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Documents reveal potential Running Iron Ranch lease violations


Archuleta County accounts payable registries from March 2024 and December 2023 reveal that Weber Sand and Gravel sold the county a total of $4,650.50 in shot rock and road gravel, a potential violation of the Webers’ lease on Running Iron Ranch.

The December accounts payable indicate the county purchased $1,489.50 in “road gravel,” while the March accounts payable state that the county bought an additional $3,164 in “shot rock.”

Weber Sand and Gravel is located on Running Iron Ranch, which is owned by the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) and the San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD), and its registered agent is Donald Andrew “Andy” Weber, according to Colorado secretary of state’s website.

According to communications from PAWSD staff, these sales of gravel to the county may be in violation of the lease for Running Iron Ranch held by the Weber family.

PAWSD Business Manager Aaron Burns states in a communication that the 2023 lease on the property did not allow sales of gravel, rocks and dirt to entities other than PAWSD and A and M Construction, a construction company for whom Weber is also the registered agent, according to the Colorado secretary of state’s website.

Burns indicates that a 2024 lease has not been finalized, meaning that only reclamation activities can take place at the ranch.

PAWSD Programs Manager Renee Lewis adds in a communication that PAWSD would have to consult its attorney to determine if the sales constitute a lease violation.

SJWCD president Candace Jones comments in a communication, noting that she was speaking from her expertise as a lawyer and not for the board, “The lease extension signed for 2023 included specific limits on the scope of extracting and selling gravel from Running Iron Ranch. There was a limit on the amount of gravel to be extracted and the permitted buyer. If the Webers mined or sold gravel outside those parameters, they would have violated the lease.

“The next logical question would be whether or not either PAWSD or SJWCD would take some action to hold the Webers to account for any violation. Reacting to a breach entails some assessment of damage,” Jones adds, noting that the district would have to have further information to make this assessment.

In an interview, County Manager Derek Woodman stated that the county purchased gravel extensively from Weber Sand and Gravel on an “as-available” basis when the gravel pit was previously open to the public.

He indicated that the materials the county purchased from the Webers were all used as fill and base materials for the North Pagosa Boulevard culvert reconstruction project that began in November 2023 and continued in the spring of 2024.

Woodman added that, to his understanding, the purchases occurred when county Public Works Director Michael Torres reached out to Weber Sand and Gravel to look for the rock products needed for the project and the Webers had them available.

He added that the products the county obtained from the Webers are specialty materials for the specific work being done on North Pagosa Boulevard and that the county does not have any currently planned projects that would utilize such materials.

An extended lease for the Webers to continue agricultural activities and gravel mining on Running Iron Ranch was approved by the SJWCD Board of Directors on Dec. 14, 2022, and the PAWSD Board of Directors on Dec. 15, 2022.

According to the lease agreement, this lease ran from Jan. 4, 2023, to Jan. 3, 2024, and included a provision that the gravel sales by the Webers would only be made to PAWSD and to A and M Construction, which was contracted to perform excavation work at PAWSD’s Snowball water treatment plant expansion project, for which PAWSD was also purchasing gravel.

At the Dec. 14, 2023, PAWSD board meeting, Weber presented a proposal to the board for another lease extension for 2024 that would allow Weber Sand and Gravel to sell gravel and rock on the property to entities besides PAWSD and PAWSD contractors in exchange for PAWSD being paid royalties for the gravel sold.

After hearing public comment from neighbors of the Running Iron Ranch opposing the extension, the PAWSD board voted unanimously to enter into negotiations with the Webers concerning a lease extension.

However, conflicts arose when the SJWCD board took a stance opposing the extension of the gravel mining lease, citing concerns about the extension’s potential impact on the SJWCD’s reservoir project on the site.

This opposition led to an exchange of letters between the SJWCD and PAWSD boards in January and March, which was followed by the SJWCD board discussing potential negotiations with the PAWSD board and its newly formed Running Iron Ranch subcommittee concerning the lease at its March 18 meeting.

Burns states that the renewal of both mining and grazing leases for the Webers at Running Iron Ranch are “on hold after receiving the letter from SJWCD expressing their opposition to the renewal of the mining lease.”

He notes that the SJWCD did not oppose extending the grazing lease, but that execution of this lease was delayed due to the ongoing negotiations between the parties.

“The 2023 lease has expired and there is no arrangement for residing or operating on the property other than reclamation work that would be ongoing,” he adds.

Lewis adds that the reclamation work does not include the sale of gravel to entities besides PAWSD or contractors for the district.

PAWSD Engineer/Manager Justin Ramsey indicates in a communication that Archuleta County is not a contractor for PAWSD, either on the Snowball expansion project or any other district project.

Lewis also indicates that PAWSD has not been informed of or authorized any sales of gravel to outside entities during the period covered by the county purchases.

PAWSD board chairman Jim Smith indicated in an interview that he was not notified of any sales to the county.

Jones states in a communication that she was also not informed of gravel sales to the county in 2024 and that she was not aware of any other SJWCD board members being told of these sales.

“During 2023, I was aware only of the sales to PAWSD permitted by the lease extension,” she adds.

Former SJWCD board member and president Al Pfister states in a communication, “I was not informed of any sale of gravel to Archuleta County by Weber Sand and Gravel. To the best of my knowledge, no one else on the Board approved of such sales.”

Weber Sand and Gravel did not respond to a request for comments on the sales.