GUEST COMMENTARY
State of the Town of Telluride, January 11, 2011
by Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser
Jan 13, 2011 | 2330 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In 2010, we saw the flattening out and beginning of a potential economic recovery in Telluride.

Sales Tax Revenue is up 4.6% over the same time, a year ago. Real Estate Transfer Tax for 2010 climbed back to slightly over $3,000,000, which is up from $1,500,000 in 2009 and $2,900,000 in 2008. We are below the 2006 totals of about $5,300,000. While we are still in our Recession Plan, there is a degree of confidence now that didn’t exist last year at this time. At the recent Telluride Tourism Board meeting, we saw the numbers related to summer 2010. They were impressive. The winter figures are still too early to judge with any degree of accuracy. Telluride continues to receive positive press and there is substantial interest in people coming here and in the process supporting our visitor-based economy.

We continue to build highly desirable housing for our workers. With what we have learned over the last three projects, we will refine the housing guidelines and deed restrictions so they will be more in line with today’s market. We are still behind our overall goals for housing, but in the past eight years the town has constructed 86 rental and owner-occupied units for our community.

With the addition of a Street, Alley and Sidewalk Fund, we will be able to accomplish much needed capital improvements in 2011. This comes about through no small measure from the Real Estate Transfer Tax. Our reserves are being replenished and funds are being set aside for future projects which include, but are not limited to: the Spur in spring of 2011, and a roundabout at Society Turn in the summer of 2012. I cannot stress strongly enough that the Spur overlay is a temporary fix that will provide a safer driving surface for 3-5 years. The big fix, involving substantial road base and drainage work, is still needed. We will need to find the means to fund this project in the years ahead. As a community, we will need to step up and deal with our major infrastructure issues.

From a budgeting perspective, there have been efforts this past year to make our budget more readable and informative. We will continue to make improvements within the 2012 budget process.

Following, by category, are updates on where we are on specific projects.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Pandora Water Treatment Plant

The construction contract has been secured for the phased build-out of this critical part of our future. In addition, the $10,000,000 bond has also been activated. This is a multi-phase, multi-year project and we anticipate having the Pandora plant completed in 2013. This has been an 18-year project that has required substantial focus for several councils and our legal staff. It will vastly improve the Town’s water treatment capacity, while providing excellent raw water storage in the upper basin.

Society Turn Wastewater Treatment Plant Solar Array

This first major accomplishment of our belief in the importance of providing renewable energy options was completed last month. It will provide over 10% of our annual energy consumption at the largest town energy user. We are especially grateful to Mountain Village for their financial contribution toward this worthwhile project. This is just one of many steps we will need to achieve the Mayoral Telluride Renewed Challenge and the Governor’s Climate goals. We will be looking to add micro-hydro to our renewable toolbox once we have the funds necessary to match potential granting opportunities. Possible locations for micro-hydro are: Pandora Water Treatment Plant (when completed), Mill Creek and Stillwell Tunnel. In addition, we can potentially secure more renewable possibilities through placing micro-hydro equipment in our existing water system.

Society Turn

We have set $300,000 aside for this roundabout. An additional $25,000 from Mountain Village and $100,000 from San Miguel County is also pledged. These funds will be used to leverage additional grant dollars to help capitalize the project, estimated to cost around $2.1 million. The project is being engineered and administered by CDOT. Construction will take place in 2012 and will be significant, spanning much of that summer season. We understand there will be additional state highway projects in 2012, including a replacement of the Leopard Creek Bridge at Highway 62 and 145 and the possibility of a resurfacing of Hwy 145 from Society Turn to Lizard Head.

Roads

This past year, we did our best on limited funds to patch the Spur and our main street. The lack of RETT and low revenue income virtually halted our ability to maintain our infrastructure needs. As mentioned before, we are moving ahead on some critical projects related to roads and alleys in 2011. The Spur temporary fix will cost us approximately $800,000. We will also provide some surface improvements to the Carhenge Public Parking Lot. The replacement of the water line on Colorado from Aspen to Townsend will have to wait, as will bridge and culvert replacements related to Cornet Creek. They have been placed in the budget but will not occur in 2011.

COMMUNITY

Housing

Entrada will be completed in the first quarter of 2011. Gold Run has all units under contract, and people have begun to move in. The Council is meeting later in March to decide on the next project. We have several options available to us, within the town limits. The Town continues to pursue land banking as a means to provide for future housing sites.

Annexation and Conservation Easements

We added roughly 970 acres of open space under conservation easements to the town limits. In addition, we are moving forward to bring the Pearl Property to a satisfactory conclusion. We secured much needed fixed-rate financing for the Valley Floor and were able to protect this valuable asset through the financial structuring that took place.

Historic

The Historic Survey is an update of the 1997 Historic and Architectural Survey that updated the 1987 Historic and Architectural Survey. The survey was stopped in 2008 due to funding, and commenced again in November 2010. It will conclude in late 2011. The survey will be used as a reference for appropriate treatments to the structures, historical research and maintenance of our Landmark status.

CCAASE

We were not able to provide additional funds for health and human services as well as the arts and special events.

Economy

There is a closer alliance between the town and various economic associations in town. The most focused effort has been with the Telluride Merchant’s Association. We are acting as a support group with the merchants, in hopes of achieving some of their goals to revitalize the commercial core. It’s not unusual to see the Town Manager, the Mayor and two Council members at each of the Merchants’ meetings. In December TNCC and the Regional Economics Futures Task Force put on a presentation, in conjunction with the Telluride Tourism Board. An immediate-response voting segment brought clarity to the views of 115 respondents. A report detailing the answers will be forthcoming. The Telluride Airport Authority restructured its board to 9 voting members, including 3 from Telluride. The Mayor sits on the Executive Committee. TRAA completed its runway project and in the near future will make decisions related to key issues for the future of air travel, into and out of TEX. Those decisions involve an airport terminal expansion as a required upgrade to TSA standards, if we go to larger commercial aircraft in 2011. Operation hours are also being researched and discussed. The airport is a key ingredient in the future of the Telluride economy.

Environment

The past year has been spent researching and establishing baseline energy consumption data so we can achieve goals established through various regional challenges and resolutions. TNCC has been a major player in getting our strategy in place. We have worked with Ouray County, San Miguel County, MV, Ridgway, Norwood and Ouray in getting the strategies on paper. In the first quarter of 2011, more time will be spent in securing all the partners’ cooperation on our common goals.

In 2010, we passed a stronger dog ordinance and put in place a ban on plastic bag usage throughout the town. While some have labeled this “Green Washing,” I strongly feel every step we take needs to be taken. Each solar panel installed, each plastic bag not used is of consequence in achieving our goals. The green building standards and the high energy-efficiency construction of our affordable housing is helping us achieve the environmental goals of our community. Even Home Safe has lowered our carbon footprint by reducing over 22,000 potential drivers, down to roughly 2000 vehicle trips since 2003.

The Town has expressed its concerns over the Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill to the Colorado Dept of Public Health and Environment. The concerns were based upon the potential economic impact to tourism in the Telluride area, air and water quality issues, the need for disaster and extreme events analysis and the cumulative impact related to additional mining activity in the area to feed the proposed mill. It appears the CDPHE did not agree with our concerns, since last week they approved a radioactive materials license for Pinon Ridge. The Town also wrote to the Environmental Protection Agency specific to the issue of wind-borne dust and air emissions from the proposed mill site that could introduce radioactive materials into Telluride’s watershed. 

Closing Thoughts

Through our involvement with CML and CAST, we were able to achieve significant goals in defeating three very controversial ballot measures in November, 2010: Amendments 60 and 61, and Proposition 101. These three state ballot issues would have been enormously detrimental to all taxing districts, municipalities, counties and state operations, if passed. At the local level, the aforementioned entities signed a common resolution against the three losing initiatives. Telluride played a lead role in this endeavor.

It has been slightly over six months since Greg Clifton became our Town Manager. Staff has been very supportive, as has the council, regarding the changes that have taken place. Greg has been a positive addition to Telluride and has beautifully fit in to the town and the government. Kevin Geiger, the town attorney, continues to show us the depth and range of his skills.

The past 12 months have been very educational, not only for me, but for the entire council. There are no easy answers to our challenges. Collaboration with other entities or individuals is part of the solution, but not the total solution. Decision-making comes with complete knowledge related to each subject. Taking on the big issues is more difficult than dealing with daily concerns, but big issues cannot be ignored, or just passed onto the next council. We owe it to all the citizens to not shirk our duty, as their elected officials. It is my hope in 2011 that we will, as a community, tackle those big challenges, that will make us stronger and enhance the future sustainability of Telluride.

As I start my tenth year in Rebekah Hall, I am still humbled by the staff, the citizens, the council members and this community. Although there are sometimes displays of unbridled passion and anger in these chambers, there is usually decorum, civility and a common belief to move ahead for the betterment of Telluride. I thank you again for a true life experience as your Mayor. I would never trade these past three years as Mayor or the previous six as a Council member. They have personally provided me with a feeling of achievement, completeness and a desire to work even harder for all of us, who live and visit this amazing community.
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