EDITORIAL: The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, Part Two

Read Part One

When I was a child growing up in the 1950s, my mother would occasionally bring out a large, illustrated book called “Mother Goose” and read aloud the confounding and confusing verses contained therein. Many of the rhymes contained unfamiliar words or phrases, and others simply sounded like nonsense to my five-year-old ears.

For example:

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.
She gave them some broth without any bread,
Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

No tricky words there, but a healthy dose of strange ideas. For one thing, in my childish experience, it wasn’t “old women” who had children, but “young women.” And the mothers I knew were loving and caring, and would never think to starve their own children, and then whip them for no good reason.

And… how on earth could a woman and her children live in a shoe?

My mother chose to read me those odd rhymes, though I cannot say why. I do know, however, that I listened attentively — and now as an adult, 60 years later, I can still repeat many of them from memory, once I hear the first line of the verse.

Of course, Mother Goose does not have a corner on confusing, nonsensical ideas. Any mature news reporter, in attendance at a public discussion about tax increases for government expansion, for example, is likely to walk away shaking his or her head.

It was exactly a year ago that I was writing about an Archuleta Board of County Commissioners meeting, where Commissioner Michael Whiting presented a summary of the several options for government expansion that had resulted from two years of BOCC deliberation, and from its expenditure of $100,000 in tax revenues. Mr. Whiting’s summary listed six facility options — proposed locations that might, with voter approval, provide a solution to a decision, 16 months earlier, to abandon the County’s existing downtown jail facility and compel County Sheriff Rich Valdez and his staff to begin daily transport of inmates to the La Plata County jail, 60 miles away.

The solutions were also meant to provide the Sheriff and the State Judicial Department with expanded facilities, during a period of Pagosa’s history when population growth appeared to be basically flat, and when young people and working class families were leaving the community.

Here are the potential government expansion possibilities presented a year ago:

Archuleta County “Courthouse Project”
Synopsis of Options

1. New Everything Under-One-Roof on Hot Springs = $34 million

2. New Sheriff, Detention, Courts on Hot Springs = $28 million  (Does not address Clerk, Assessor, Treasurer, Human Services)

3. Remodel Sheriff, Detention, Courts on San Juan Street = $21 million (Does not address Clerk, Assessor, Treasurer, Human Services)

4. Purchase/Remodel Parelli for Courts, Sheriff, New 20-Bed Detention (Exp to 50+) And Remodel San Juan Street for all Admin = $16 million ($13m + $3m)

5. Remodel Existing Detention (Safe/Secure) and Build Courts on San Juan Street = $12 million

6. Remodel Existing Detention, Courts, Sheriff, and Old Courthouse for (Safe/Secure) = $8 million (Roofs/HVAC/GEO/Elevator Rebuilt – Roofs Rebuilt/Surfaced $2m)

We didn’t know it yet, at that particular BOCC meeting last July, but Commissioners Clifford Lucero and Steve Wadley were prepared to choose the second-most-expensive of these six options: the “New Sheriff, Detention, Courts on Hot Springs.”  The $28 million option.

Archuleta County Commissioners meet with representatives of the state court system, June 12, 2016.

Archuleta County commissioners meet with representatives of the state court system, June 12, 2016.

That $28 million option was officially selected by Lucero and Wadley in September 2016.

Since then, Democrat Clifford Lucero has departed from the BOCC and been replaced by Republican Ronnie Maez… and the $28 million option has been replaced by what might turn out to be a $17 million proposal. Or maybe $15 million? A much smaller facility? And one that would not include any space for the Judicial Department?

What the public does not know, yet, is how big the shoe might be, nor how many children — starved and whipped — it would be able to accommodate.

Nor the final price of the shoe.

Commissioner Maez, at a meeting earlier this week, wanted to know why his fellow commissioner, Michael Whiting, had not openly questioned the $17 million price tag during a recent BOCC discussion.

Commissioner Maez:

“The size of the facility — working with Rich [Valdez] — it’s been presented to us, what, three times already, since I’ve been in office? And we’ve whittled it down each time. But right now, we’re looking at November [for a ballot issue,] correct?”

Commissioner Steve Wadley:

“Yes.”

Commissioner Whiting:

“I suppose we are.”

Maez:

“So we’ve cut this down, pretty much to its bare bones…”

Whiting:

“I’m not sure I agree.”

Maez:

“Yes, that’s what I’m understanding from you. But you didn’t say nothing about this [price tag] at the last presentation…”

Whiting:

“I’ve said it all along, from Day One, that this was too high a ticket price. When it was $28 million, it was too high. When it was $21 million, it was too high. Now it’s $17 million. Now we’re getting into the range. It’s still too high. We can make this tighter.”

Maez:

“I don’t really think we can make this any tighter, because then we’re compromising the security of things.”

Whiting:

“We heard that same statement when the cost was almost $30 million. ‘We can’t cut this, because this is the bare bones.’ Then we cut it. “We can’t cut this any further. We can’t possibly go below $21 million for a jail. You’d be compromising public safety.’ Well, now it’s $17 million that we can’t go below..

“Every time, someone said, ‘You can’t go below this number because some really important, critical thing is going to be cut…’ But we’ve already cut more than $9 million off the top of the project…

“I don’t care what the final design is. I care what the final cost is… Rich [Valdez] is the expert, and [consulting architects Bob Johnson and Brad Ash] are the experts, at making things fit. Our job is to say, ‘Can you make it fit under $15 million?’

“And they said, ‘Yes, we can do that.’”

Maez:

“I don’t remember them saying that.”

Whiting:

“They said it to me, twice. And this is where our fiscal responsibility comes in. Someone was talking about, should the judges each have their own private bathroom? I don’t care. If you can fit what you need under $15 million, or under whatever cap we decide on, do it.

“If you have to make compromises, do it.”

Read Part Three…

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Bill Hudson

Bill Hudson founded the Pagosa Daily Post in 2004 in hopes of making a decent living writing about local politics. The hope remains.