Conference center back on table

A local conference and events center is again being weighed as a future addition to downtown Durango. The Durango Business Improvement recently commissioned an update of the original feasibility study prepared in 2000. The mixed results are now in.

The 116-page update prepared by HVS International – which builds upon the 130-plus page original – reinforces the potential economic benefits of such a facility. However, constructing the 28,000-square-foot facility would come with a substantial price tag and would not be without risk.

According to HVS, such a mid-sized conference and events center would carry a construction cost of approximately $10 million. The report says such a structure would address the current lack of large banquet, meeting and conference space in the area. Potential users include local businesses, a growing residential population base in need of event facilities, local and regional government organizations, and state associations, according to the report.

HVS projects annual gross revenue of approximately $2.9 million coming from 435 varied events and 87,000 attendees annually once the center has stabilized financially. This would be a result of an estimated 435 varied events. In addition, the report envisions that a new facility would host 250 banquets, five civic events, 16 conferences, four conventions/ tradeshows, 150 meetings, and 10 “additional” events each year.

On the flip side, a conference center would need to be subsidized. The report anticipates operating expenses of approximately $3.1 million during a stable year and an annual loss of approximately $160,000. This cost would have to be absorbed by an increase in sales tax or a possible lodger’s tax.

The report argues that the loss could be counterbalanced by $2 million to $11.7 million in visitor-related spending and 50 to 270 new full and part-time jobs for the Durango area.

Regarding location of a potential center, HVS noted that a conference center’s ability to attract out-of-town groups depends greatly on the availability of adjacent or nearby hotel rooms, and the firm recommended that any such facility be built within close proximity to the DoubleTree Hotel or any new full-service hotel properties that may come on line.

To review the full conference center study update, visit, www.downtowndurango.org.

 

Immigrants get residency help

The sons and daughters of immigrants caught a break from the Colorado government recently. On Aug. 14, Colorado State Attorney General John Suthers clarified residency status of college students and opened the door to Coloradoans who are the children of undocumented parents.

State colleges and universities had been forced to apply differing residency standards concerning children of undocumented parents. This confusion prompted calls for a review of Colorado law, which resulted in the attorney general’s six-page opinion.

“Current state and federal law permits the state to grant in-state tuition to students who are U.S. citizens but whose parents or guardians are undocumented aliens,” the opinion stated.

In the past, Fort Lewis College’s policy to determine the residency status of a student, age 22 or younger, was to look at the residency status of their parents. After the opinion was published, Fort Lewis College immediately changed its policies to comply with the attorney general’s ruling, which will apply to a small handful of students.

Shirena Trujillo Long of Fort Lewis College’s El Centro de Muchos Colores is pleased that the attorney general has clarified the state’s position on the residency issue. “It will ultimately help with our recruitment and retention of Hispanic students on campus,” she said.

Fort Lewis College President Brad Bartel also supported the ruling, saying, “The ruling rightfully extends citizen privileges to this category of Coloradoans. We look forward to many attending Fort Lewis College.”

 

Utah spot claims darkest night skies

The darkest spot in the country is not far from Durango city limits, according to recent findings. The International Dark-Sky Association has found that America’s light pollution is actually the least just west of Blanding, on Utah’s Cedar Mesa.

Night sky is rapidly disappearing all over America, according to a recent story in the New Yorker. Even in mountain towns, the stars are not shining as bright and views of the Milky Way are disappearing because of additional artificial lighting and unshielded fixtures.

The article explains that a ranking of dark skies, called the Bortle Dark-Sky Scale, has been created. The darkest rating, a Class 1, is darkness like the one that existed across the world in Galileo’s times and today can be found only in such place as the Andes or the Australian outback. No Class 1 darkness currently exists anywhere in the lower 48 states. According to the Bortle Dark-Sky Scale, the sky above New York City itself is Class 9, and on this scale of 1 through 9, most American suburban skies are rated between 5 and 7. Even the very darkest places in the continental United States today are almost never darker than Class 2, and many of those are increasingly threatened.

The Utah desert in the vicinity of Bluff and Blanding is an exception. The International Dark-Sky Association, using a variety of measurements, has found that the darkest sky remaining is near Natural Bridges National Monument, a Class 2 rating.

 

West Nile arrives in La Plata County

The first confirmed human case of West Nile Virus arrived in La Plata County last week.  A 52-year-old male tested positive for the disease, and his symptoms included severe headaches, fever and chills, muscle aches and fatigue. Earlier in the week, the San Juan Basin Health Department also received confirmation that a mosquito pool tested positive for West Nile Virus – the first this year in La Plata County. The Environmental Division conducts regular testing of mosquito pools to monitor for West Nile Virus activity.

West Nile Virus has been active in Colorado again this year with 146 cases being reported throughout the state. Only California has reported more cases this season.

In previous years, human cases of West Nile Virus human cases reported through September and occasionally even into October. Therefore, the Health Department urges continuing preventative measures including reducing the environmental conditions where mosquitoes can hatch as well as protecting yourself and family against mosquito bites.

 

DHS launches anti-prejudice team

Durango High School is tackling racism head-on. The DHS Prejudice Elimination Action Team (PEAT) has invited all school club leaders to participate in the Anti-Defamation League’s “A World of Difference” peer training program on Sept. 19-20.

The two-day training will provide students the opportunity to examine their own biases, learn how bias turns to prejudice and discrimination, and learn how to present this information to peers. By engaging in the training, peer trainers learn how to respond effectively when they hear racial slurs, name-calling and put-downs in the hallways, lunchrooms and classrooms. The goal is to eliminate the stereotypes that lead to hate by teaching respect for humankind.

– compiled by Will Sands

 

In this week's issue...

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Reining it in

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Rolling retro

Vintage bikes get their day to shine with upcoming swap and sale