A worthy idea, serious questions

Former SUN editor Karl Isberg’s wisdom and concerns about the proposed recreation center are as valid today as they were when he wrote this editorial four months ago. 

There are times a good idea meets resistance, faces obstacles. The process for bringing such an idea to the next stage is generally difficult as details and options are worked out.

Poor ideas are expected to engender difficulties and to encounter serious resistance; frustrations and ill tempers result. The recent to-do over proposed Reservoir Hill amenities illustrates this.

A current proposal to build and operate a recreation center in town will no doubt produce frustrations as it moves on, but difficulties will not result from the nature of the proposal. Here we have an idea that, on the surface, is worthy. Who would not want the residents of the greater community to have access to a recreation facility, at a reasonable cost for use?

Where the situation will get difficult is in determining how a facility could be built with manageable debt, then operated in economically feasible fashion. Proponents and opponents will battle it out on relatively factual ground with regard to this issue. Proponents suggest construction could be funded with a bond issue; a one-cent hike in the sales tax, they say, would then be sufficient to handle bond debt, plus provide additional revenue for operation. Opponents note that sales tax revenue projections are dependent, in part, on the arrival of a Wal-Mart (construction of which has been postponed) and claim a facility will be in need of perpetual subsidy. The subsidy would rest on the shoulders of the residents of the town, though the center would be open to all.

We find another question beneath the surface of the discussion that is a speed bump in the process — one we are anxious to hear answered.

How can a municipal government (or voters in the municipality, for that matter) approve a new, major project, when other important infrastructure projects remain unfinished?

What about a resolution to the town sanitation district’s problem with its wastewater treatment plant?

What about an unfinished Town-to-Lakes Trail?

What about an unfinished River Walk system?

What about providing sidewalks, curbs and gutters where needed? What about street improvement and repair?

A one-cent hike in the sales tax could provide revenues to deal with these problems, could it not?

The Pagosa Springs sanitation district operates a wastewater treatment facility that violates standards during certain times of the year. Money was in hand to help fund construction of a new facility, with the prospect that, absent a solution, the state and EPA could act in harsh fashion, as was the case a number of years ago in Bayfield. The money and plans were abandoned when a deal was reached with PAWSD to construct a pipeline from town to the Vista plant. Bids came in on the pipeline and were higher than the original projected cost of construction of a new downtown facility. The specter of eminent domain reared its ugly head. The problem is not going away.

The Town-to-Lakes Trail is critically important in the evolution of the wider community. It has been on the board for quite a while now, with relatively little progress made. When will it be complete?

The River Walk system has been years in the making and remains incomplete.

There are neighborhoods within town limits that need infrastructure improvement.

Proponents (of the recreation center) accurately note that to wait is to pay more.

The same claim can be made concerning unfinished projects.

A new recreation center? In the near future?

If proponents take a bond issue proposal to the voters in town, questions must be answered; the quality of the sales job must equal that of the goal.   Karl Isberg