by Larry Patrick
WALSENBURG- On a 6-3 vote Tuesday night, the Walsenburg City Council voted not to open the Walsenburg Wild Waters this summer.
The finance and parks and recreation committees, each made up of all 9 city council members, had met Monday night to hammer out whether to open the Walsenburg Wild Waters this season.
Emotions went back & forth with various council members expressing optimism or doubt and then seeing the others sway back & forth on the issue. The water park has been leaking lots of money the past two years. With the City’s serious financial problems, arguments ranged from whether the City could withstand any losses from the water park this year or whether they could open for 4 days per week to hold losses down to a minimum.
Councilman Jim Moore expressed concerns that the City of Walsenburg just cannot sustain any additional losses saying, “We don’t have cash or anyone to manage cash flow, and no one knows what impact the weather will have on operations.”
Mayor Bruce Quintana emphatically stated, “I’m not going to let the water park close.” He felt the City needed to find a way to make it work.
Finance Director James England argued that not opening the water park would negate the five years of tracking in order to possibly sell the park later. Moore argued no one was going to be held back from buying the water park based on poor figures because they would have their own ideas on running a profitable operation.
Ideas went from a 4-day week, going to cash only operation, or cutting down on park staff.
It appeared for a while that the consensus was to open the water park for a 4-day week with losses being hopefully contained to $20,000. Then Finance Director Krystel Vigil pointed out that the City is obligated to the state-mandated Waste Water Treatment Plant and that the City still has not figured out how to completely finance that project and the state-mandated raw water line replacement is still needing to be dealt with. Any cost overruns or changes involving more money could cost the City the small amount of reserves they have left.
Monday the City learned that they were obligated to operate the water park for 25 years under agreements with the facility’s grant providers. City Attorney Dan Hyatt pointed out on Tuesday, that under the financial circumstances the City is facing, the grant providers would likely ok the closure this year and extend the agreement another year. The 6-3 vote by the city council to not open Walsenburg Wild Waters this year was contingent upon getting the ok from those grant sources.
All Walsenburg City Council members regretted not being able to open the water park this year because it does provide entertainment for families and jobs for young people. Everyone is hopeful that Walsenburg Wild Waters will re-open next year.