Soap Box

A sheriff who will serve rural folk
11/01/2018

To the editor,

We live on a small farm that is around 45 miles from the Sheriff Office. We seldom see deputies in our area, and it was a far safer feeling when BP paid extra to have deputies patrol. Deputies, in addition to deterring crime, have also been helpful with irrigation water disputes, slowing down the fast gas well traffic on the gravel roads, and occasionally chasing stock off the road & preventing accidents. Our Sheriff’s Department cannot continue to lose so many deputies. All divisive politics aside, it is time for a new Sherriff that will provide new morale and pay more attention to farmers and ranchers in the more rural areas.

– Greg Gummersall, La Plata County

2A would be a $280m blank check
10/29/2018
112 to protect people not profits
10/29/2018

To the editor,
Vote yes on Proposition 112, which requires new oil & gas development be located at least 2,500 feet from occupied
structures and other areas designated as vulnerable (that means your house, schools & water sources.)

Speaking of fake news and misinformation, check out Protect Colorado. They say to vote no because “Proposition 112 is backed by extreme out-of-state groups and increases energy setbacks to five times the distance of what is currently required, which effectively bans oil and natural gas development in Colorado.”

This is big oil at its most insidious. This PR organization wants to put big money and the lure of jobs ahead of truly protecting our citizen’s health and our environment.
– Ted Ullman, Mancos

Back to basics: vote yes on 2A
10/29/2018
To the editor,

“Take care of what you have” is the primary message from citizens to the City of Durango during a year-long civic engagement effort. The response is the “Back to Basics” Ballot Issue 2A.

Residents overwhelmingly approve of the services provided by the city and express willingness to pay more taxes to keep them. (See www.durangogov.org/engage.) Their concerns particularly focus on public safety and street maintenance. Police protection; fire and emergency services; streets, alleys, sidewalks, and storm drains: together these basics account for roughly half of the services provided by the city’s General Fund. Unfortunately, the revenues available to support them are growing more slowly than expenses, and the shortfall is happening already in 2018 because the 416 Fire reduced sales and lodgers’ taxes. The General Fund also supports maintenance of city buildings, but resources are insufficient to replace major facilities, such as our aging, inadequate police station.

Other city functions are entirely supported by fees for service, such as water, sewer, trash and recycling, each of which has its own Enterprise Fund. Service fees can pay for major projects such as the Santa Rita Water Reclamation Facility through bonds. Still other efforts, including new parks and recreation facilities such as Animas River Trail extensions, depend on Special Revenue Funds supported by taxes specifically approved by the voters for limited purposes.

Ballot Issue 2A would address General Fund needs though increases in tax rates on property by 5.4 mills and on sales by 0.55 percent, yielding roughly $7.6 million in additional annual revenue for 25 years. Such duration is essential for bonding major expenses and sharing the cost among current and future taxpayers.

The 5.4 mill increment in property tax would raise about $2.9 million in relatively stable revenue for essential public safety services. Of this, 2.2 mills ($1.2 million) would fund bonds for construction of the badly needed police station. The additional 3.2 mills ($1.7 million) would enable Durangoans to join Durango Fire Protection District in paying our entire annual commitment through property taxes. New payments would total about $13/month for a $400,000 home or $130/month for a $1 million business.

Police headquarters today occupies a 1950s car dealership, which housed just 30.5 employees (25 officers) in 1985; today it houses 66 (56 officers). The building provides inadequate space for passage of prisoners, training, or efficient evidence management, much less room for additional police officers. A 2015 study of city facilities estimated that the department should have roughly three times the current space. Consequently, replacement – either on the existing site or a new one – is by far the city’s highest facility need.

The sales tax increase, 55 cents on a $100 purchase, would provide 58 percent of the new revenue, $4.7 million. Because non-residents also contribute to sales taxes, residents prefer sales over property taxes, though many indicated acceptance of a hybrid approach, as embodied in 2A. Citizens also indicated that the city should consider fee increases and restraints on spending. Making the commitment to do both in future budgets, the city chose to seek $7.6 million per year in new revenue, rather than the $8.6-$10 million per year that would fully fund the estimated need. The higher maximum stated on the ballot, $8.7 million, avoids a multitude of small refunds required by the Taxpayer Bill of Rights if revenue unexpectedly exceeded the target amount.

The ballot language includes public safety in general, code enforcement & facility improvements beyond the new police station. These provisions would allow funding of additional police officers plus another code enforcement officer. More facility funding would allow essential upgrades to other city buildings, the average age of which is 35 years. The largest allocation of the sales tax, however, would be for street maintenance, along with alleys and sidewalks. Florida Road provided a vivid example of the extreme cost of allowing a street to deteriorate so much that it needs complete reconstruction. The city maintains a Pavement Condition Index (durangogov.org/streetindex) on all streets with the goal of guiding smaller annual improvements. Such investments require at least $2 million a year, and much more to facilitate timely upgrades.

After more than a year of discussion, the City Council concluded that addressing these fiscal needs requires major investment to ensure a prosperous future. For details on the “Back to Basics” proposal and the planned improvements, see durangogov.org/Document Center/ View/10497.


Please vote Yes on Ballot Issue 2A.
– Durango City Council

Take care of the town you love
10/25/2018

To the editor,

We are all lucky to live in Durango, a beautiful home that has given us so much and continues to give us a
lot. However, our town needs help now. We need a new police station, our growing town needs more officers, and we need extensive structural work on our roads.

We’ve experienced tough times in the recent past, events, like the 416 Fire, that negatively impacted our revenue and, before that, the river that ran orange, also negatively impacting our tourism. Our leaders have worked hard to wisely utilize the decreasing monies they have for necessary maintenance. It’s now up to us to step up to the plate and help them take care of these very important needs. For the first time since 1982, we’re being asked to vote to increases our property tax and sales tax (which tourists obviously contribute to).

I don’t ever remember anything getting less expensive in my long life. The curve is always up. The “Back to Basics” initiative, 2A, will help us move forward and continue to support our wonderful town and all it gives to us.

– Salye Stein, Durango