Maintaining quality of life

To the editor,

Every town has its challenges. Bayfield voted to raise its sales tax 1 percent for street maintenance. Farmington raised the sales tax to 8.2 percent to pay for street infrastructure. Durango is proposing 1A “Strictly Streets” ballot measure in April.

Curbs, gutters, sidewalks, alleys, construction, operation and maintenance of streets is on the ballot and sunsets in 10 years. The proposed half-cent tax, or $.50 on a $100 purchase, would have citizen advisory board oversight.

The 1A language dictates exactly how the funds would be used. A sales tax was proposed rather than a property tax because Council listened to citizens, and a property tax disproportionately impacts small business.

1A is specific, narrow in scope, short in term and what citizens requested from the Council. The street department operates in the General Fund, which is supported by sales tax. Shopping locally supports not only our wonderful businesses but also the General Fund.

Durango has enterprise funds that operate like businesses: airport, trash, utilities, transportation, recycling, water and sewer all pay their own way from fees. Streets repairs do not come from enterprise funds but the General Fund.

Department heads cut operating budgets in the last six months for a total of $500,000 to balance reduced revenue and rising costs. Since 2009, just 10 employees were hired in the General Fund. The city maintains 83 miles of streets in Durango, including Grandview, and with limited revenue, there are no major street improvements budgeted in the 2019 General Fund.

Pot holes will be repaired in 2019, but the failing streets will continue to fail. Alamo Drive, Turner Drive, Sanborn Island, Thomas Avenue, Columbine Drive, Weston Drive, 14th Street, Kennebec Drive and Court, Hidden Valley Circle, Narrow Gauge Avenue, Folsom Place, Sheppard Drive, N. College Drive, Sawmill Drive, E. 2nd Avenue, Animas View Drive and Lizard Head have been identified for complete reconstruction.

Other city streets have been identified in the five-year Paving Condition Index Survey (on the city website) for surface treatment or overlays. The longer street maintenance is deferred the more expensive the repairs become (up to eight times or $2-$4 million each year we wait).

Shopping on the Internet, the decline of the oil and gas industry, and Fort Lewis College enrollment has all negatively impacted sales tax revenue over the last three years. With 1A, visitors, city and county residents will share the cost of maintaining the streets equally.

There are no bike lanes or trails proposed in the ballot language for existing streets; and developers pay for new construction of streets, as witnessed in the construction of apartments on Escalante Drive.

The ballot measure, if approved, is very precise as to where the funds can be used. It is binding by law on all future councils for 10 years. The Advisory Board made up of Durango residents will be the checks and balances. Passing 1A will preserve the 2015 sales tax, passed with

70 percent approval, dedicated to parks, recreation, natural lands and multimodal projects. Voters want to maintain and grow what we have to promote healthy lifestyles, protect environmental resources, and foster economic vitality.

Robbing the P&R funds to pay for streets, as has been proposed, would violate the public trust and short change future projects like Lake Nighthorse, Needham Elementary Connect, the SMART 160 Trail, the Animas River Trail and the Camino, among others.

Good streets, ADA ramp and sidewalk improvements, benefit everyone who walks, runs, drives to work, shops, uses a wheel chair, or pushes a baby stroller.

The 1A vote is up to you. I’m voting “yes.”

– Mayor Sweetie Marbury, Durango