The Pueblo Chieftan

Letter: Supporting bad deals

How much in metro board-crafted bad deals should Pueblo West residents have to support? While splurging ahead with their May 6 ballot initiative, asking voters to approve a Pueblo West sale tax, board members ignore past bad deals that continue costing Pueblo West taxpayers millions of dollars.

There’s the SDS pipeline project. Last April, Pueblo West View guest columnist and metro board member Bill Vickers stated that when Pueblo West board members back then opted to join the Colorado Springs SDS project, they could have instead improved our river pump station at a cost of $4 million to $6 million; but they opted to join SDS, supposedly a less expensive alternative. Questioning the wisdom of that decision, Vickers said the cost now to Pueblo West residents is up to around $8 million. And going forward, a note in Pueblo West’s most recently released Comprehensive Annual Financial Report says, “At the present time, it is anticipated the District’s cost will range from $10 million to $17 million until completion of the project.”

Then, there’s the Pueblo County/Pueblo West intergovernmental roads agreement. To gain control over Pueblo West’s county-owned roads in behalf of local developers, the metro board negotiated a roads agreement with the county that provides only limited funding – a pass-through of around $1 million annually from state HUTF gas-tax money. But they got none of Pueblo County’s 30.750 property tax mill levy and none of its one percent in sales taxes – both collected in Pueblo West – that should be contributing toward district road maintenance. The metro district collects only 20.193 mills in Pueblo West property taxes to fund not just roads, but fire protection, parks and recreation and administration.

There’s also the intergovernmental agreement covering Pueblo County-owned Desert Hawk Golf Course. Financial reports show that Desert Hawk owes Pueblo West $4,229, 883 in loans, money borrowed to fund golf course operations and pay down Certificates of Participation, and in unpaid water bills. According to specific terms of that agreement, only “Upon the retirement of the Certificates of Participation and repayment of all loans …” (debts owed by Desert Hawk) is Pueblo West eligible for any golf course ownership interest.

In the face the recent $3,909,027 million bad-debt-write off of similar Desert Hawk loans by Pueblo County, metro board members nevertheless continue loaning Desert Hawk over $300,000 yearly. Who’ll repay Pueblo West and settle Desert Hawk’s debts, as the agreement specifically requires? As attested by Pueblo County’s write-off, it won’t be effectively bankrupt Desert Hawk. And when $4,624,736 in yet-unpaid Certificates of Participation is finally retired, Desert Hawk’s outstanding loans owed to Pueblo West will approach $8 million.

Rather than rectifying these costly bad deals, metro board members are asking voters for a sales tax bailout. That’s unacceptable. At minimum, they should either demand better terms from Pueblo County covering both roads and the golf course or terminate those offensively one-sided agreements. Send them that message by voting down their Pueblo West sales tax proposition. Vote NO!

Bill Clemens

Pueblo West

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