
The one-percent sales tax increase to fund a recreation center is what makes this ballot proposal different from past efforts. The sales tax increase will generate revenue to allow the Town of Pagosa to build the recreation center and have the funds to maintain it, even if our population never grows or sales tax revenue doesn’t increase from the past 25-year trend.
After years of hoping for a recreation center but hearing “we can’t afford it,” I am confident that the Town of Pagosa Springs would not bring the issue to the table for a vote unless it is something they thought was not only a valuable community amenity, but also a viable financial option. And after a lengthy grilling by the few opponents of the rec center at the March 20th meeting, there were no holes found in the soundness of the financial plan.
I stood and spoke at the meeting to rebut Commissioner Lucero’s comment about the poor kids who won’t be able to afford the recreation center. As a low-income single mother and 20-year resident with deep community ties, I am conscious of how and where I spend my money. A local recreation center would be far less costly to me than the drive to Durango’s rec center where the trip cost for the gas alone is $20. I’m willing to pay the extra penny-on-a-dollar to see a community recreation center built right here in our wonderful town, and I hope you are too.
Don’t be confused by opponents who say it’s too costly. The recreation center is affordable, it’s for all of us, and it’s long overdue. Please vote yes on the recreation center proposal. It’s worth every penny.