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On Tuesday, April 1, town council made a decision to table Ordinance 808, authorizing execution of a lease agreement for a new Visitor Center to be located in the former downtown City Market building complex.
Business leaders had come forward, advocating that what is best for our community is keeping the Visitor Center in its current location on Hot Springs Boulevard. Local businessman J.R. Ford said, “I … didn’t think anybody in their right mind would pull a community asset like that off the river.”
The SUN followed up the meeting with a survey that resulted in 80 percent of respondents agreeing that the Visitor Center should stay in its current location.
Tabling the decision on the ordinance gave our new leaders the opportunity to convene at the table and work together. We applauded the council for tabling the matter for the future council and mayor to revisit.
But that isn’t at all what happened.
Instead of the new leaders coming to the table, town manager David Mitchem, along with existing council members, sat down with the Chamber of Commerce to negotiate.
The new mayor wasn’t at the table. There wasn’t even a Town Tourism Committee representative present.
We implore the parties to slow down and take a look at what they could be doing to our town and its businesses and organizations. Step back and look at the whole picture.
There are numerous questions to be answered. The cost to the community could be much more than the obvious price difference.
We caution council and the Chamber to carefully weigh the true cost to the community.
Some business owners have indicated that without the Chamber’s involvement in the Visitor Center, they have no need to continue paying dues to be members.
In the interests of economic development, and with the lack of a functioning community development corporation, town council ought to ask themselves if they should go back to the drawing board and come up with an agreement to partner with the Chamber on running the Visitor Center so that this longtime business organization maintains its viability in our community. What would the true expense to our business community be without a thriving Chamber of Commerce?
The Visitor Center location that speaks best for our community is the current scenic location on the banks of the San Juan River, next to the hot baths, with the Riverwalk, Reservoir Hill, numerous festivals and activities and within view of the historic downtown — all of which convey the true ambience of Pagosa Springs.
Compromises must be made. Our leaders must remember that sometimes the cheapest option can cost the community the most.
The request to not move the Visitor Center may have been made on April Fool’s Day, but the matter is no joke and the players should take it very seriously.
Terri Lynn Oldham House