Town, Chamber reach agreement on Visitor Center


Staff Writer

As fire season approaches, and fingers are crossed that the Fourth of July arrives before a fire ban dashes hopes of a municipal fireworks display, it seems the Town of Pagosa Springs may have finally put out one fire — the Visitor Center fiasco.

Town planner James Dickhoff read the title of Ordinance 812, “An ordinance of the Town of Pagosa Springs, authorizing the execution and delivery by the Town of Pagosa Springs of a lease purchase agreement between the town, as lessor, for the purposes of financing the acquisition of the Visitor’s Center property; authorizing officials of the town to take all actions necessary to carry out the transactions contemplated hereby and providing for related matters.”

While Dickhoff reported receiving an opinion earlier last week that the property is worth $330,000, there were very few changes from the Chamber of Commerce to the agreement reported last week.

Dickhoff went on to explain that the town’s insurance policy would be much less than what the Chamber has been paying, and the town would be exempt from paying property tax once it owns the property. In addition, the town’s building official, Zach Richardson, had completed a thorough inspection and had found no problems with the building.

While councilors Tracy Bunning and Kathie Lattin had no further comment on the lease agreement, when Chamber director Cindi Galabota stepped up to the microphone she also had no comment, but only asked that the Chamber be allowed to extend the lease-back part of the agreement on a month-to-month basis if it still had not found an alternative location within six months.

Mayor Don Volger agreed, and there were no further comments from the council or the public. When Lattin made the motion and Bunning seconded it, councilor John Egan asked if Galabota’s request should be added. Lattin suggested that could be dealt with later as part of the lease-back agreement. When Volger called for a vote, the ordinance passed unanimously.

According to the lease-purchase agreement drafted by town attorney Bob Cole and included in the agenda packet, the town will comply with Colorado TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) laws because it will not go into long-term debt. The rent the town pays to the Chamber will add up year after year and will be applied towards the purchase price of the building, but the town may, at any time, stop budgeting for the rent payment and let ownership of the property go back to the Chamber.

As to price, Cole’s agreement calls for a $90,000 down payment, that will also count as the rent payment for the first six months, and then payments of $9,073.46 on the first day of January and July until 2029, which amounts to a total purchase price of $300,000.

Additional terms of the contract include:

• The town is allowed to remodel and improve the building and property.

• There is no penalty if the town decides to pay off the building early.

• The Chamber can only terminate the agreement if the town defaults on the payment terms.

• The town will maintain the property and the structure.

• The town will pay the property taxes, insurance and utilities.

Based off the bills for last year, utilities will be $5,292 and the 1-800 phone line will be $1,200. If the town’s parks staff maintains the grounds, the streets department maintains the parking lot, and the facilities maintenance department takes care of the building itself, the estimated cost to the town will be $30,000 each year.

Dickhoff’s report goes on to explain that, while additional analysis is needed regarding costs associated with future remodeling of the Visitor Center building, town council had already approved spending $30,000 for remodeling when it was considering an agreement with the Pierce Mangurian Trust to rent a space in the former downtown City Market complex.

The bathrooms in the current Visitor Center building need to be upgraded and brought into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. In addition, Dickhoff suggested including $7,000 for a new Visitor Center sign.