Students have a champ in Sheldon

To the editor,

I urge you to vote for Matthew Sheldon for the 9-R School Board.  For the past seven years, I have been an educator in New Mexico and Colorado. I have worked in reservation schools, traditional public schools, and charters, and in every context, people in our education system are looking to assign blame. They look to blame teachers, unions, students, parents and anyone else involved in education. Instead of assigning blame, however, Matt will provide leadership.

I met Matt on the Colorado College cross country team, where he was a captain. He set an example for our team by working incredibly hard through setbacks and injuries to eventually lead our team to the National Championship meet. He will bring the same work ethic and determination to his work on the school board.

Beyond the need for leadership, our school system also requires some very real policy changes.  Matt’s focus on equity sets him apart. In La Plata County, like in the rest of the country, the single greatest predictor of a child’s success in school is how much money his or her parents make. Matt will stand up for students from low-income backgrounds, students with special needs, and others who are falling through the cracks. 

The students of District 9-R deserve a leader like Matthew Sheldon.

– Jesse Heaton, Durango

Stahnke’s qualifications are many

To the editor,

I was dismayed reading the Durango Herald school board endorsements. The one short paragraph describing Brie Stahnke did her a disservice given her accomplishments and qualifications. Her opponent received an extensive and positive review. 

I have worked with Brie for over two years on a number of projects. I find her to be thoughtful, analytical and most importantly, compassionate about people and her community.  I follow her actions on the school board, and she brings a vital business and private sector viewpoint. Brie is neither a politician nor a political want-to-be. 

She appropriately sees her role as a policy maker. Brie is passionate about the school system preparing children for the future, and she has a vested interest given her two children. 

I want someone on the board who understands the private sector world that children will eventually end up working in, and I want someone who can bring their business experience to a board that will increasingly have to deal with difficult decisions. I cannot vote for someone because they are a nice person, have political experience and want  to communicate with the community.

Brie is best qualified given her background in business, community organizations and her experience as a Board of Education member with an critical perspective.

– Michael Todt, Durango

Sewer bond right thing to do

To the editor,

When thinking about the opposition to the sewer plant at Santa Rita Park by people who have not been involved in the remarkably complex and detailed analysis of options, I am reminded of Benghazi Committee Chair Rep. Trey Gowdy’s comments to his GOP colleagues: “Shut up talking about things that you don’t know anything about. And unless you’re on the committee, you have no idea what we’ve done, why we’ve done it, and what new facts we have.”

The recent letter from John Ballew, chair of the City’s Utilities Commission, is more diplomatic and to the point. An upgrade at Santa Rita is the most environmental, economical and socially acceptable action. As Ballew stated, the land is already disturbed and current equipment can be re-used. Any environmentalist knows that re-use is an important tenet. Any new site would disturb undeveloped land and would not avoid having to leave some of the infrastructure at the current plant at Santa Rita.

When I first started learning about this issue, I was opposed to keeping it at Santa Rita Park for the same reasons. Who wants a sewer plant adjacent to our river park?! Slowly I came to appreciate that there are no suitable alternative sites, the odor can be mitigated with new technology, and the landscaping and buildings dramatically improved. Two consultants have told the City as much.

Cundiff Park is not an option. That site would require the City to return $1 milloin in GOCO funds for the BMX park, ask voters to re-purpose a park to other uses (an unprecedented move), and guaratee a lawsuit from homeowners at Rivergate who have just weathered a difficult construction debacle of their own. There is no visual solution to mitigate their concerns. And then, the engineering would require several river crossings with 6-foot culverts and require sewer pipes to travel a mile down river. What is environmental about that? It leaves us vulnerable to another river impact. 

Then there is the cost opponents dispute. Again, they have not been at the table and they are not listening. The City is requesting authority to borrow $68 million. because that is what it is estimated to cost to rebuild at Santa Rita. Anything else would cost a minimum of an additional $20 million. If it doesn’t end up costing $68 million, the City won’t borrow that much and maybe our sewer rates won’t go up again in the future or, who knows, maybe they could go down. From a business perspective it is much worse to not have access to enough capital than to have the capital and not use it. If we don’t approve the City borrowing funds, they may have to raise sewer rates again which unfairly affects lower-income residents.

When I asked one of the opponents what they want to see at Santa Rita that is not already provided by that sizable park and other city parks, they vaguely said, “it’s the future potential.” The City recently announced possible plans to turn the Mason Center into a park. Marc Katz has donated Ewing Mesa for planned public purposes. We have access to additional open space that Santa Rita Park does not need to provide, and certainly not at $2 million/acre. That makes no financial sense.

Supporting 2B is the most environmentally, economically and socially acceptable thing to do. Please vote YES on 2B! Thank you.

– Ellen R. Stein, Durango

No ‘affordable’ alternative

To the editor,

Opponents of Question 2B assert that there is an “affordable” alternative to Santa Rita Park for Durango’s wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). As City Council liaison to the Utilities Commission, I am writing to assure the public that there is not.

The City commissioned detailed evaluation of plants at four sites. The estimated cost for renovation of the Santa Rita plant is $58 million; for the other sites, the costs would be larger by $19 million to $36 million. The allegation that these estimates were “cooked” to justify a predetermined outcome insults the integrity of City staff and that of the consulting engineer, Mulhern MRE.

Opponents tout Cundiff Park as an alternative, ignoring multiple deficiencies of this site. Figures in the consultant’s report imply that Cundiff would cost roughly $15 million (about 25 percent) more than Santa Rita. Reducing the size of the plant to meet only immediate needs would impact all the estimates only at the 10 percent level and bequeath even greater costs to future rate payers.

To maintain and upgrade infrastructure under the current plan, minimum monthly residential sewer bills rose from $7.82 in 2012 to $27.95 today. For Santa Rita, this will increase to $45 by 2019; for any alternative site it would be at least $62. Average users pay 26 percent more than the minimum; businesses 3.8 times more.

While many vocal citizens would readily pay the higher bills, many others who already struggle financially could not (e.g., more than one-third of families with children in Durango schools). None of the 2B opponents – including the Durango Herald – has even acknowledged this. 

After due diligence and long deliberation, the City Council concluded that there is no suitable alternative site to Santa Rita.  One of the reasons is the urgency of upgrading the WWTP to meet new permitting standards that will apply in 2018. Without debt funding authorized by Question 2B, initiating the needed improvements would require additional steep rate increases – placing especially heavy burdens on our neighbors who can least afford them.

Vote YES on 2B.

– Dick White, Durango




In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows