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A8 — The Pagosa Springs SUN — Thursday, August 8, 2013

Conflict n Continued from front

from the town’s current lagoon site to the Vista wastewater treatment facility owned by the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District. At the Tuesday night meeting, Graham was not allowed a spot on the agenda to argue his case. Instead, he was forced to use the public comment portion of the meeting, which has a three-minute limit. He began by reading a prepared statement: “There are a lot of snakes that live down Trujillo Road. Folks frequently have trouble differentiating between species. I was reminded of this as I was driving to town the other day, when I saw a big bull snake sunning itself on the pavement. “My family and I pulled over to look at it and take pictures. It was big; almost six feet long. As we were standing there a woman drove up to us at a really high rate of speed and stopped beside us. She said, ‘Wow! What’s that?’ “We told her it was a bull snake; we have a lot of them here, but they are a very necessary part of the ecosystem. We would have a lot more problems without their help. We went on to say that while they

may bite, it is a rarity, and they are not venomous, so you won’t die. “Without pause she said, ‘So you mean I shouldn’t run over it?’ “Things are not always what they seem, and occasionally go against the markings on the surface. Despite certain claims, I do not consider myself a rattlesnake, nor am I anyone’s pet. In fact, I believe I am owed an apology for some of the harsh words uttered in this room.” At this point, Graham paused and stared at former council member Mark Weiler, who was sitting at the table next to him. Weiler said nothing and continued to stare straight ahead. Graham was referring to comments that were made at the PSSGID’s July 18 meeting, where several members of the board characterized Graham as someone who would go back on his word and a handshake, and Weiler referred to Graham as a “pet rattlesnake.” “My family and I have been here for some time, doing what we do and trying to help where we can. I do not believe we deserve the lack of respect that has been shown to us thus far. We have never tried to hold the town ‘over the barrel.’ We believe that a lifetime of residence

in this community and the caliber of the situation should earn the neighborly professionalism of the decision makers and the powers that be. “The fact that the new pipeline plans reflect the line in the wrong spot, and with more lines than we initially agreed to, has prompted us to contact legal counsel, a move that we have resisted. We do not believe that town council or the sanitation board should reach for the attorney before effective dialogue has been had. The dialogue we have had with staff was rendered null when the drawings were finally produced and the errors displayed. “Again, I respectfully ask, please do not pursue the installation of this line as currently drawn. To do so would not be fair or just.” Before the meeting, Graham sent a nine-page letter to each board member, outlining what had happened so far and explaining his side of the story. “The process of easement acquisition for the new sewer pipeline has been the most frustrating, difficult, and demeaning experience as local citizens my wife and I have ever been through,” Graham’s letter began. “We are amazed by what has occurred and could never

cable and, after deciding to not tie it to his car, directed the woman to stand on a chair while he was holding the loop of the rope open. According to the report, Chavez stated if she did not die while hanging, he would beat her to death with a piece of wood. Allegedly, when the woman refused to place the rope around her

neck, Chavez began beating her with a tire iron. She also reported being beat with a sock full of rocks. Following the initial investigation, Chavez was located nearby in his car and was arrested on charges of attempted first-degree murder, second-degree aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and harassment.

capable hands, which is important to us at CASB.” “Our work together has taken our education message and story to state, national and international platforms,” DeVoti wrote, “and has put this community on the map regarding Colorado K-12 education. But don’t ask me if that’s so! Ask the commissioner of education, ask the Colorado Legacy Foundation, ask the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but most importantly, ask the students who have gone on into the world from a Pagosa Springs public school education. In 2011 The Colorado Association of School Boards recognized you as one of three ‘Boards of Distinction’ out of 178 in the state, and for good reason! With you, the district is in good hands.” DeVoti, whose background is in special education, helped establish the alternative high school at the Archuleta County Education Center, which he then directed for four years. Moving to the ASD, DeVoti served as principal at the interme-

diate school from 2001-2007 before being named superintendent. He then helped the district establish the Pirate Achievement Center, an in-district alternative education program serving high school students. The district also created FAMA: Fine Arts Magnet Academy, a pathway focused on arts education. “In addition to his school district work,” the CASB news release concluded, “DeVoti was appointed in 2012 by Colorado Education Commissioner Robert Hammond to the Global Education Leader’s Program (GELP), a six-member team collaborating globally to transform education. He has served on Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Education Leadership Council since 2011.” At the meeting, DeVoti recommended assistant superintendent Linda Reed as his replacement, and offered to remain in the district until the end of September to help with the transition.

a goal for the future. With the single rate structure, the base rate would increase exponentially. The directors decided that the fairest way to distribute the cost of running water and sanitation at present is through the three-tiered system. According to Renee Lewis, special project manager for PAWSD, “It’s how much money we need to run the place, then we have to decide how to charge everyone.” “I concur with what director Walsh said,” director Roy Vega explained. “We could go to a single tier, but right now I do not think that a single tier is beneficial for our ratepayers, especially the payers who are on a fixed income. I think the tiered structure is the better structure for the time being, so I will favor option five, as well.” “If we decide option five, when can we revisit?” asked director Burt Adams. “It’s at the board’s direction,” business manager Shellie Peterson said. “I mean, we can revisit it every year. Typically, you look at the cost to do so and you make that judgement. Has enough time gone by for your customers to absorb what you’ve already done and change their behavior to where the data makes any sense to revisit it?” “So, realistically, a couple of years?” Adams asked. “Two is pretty short,” Peterson said. “I was looking at it with Walsh and the one-tiered system,” Adams

said, “but the numbers indicate that at least for the next couple years to look at (option) five, and I reluctantly say that, but that is what the numbers show.” “I am also reluctant, but I will have to go along with that, as well. I really wanted to strive for a single tier, but circumstances say that we may just have to put that off for a little bit. People are used to the tiered structure,” said director Allan Bunch. “I’m OK with telling folks who own second homes here that it’s an expensive water system for you to use when you come two weeks a year,” Walsh said, “And I hope you come ten weeks and decide to move here, but the fact that you may pay a little more to me does not seem unfair rather than the folks who live and work and try to survive here so you can visit it and enjoy it.” The directors approved the motion to move forward and present the fifth option to Aranda for completion before it is submitted as a final report. At this time, the board has not formally said that this is the new rate structure. The next step in the rate study is to have Aranda draft the final presentation, including option five, and present it to the board. A vote will then take place to accept a rate study option, and changes in the rate structure will be implemented. Melissa.Stedman@pagosasun. com

Charges n Continued from front

ing them at her. After several failed attempts at lighting the woman on fire, the report states she was then told to go rinse off in the river. Following her rinsing off, the woman reported that Chavez struck her in the face, then got a rope and tied a knot. He then reportedly placed the rope over a

DeVoti n Continued from front

away from his two sons, who are currently either working for or going to school at Fort Lewis College in Durango. “As a district under your oversight we not only had the financial savvy to remain current with staff salaries,” the letter detailed, “bettering over 95% of Colorado, and keeping our quality educators from leaving, but our value of education increased programming in all subject areas. We were recognized as one of only several Innovation Districts in Colorado. When other districts cut opportunities, we added them.” “We are thrilled that Mark has agreed to join our team,” said CASB Executive Director Ken DeLay. “His strong track record as a leader in the Archuleta School District, as well as statewide, will greatly benefit our work with school boards and superintendents across Colorado. In addition, he leaves his district in a position of strength and in

PAWSD n Continued from front

use of 8,001 to 20,000 gallons. The third-tier rate charges users $11.30 per 1,000 gallons for water use over the 20,000 gallons. In this structure, the more water a household uses, the more that household pays. Option five increases the base rate for water service to $23.50 for every tier and retains the three-tier structure, while decreasing the addition charge for each tier to $4.22 for the first tier, $8.44 for the second tier and $10.60 for the third tier. With these base rates, there will be an allowance of 2,000 gallons of water per EU/per month before the user enters the tier structure. Users will not enter into tiers until they have surpassed the 2,000 gallons of water allowance. Under this plan, users will pay the base rate, regardless of water use and regardless of whether they are permanent residents or parttime residents. “Option five, providing two thousand gallons per EU to commercial property owners is, I think, it’s not my ideological favorite,” director Glenn Walsh explained, “But I think for the district and this economy and the people who try to live and work there who don’t just come visit here once or twice a year, well, I think it’s the fairest.” The PAWSD board had hoped to move away from the three-tiered system to a single-tiered rate structure, however, weren’t able to make that change at this time. It remains

have imagined the sequence of events which has brought us to our current situation.” The letter went on to describe promises made to him by Gregg Mayo, the engineer from PAWSD who is in charge of the pipeline construction project. These promises included moving the pipeline so it would be underneath an existing roadway, thereby minimizing the damage to Graham’s property caused by construction, and installing an additional lift station to allow Graham and his neighbors along Trujillo Road access to the new sewer system. Graham’s letter described how Mayo attempted to deceive him by claiming the easement agreement he was signing was only a rough draft and would not be filed with the county until a final agreement was worked out, including the relocation of the line and the additional lift station described above. However, claimed Graham, Mayo failed to mention these promises to the PSSGID board, failed to produce a final draft of the easement, crossed off the notes he and Graham had made on the document, and filed it with the county anyway, as if it were the final agreement. However, Graham’s wife, who is also a legal owner of the property, had not signed it, rendering it not legally binding. That’s when town manager David Mitchem got involved. Graham’s letter claims it was Mitchem who informed him it was too late to install the additional lift station or to include Graham and his neighbors in the system, but that other compensation could be worked out, such as waiving the plant investment fees for other properties Graham owns. However, when Mitchem presented the situation to the PSSGID board, he characterized Graham as backing out of his previous agreement and demanding six sewer taps as compensation. “I had to defend myself as though I had intentionally perpetrated a fraud, to snare unwitting staff in a boondoggle for personal, financial gain,” Graham wrote. “Again our goodwill was slighted.” At that meeting Graham verbally agreed to sign, and have his wife sign, a final easement agreement in exchange for six, free sewer taps. However, it took the town nearly six weeks to provide the new easement agreement which, as it turned out, did not include any of the concessions concerning the blasting used to create the ditch or any maps or plans to show where the pipeline would be placed. After more dispute between Graham and Mitchem, the final drawings were produced, and, to Graham’s dismay, they showed the pipeline in its original position, which would require the destruction of trees and the demolition of his garage. According to Graham, this controversy has nothing to do with financial compensation and everything to do with trying to protect his property from an overzealous

project engineer and town manager. “I am writing to each of you directly and personally hoping that the complete truth will be heard, without manipulation, and that effective dialogue may still ensue,” Graham’s letter stated. However, after the board returned from its executive session, it became obvious that Graham’s hope was fruitless and a court battle was looming. The board had moved into executive session to consult, via telephone, with town attorney Bob Cole, and after an hour reconvened the regular meeting, where four motions were immediately made without any summary of what had been discussed behind closed doors. “Based on our discussion and based on information received from legal counsel,” board member

Don Volger stated, “I would move that we direct staff, with assistance from legal counsel, to draft and send a letter to Mr. Graham advising him that all of the previous offers made to acquire an easement are currently removed from the table, and to also direct staff to discontinue any types of negotiations in this manner.” Board member Darrel Cotton seconded the motion and every council member but Schanzenbaker voted, “Yes”. Further motions were made in quick succession: to hire someone to assess the value of Graham’s property, to make one final offer to Graham for an easement in exchange for fair market value based on that assessment, and, if Graham refuses the final offer, to proceed with the eminent domain lawsuit.

Photo courtesy Barbara Draper

Hooo ... do you think you’re looking at? This Great Horned Owl was well disguised in a ponderosa pine in the Meadows subdivision, but his eyes gave him away.

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