Rebuilding the wastewater treatment plant at Santa Rita Park, failing to prioritize projects and inadequate budgeting for maintenance costs were named as the biggest mistakes the city of Durango has made in the last five to eight years at a City Council candidates forum Thursday night.
Three City Council candidates – Kim Baxter, Barbara Noseworthy and Marcos Wisner – attended the forum held by the Boulevard Neighborhood Association at the First Presbyterian Church. About a dozen residents attended. Candidate Jamie McMillan did not attend. Two City Council seats will be filled in a mail-in election for City Council on April 2.
Baxter and Noseworthy agreed the biggest mistake the city has made in the last eight years was failing to move the wastewater treatment plant from Santa Rita Park instead of rebuilding the existing plant.
Santa Rita Park is such a valuable asset, Baxter said, that over time protecting the park would have paid for the increased cost of moving the entire plant.
Noseworthy added, “You have a sewage plant next to one of your greatest assets.”
Wisner said poorly prioritizing major projects, failing to account for maintenance costs and not focusing on long-term goals were the biggest failures over the past eight years.
Candidates were also asked to name the city’s biggest success over the past five to eight years.
Wisner said the ability to win grants to fund parks and recreation projects beyond what many cities of similar size are able to obtain was the city’s biggest success.
“That’s what brings people to Durango. They are our crown jewels,” Wisner said of the city’s park and recreational offerings.
Baxter said the city’s work to develop character districts that tweak regulations to fit existing neighborhoods was the city’s biggest success in recent years. “Character districts are a wonderful idea.”
Noseworthy cited the city’s partnership with Three Springs to develop attainable housing as the city’s greatest success.
“The city partnership with Three Springs is a good example of working together to address a housing inventory need,” she said.
All three candidates agreed the city has an obligation to work to address the homeless population in Durango, and all agreed other entities from La Plata County and nonprofits to faith-based communities need to work in partnership to address problems.
Noseworthy suggested the city can work to obtain grants and perhaps provide land for a shelter and work with other entities for management and operation.
Baxter said creating tent camps is a bad idea and added the city needs to work with partners to find better options for the homeless than what currently exist.
Wisner said the homeless population affects the well-being of all residents and puts pressure on sales taxes.
He also suggested building a permanent homeless shelter with partners.
“If you have a permanent shelter, you can begin to create transition programs that address the root causes of homelessness,” he said.