TELLURIDE – Two years after voters here rejected a $12 million bond to reconstruct the majority of the Highway 145 Spur into town, it looks like the crumbling two-lane thoroughfare connecting Telluride with the rest of the world is finally going to get – well, if not a full-on facelift, then something more akin to a light peel.
As the Telluride Town Council works to balance the town’s budget for the fiscal year beginning in January, it prioritized spending $880,000 to fund a temporary fix of the Spur in 2011 when it met for a special meeting called last week to discuss capital improvements for the coming year and a draft five-year capital improvements plan.
After making large cuts to the town’s capital improvements budget over the past two years as a result of Great Recession-induced real estate and other revenue declines, the project proposes to fill in with asphalt the numerous ruts and potholes that pock the disintegrating road, and then to overlay the smoother road surface with another two-inch layer of asphalt to buy it a few more years of functionality.
“This is a short term fix,” said Public Works Director Stan Berryman, estimating that the work will last between three and five years before it needs to be addressed again.
The money to pay for the fix will come from a new Road and Alley Fund established within the existing Capital Fund that is likely to be seeded with $2.5 million in surplus Real Estate Transfer Tax and other revenues derived from higher-than-budgeted earnings.
While sales tax revenues for the year are lining up to come in according to budget projections, total RETT collections are projected to come in at $2.7 million, or $1 million ahead of budget.
Council indicated its support for the establishment of such a fund at a September meeting, just short of one year after local voters turned down a proposed three-mill property tax increase designed to create such a fund that appeared on the November 2009 ballot.
“So we’re taking a windfall and applying it to something that we should have been doing for years?” Councilmember David Oyster asked rhetorically when inquiring about the source of revenue for the new fund.
The consensus on council was that the Spur work should take precedence over a $1.515 million spend to finish the aging Colorado Avenue water line replacement begun in 2009 with the help of a state grant, and subsequent repaving of the road. Originally recommended for funding in fiscal year 2012, the water line project now appears more likely to be split between fiscal years 2012 and 2013.
“If safety is a concern, then the Spur is more important than the waterline and overlay,” said Mayor Stu Fraser, summing up the majority of council sentiment.
Council is also likely to set aside $300,000 to help pay for a roundabout at Society Turn, scheduled for installation by the Colorado Department of Transportation in 2012.
While CDOT has indicated that it has the $1.238 million needed to fully fund a traffic signal at the busy intersection, the local community has made clear its preference for a roundabout there instead.
As a result, the agency has agreed to build the roundabout, provided that it receives a funding commitment for the $1 million cost difference between the two projects.
“We need to commit to the funding this coming year and possibly appropriate those funds by the end of 2011; that’s why it’s showing as a 2011 expenditure,” said Town Manager Greg Clifton.
The town plans to ask Mountain Village and San Miguel County to help contribute to the cost of the roundabout, and to look for other available funding.
“Our goal will be to see if we can get support from the county and Mountain Village, but both are in potentially worse budgetary constraints than we are,” said Fraser.
“Miscellaneous” road projects and improvements (including to the bike path) such as striping the roads and laying down sand in the winter will likely be allocated $200,000 in next year’s budget, and the chip-sealed Carhenge parking lot could see an injection of $100,000 a year over the next two years to improve its heavily cratered surface.
While chip-seal is not an ideal treatment for areas of high wear-and-tear like a parking lot, “We think that for the money to be spent on that we’ll receive pretty good benefits over time,” said Clifton.
Another $232,000 will likely be set aside to fund replacement of some of the town’s $7 million fleet of vehicles.
“We’ve been a little bit on borrowed time with that,” said Clifton, estimating that 10 percent, or $700,000 for annual fleet replacement, is a more realistic number to aim toward in the future.
“We’re trying to maximize the use of the vehicles with the good maintenance regimen we have in place without reaching the point where the cost of keeping the vehicles outweighs the benefit of having them.”
Transit buses and patrol cars are the most likely recipients of next year’s funding.
The Parks and Recreation Department is also likely to receive $75,000 in capital improvements funding next year. Some $50,000 of that amount would act as a 40 percent match for a Great Outdoors Colorado grant intended to complete a $125,000 grandstands replacement project in Town Park.
“We get a lot of complaints about the lack of shelter [on the Town Park ball fields],” said department Director Rick Herrington. “I do think it’s needed.”
The project would fund construction of two separate covered bleacher sections on Warner Field and Bear Creek Field to replace the single Town Park grandstands torn down in 2008 after being condemned as hazardous.
A new concessions/storage/and bathroom building planned for Town Park is not included in the phase.
If allocated, Herrington said he could envision the remaining $25,000 funding smaller projects including improvements to the swimming pool and campground bathrooms.
“It’s encouraging to see that there are a number of projects on the horizon, but it’s even more encouraging because we’re doing so under a very conservative projection,” said Clifton, adding that if revenues continue to exceed expectations the town could see more of its capital improvement projects happen sooner rather than later.