EDITORIAL: Reorganizing the PSCDC, Part One
Bill Hudson | 5/7/12
An interesting item appears on the Pagosa Springs Community Development Council agenda for today’s board meeting — Monday, May 7, at 3pm at the Pagosa Lodge:

1. Proposal for Reorganizing the PSCDC Board

The PSCDC has been a controversial organization from its founding, and it appears that this item on today's meeting might be an attempt to address that controversy.

Back in February 2010, the Town Council and the Archuleta County commissioners sat around a table, discussing possible ways to reorganize the floundering Archuleta Economic Development Association (AEDA) — a group that had made some minor contributions to our county’s economic situation in the past, but was now dealing with declining business memberships, and a vanishing budget.  The two government boards — two organizations in Pagosa whose budgets had sustained, as yet, only minor damage from a sharp decline in our real estate and construction industries — were discussing the salary for a future executive director for a future “economic development” corporation. 

Commissioner John Ranson had just tossed out a salary figure, for discussion purposes:


“That’s just a number I included for discussion.  But if you look at that $90,000 for 2010, that number has got to come down by the time we hire somebody, because we’ll be funding the position for only half a year.”

Former AEDA director Bart Mitchell, who had resigned in 2009, had originally been a part time employee and had been paid about $27,000, I believe.  Later, Mitchell was hired as a full-time executive director and was paid $55,000 a year.  Following Mitchell’s resignation, the AEDA approached the Town and County for financial help, asking for substantial funding increases from our two local governments.  In exchange for substantial funding, the AEDA leaders were willing to share the leadership of this new “Economic Development” entity with the Town and County.

That agreement, it seems, has brought about its own difficulties.

Sitting around the table at that February 2010 joint meeting were most of the County and Town leadership — with a full agenda of ongoing and possible future Town and County collaborations to discuss. The AEDA collaboration seemed to fit into the “possible future” category during the work session — dependent upon whether the business community as a whole agreed to support the re-organized organization.

Included in the group was Town manager David Mitchem, whom the Town Council had hired based largely upon Mitchem’s previous success as the executive director of the Castle Rock [Colorado] Economic Development Council.  Mitchem had spent three years at the helm of that organization.  As such, Mitchem might have been a fine choice for a new AEDA head, had the Town not snatched him up already — at a salary somewhat higher than $90,000 a year. 

During his year at the helm of the Town government, Mitchem had been instrumental in reducing fees to developers and in doing his best to make Pagosa Springs appear “business-friendly” to potential new businesses — although to date, that hard work had yet to bear any noticeable fruit. Mitchem had been somewhat less effective, however, in helping keep existing businesses alive.  In the past year, the number of empty stores and commercial spaces in downtown had only increased — as they had in the uptown and Highway 160 corridor areas as well.

Now the Town and County were sitting around the table, discussing the idea of hiring — between them — yet another “economic development” expert to head a re-organized AEDA.  I found myself wondering: how many economic development gurus do we really need to hire for this little rural town?

Commissioner Ranson suggested that the new economic development director would need “support staff” in order to “accomplish what we are going to be asking this person to do.”  (Ultimately, that "support staff" turned out to be Ranson's daughter, Alysha Lister.)

The proposed members for the new corporation’s initial board of directors included commissioner Ranson, mayor Ross Aragon, Education Center executive director Don Goodwin, businessman Bob Scott, and LPEA supervisor Mike Alley.  (Of those original members, only mayor Aragon still remains on the board as of May 2012.)

The County agreed to come up with a total of $30,000 in subsidies, explained commissioner Clifford Lucero, who said the County would also be contributing “staff support” to the future organization. 

The Town offered to fund the new organization to the tune of $50,000.

The number that remained most vague, back in February 2010 was the contribution from the business community.  I found myself wondering: if I were a business owner, would I really want — in this economy — to contribute generously to a new organization offering special services to new businesses, so they can relocate here and compete with my own struggling, existing business?

On the other hand, I could recognize that a rising tide floats all ships — and the professed goal of the new organization was to help pull in that rising tide. 

But somehow, I had a got a picture in my mind, of a bunch of cowboys standing on the shore of the ocean, swinging their lariats above their heads and getting ready to pull in the rising tide...

Read Part Two...

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