Wednesday, March 26, 2008
County officials met Tuesday regarding potential county road improvements.
Steamboat Springs John Shaw contributed more than $1,000 last fall to a committee that campaigned in opposition to Referendum 1A, a Routt County ballot question to fund road improvements and other county needs. Frank Roitsch wrote a letter to the editor titled "Vote 'no' on 1A."
Almost five months later, the two are spearheading a renewed effort to improve rural Routt County roadways.
"I didn't think it was a roads issue," Shaw said of Referendum 1A. "I thought it was a de-Brucing issue. It didn't serve what the initial goal was."
In November, Routt County voters turned down - by a 2-to-1 margin - the proposed property tax increase that would have raised $3.3 million or more a year for road improvements and other capital projects.
The bulk of the criticism for the proposal focused on its lack of a sunset provision. After a six-year plan to improve 60 miles of county roads, tax revenues would have continued to flow into county coffers for other capital projects and infrastructure improvements. The proposal also asked that county government be exempt, or de-Bruced, from the state's Taxpayers Bill of Rights, which places a limit on the growth of government revenues.
Planned projects for the increased revenue included widening the shoulders on Routt County Road 129, reconstructing parts of C.R. 14 south of Colorado Highway 131, and hard-surfacing a number of unpaved roads.
The turnout at an open work session meeting Monday with the Routt County Board of Commissioners suggested that support for such improvements exists. Shaw and Roitsch collected the names and e-mail addresses of those in attendance in hopes of forming a committee to explore the issue and identify an acceptable source of money. Roitsch served on a similar committee formed in 2006 that identified and prioritized needed improvements but left the financing piece in the hands of county officials who crafted last year's failed referendum.
"It went down in flames," Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said. "We thought we understood the input, but the ballot initiative failed."
One Stagecoach resident who attended Tuesday's meeting suggested the ballot measure failed because of "damn city folk" that don't care as much about the condition of county roads. Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak, however, noted that the measure failed in every single Routt County precinct.
Most at Tuesday's meeting were residents of unincorporated Routt County, with South Routt areas such as Stagecoach particularly well represented. Many residents felt roads could be improved without the passage of a new tax if the county reprioritized its spending. Geneva Taylor said the county has gotten too caught up in "pet projects" and needs to refocus on essential services.
The county commissioners have said a new source of money is needed to tackle roads, but they said they would make their budget and staff available to the committee to see if they can find existing funds or other solutions.
"You'll get technical advice should you choose to form a committee," Mitsch Bush said. "There are a number of different possibilities for funding."
Anyone who is interested in serving on the new roads committee or just staying up to date on its work can e-mail Shaw at firstname.lastname@example.org or Roitsch at email@example.com.
- To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org