Durango City Councilor Scott Graham delivered an early farewell address Tuesday night and asked councilors to follow through on three unresolved items.
Graham, whose term ends April 21, said he would like to see the next council press for the results of a soil analysis at the Holly Avenue landfill and put to rest neighbors' concerns with the progress of the northern extension of the Animas River Trail. He also wants to keep zebra mussels out of the future Lake Nighthorse or, failing that, keep the city out.
"What occurs to me before I head out the door is I think (if the city assumes management of recreation at the reservoir) we have to prepare for a mussel problem," he said.
Graham cautioned that if Durango's Parks and Recreation Department takes on management duties and motorized boat use is permitted, the problem of zebra mussels would become a city problem. The mollusks, which frequently are transported between bodies of water on the hulls of boats, are considered an invasive species.
He recommended city staff survey other municipalities to gauge the cost of mitigation because it has proven impossible to remove the mussels from a habitat once they appear.
If the cost of mitigating the invasive species is too high, "let's stay on our side of the river," Graham said.
The soil analysis of the landfill was last discussed in 2007, when alternate park sites to a regional facility in Grandview were being considered. The study, which included the Holly site, was estimated at $200,000. Graham said anecdotal evidence suggests there could be any number of health hazards - including medical and radioactive waste - buried at the uncapped landfill.
"There was a different level of the bar as to what they put in landfills 50 years ago," Graham said.
Cathy Metz, the city's director of Parks and Recreation, said Plateau Environmental Services conducted a soil analysis on the Holly site in 2000. She was not aware of a specific request for another study. Metz said only Councilor Michael Rendon requested a copy of the Plateau study when the council began discussing options for the lot's future.
Rendon said the report, for the most part, was "benign."
"I remember there being some medical waste. We knew that, and it probably means nothing, but it could be something," he said of the study. "I remember saying, when it comes up again, I'd bring it up, but it hasn't come up again. But I don't see that a kid's going to walk across the street there and get contaminated, either."
Metz said if the council requests a soil analysis, she would comply, but recommends waiting until Durango's Parks, Open Space and Trails master plan rewrite is completed in June. She said the former landfill could be capped or removed entirely, depending on what is decided by a citizen steering committee, hired consultant and City Council.
"The right time to take action is when we're going to move forward on development of the park," Metz said.
The final issue weighing on Graham's mind is the city's role in property negotiations for the planned trail extension north of town. Only a month has passed since Graham and other councilors unanimously celebrated an agreement with the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to acquire the right of way necessary to build the extension.
However, north Durango resident Mike Fenton protested the agreement at the council's March 3 meeting. Fenton said he and other nearby residents objected to the provision allowing D&SNG owner Al Harper to negotiate real estate transactions on behalf of the city.
After the meeting, city attorney David Smith drafted two amendments to the original agreement that the council will vote on April 7. Included in the process will be a public hearing, which Fenton said gives him and his neighbors a second chance to voice their objections.
While Fenton said he still has concerns with the agreement, he said Smith's response is a step in the right direction and Graham may get closure on the trail issue before he leaves office.
"The Animas River Trail agreement, as originally drafted, had some flaws. ... I believe these amendments will provide the accountability and oversight that was previously lacking," Fenton wrote in an e-mail. "Obviously, I wish that my neighbors and I would have had a chance to address the City Council prior to the trail agreement being signed, but the opportunity to speak on April 7th is better than nothing."