All our best to a long-time Ouray family for the loss of their patriarch, Dr. Richard Poole. A true gentleman, faithful subscriber and one who loved these mountains. I'm sure the family will be wearing its PMS 166 in his honor.
I was driving through Ridgway the other night and it occurred to me to pay attention to the light emitted from the controversial window signs at Ponderosa Real Estate. Alas, my observations might have borne results had I not been blinded by the light coming from the beer signs across the street.
Well, no one else is saying it, at least it wasn't said in the last city council meeting when Kentee Pasek was announced as the new Ouray Hot Springs Pool manager. But it's a bit of a buzz around Ouray.
Pasek, you see, is Mayor Pam Larson's daughter.
There were more than 40 applicants for this position, left wide open after the interim pool manager, who had a pool-related resume as long as a lap lane, was let go.
This is a position that was advertised at an annual salary of $71,490.
Not bad plunder if you're living near the tundra.
Rick Noll, resource director for the City of Ouray and the boss of the pool operation, said the hiring process was open, though that may need a little more clarification. Three city staff members and one member of the public who uses the pool made up the hiring committee.
Noll said the applicants were first pared down by eliminating those who didn't meet minimum qualifications. Then the pool of candidates was reduced to two. Then Pasek was chosen based on her experience with the community, her aquatic experience, her education and her management experience, according to Noll.
Perhaps it would have helped if, when she was introduced at the council meeting, her qualifications and a broader rationale for hiring her would have been explained. Instead, all half the room heard was, “The city just hired the mayor's daughter for a high-paying job."
That's what you get when you fire the city administrator and her pick as interim pool manager, then hire the mayor's daughter to fill that spot.
It does leave the populace pondering the preponderance of pool-related parallels.
I'm not questioning Pasek's qualifications for the position. In fact, our story on her this week points out her qualifications. We're no judge of that.
What we ask is why the council or Interim City Administrator Justin Perry didn't address what half the room was thinking: How is Noll, who answers to Perry, who answers to the Mayor, going to manage the mayor's daughter?
It's a legitimate question, as is the question of when and if the mayor is going to have to recuse herself from decisions affecting the pool and its operations.
Like, any time the word "pool" comes up?
Remember, a 1 percent sales tax hike was passed by voters to back bonds to fund the pool renovation. And, once the city found out that the original bid included surface material that stained due to the minerals in the water, it had to literally mortgage City Hall and the Community Center to pay for increased costs for higher quality construction materials.
So, it's a fair question to ask to what extent the mayor or council feels the mayor will be neutered in making decisions regarding the pool. That should be put on the table now, because the residents (and visitors) of Ouray have a lot invested in the pool and a lot invested in the position of mayor.
It was announced at last council meeting that the pool did not reach its 2018 revenue budget, partly due to decreased traffic because of the 416 Fire. Then there's "Phase 2" of the pool renovation which is a distant memory now. Other concerns include paving the parking lot, buying a boiler so the lap lanes are at tolerable temps in the winter and the whole mess of the clogged and leaking hot water intake line coming into the pool from the Manganese Spring.
These are not trivial topics, and the city needs the steerage of its mayor to navigate these waters. Are these the types of issues in which the mayor will be able to participate?
The appearance of nepotism may or may not be able to be avoided in a city the size of Ouray. The standing thought in Ouray that you can't swing a dead cat without hitting two people who are related to one another is a bit of a stretch, and it's difficult to judge the whole hiring process by DNA since we don't know the bloodline of the other 39 applicants.
But since it's being discussed at the corner of 6th and Main, it probably should be discussed at the next city council meeting.
Alan Todd is co-publisher of the Ouray County Plaindealer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.