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Town tables decision on sale or lease or property to LPEA


On June 4, the Pagosa Springs Town Council tabled its decision on whether it will sell or lease a portion of town-owned property on Trujillo Road to La Plata Electric Association (LPEA) for the installation of its new substation. 

The property in question is located at 2140 County Road 500 and is the location of the Archuleta County-run transfer station and recycling center.

The town currently leases the property to the county for its operation of the transfer station, but town staff recently learned that the county “is planning on moving the transfer station to another location, likely within the next year,” states an agenda document on the matter.

The section of the property that LPEA is asking the town to convey is approximately 4.25 acres and is described as “an unused portion” of the property,” according to the document. 

At a May 7 meeting, Community Development Director James Dickhoff explained that the original plan was for the town to convey the property to the county and then the county would convey the small 4.25-acre section to LPEA for its substation. 

However, with the county’s stated plans to move its transfer station to another location, town staff was now “looking for guidance” on how to proceed with the property, Dickhoff noted.

At that meeting, Dickhoff explained that town staff needed to know how the council wanted to proceed with the property, with the council directing staff to bring it more information, such as an appraisal of the property, to a future meeting.

At the June 4 meeting, the council decided to go into an executive session to discuss some of the numbers and potential offers and choices for the property. 

When the meeting was opened back up to the public, a poll of the council, requested by Mayor Shari Pierce, revealed that three members favored the sale of the property and three favored a lease agreement. 

Council member Leonard Martinez stated his reason for favoring the sale of the property. 

“We need to have our coffers as strong as we possibly can because of what we are facing with water and sanitation, and, so, I think this is the first opportunity for doing that,” he said. 

But council member Mat deGraaf suggested that a lease is “a better direction” for the council to head, “because we don’t know what 20 years, 50 years looks like,” citing the potential for the property’s value to rise over the years. 

“I would just prefer that the town owns the property now, and I’d like to see it continue to own it,” he added. 

Council member Gary Williams also said, “I prefer a lease agreement,” adding, “We all want the substation to work …” 

Mayor Shari Pierce revealed, “I’m going for the lease option,” agreeing with deGraaf that, in the future, the land might “have greater value, so we can get even more money on top of the lease agreement that we make currently.” 

She added, “I don’t think that the property is gonna go down in value.” 

Dan Harms, representing LPEA at the meeting, explained that LPEA “can work with” either a lease or sale of the property. 

He told the council the substation wil be important for the region. 

“The substation in the area would not only provide redundancy, but also for future growth in the area,” he said. 

When a motion was made to enter into a lease agreement with LPEA, it was seconded and put to a roll-call vote, failing 3-3, with deGraaf, Williams and Pierce voting in favor, and Martinez and council members Matt DeGuise and Madeline Bergon voting against it. 

Council member Brooks Lindner was absent from the meeting. 

Explaining his vote, Martinez said, “I cannot continue to support things that do not show that we understand how to manage in a strategic environment, and so for that reason I think we need to put money away so we can start working on sanitation and water. This was an opportunity for doing that, and that’s why I supported the sale,” he said. 

After the original motion failed, another motion was made to table the decision until the July 2 meeting. 

“If we table it, then we need to explain why and what we expect staff to bring back to us,” Bergon said. 

deGraaf replied, “I feel like I have all the information that I need.”

Pierce added, “I don’t have anything that I’d ask staff to bring back that would change my mind.” 

The motion to table the decision until July 2 passed, with a roll-call vote showing Pierce and Bergon voting against the motion, citing a need for a decision at that meeting. 

“I just think we keep kicking this can down the road,” Pierce said, adding that the council already has all the information it needs about the property to make a decision. 

“I’m kinda disappointed about the way we handled the La Plata thing tonight. I don’t think this is a road we should go down — to push off decisions until we have certain council members here is absolutely not fair or right in my opinion, and I don’t think it’s the type of governance we should get into. I think if you want to be part of the decision, you should be here in some shape or form. We have Zoom available,” she said, adding, “I don’t think it makes us look good at all.”