State of the Town Affairs
by Stuart Fraser, Mayor, Telluride
Jan 08, 2009 | 1252 views | 1 1 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Two-thousand-eight was a year with a very positive start and an end filled with unanswered questions. From a financial perspective, sales tax was up over 6 percent until the last three months of the year when the economy, real estate transfer tax and development and application fees became highly volatile and finally began to drop off dramatically. In preparing our 2009 budget, we were pushed to remain totally flexible until November, when we enacted our budget and then a recession plan. The national economic downturn had finally reached our valley. Even with the uncertainty, we have been focused on doing things that strengthen our community, such as: building and planning more affordable housing, acting in a fiscally responsible manner in a difficult economy, improving relationships/partnerships with the county and Mountain Village, and attempting to improve our infrastructure, in any manner possible.

More specifically, we face an uncertain financial picture in 2009 with RETT, development related revenue and sales taxes being difficult to predict, but clearly trending downward. We have therefore made dramatic budget cuts in 2009 to insure that our expenditures don’t exceed or revenues. Hopefully, we can weather the economic uncertainty without adversely affecting current municipal services, but many public projects have been postponed until at least 2010.

To this point, the economy has not affected construction of our two current affordable housing projects because much of the work has been accomplished through funds already on hand and construction loans which will be repaid with the sale of the units. Our greater challenge may be in finding qualified buyers in what is becoming a very difficult housing credit market. 

The town continues to work closely with the county and Mountain Village on many projects of mutual concern including affordable housing, economic stabilization, infrastructure improvements, forest health, regional sustainability, and creating a stronger sense of community.

Infrastructure challenges for the future include: 1) finding additional revenue sources and/or partnerships to continue and hopefully expand our affordable housing development plans; 2) Identifying revenue sources to repair and maintain our public infrastructure (roads, sidewalks and alleys); 3) Resolving our legal issues with the Idarado Mining Company in order to construct and operate the Pandora Water Treatment Plant, which is intended to provide Telluride with high quality and reliable water supplies for many years to come; 4) Replacement of the Colorado Avenue water main and associated service lines which are badly worn due to corrosion from mine tailings imbedded in the road base; 5) Repair and upgrading to some of the town’s most popular recreational areas such as Elks Park and the Town Park concert venue. Thanks to the proactive efforts of Town staff, we recently received a state grant to help us partially rebuild the decaying water line under Colorado Avenue. We are also aggressively seeking Federal and State funding resulting from stimulus or economic recovery plans.

Perhaps the greatest challenge our community faces is looking to the future with a stronger sense of community pride and a “can-do” philosophy. Although Telluride prides itself in having a strong sense of individualism, we must work more closely together to solve community problems, focusing our public debate on issues rather than personalities, and putting some of those issues that have divided this community in the past, aside. The Valley Floor now belongs to the town. Yes, the battle to acquire the Valley Floor was at times divisive and deeply personal, but the community achieved its goal. Now it is time to focus on our achievements as a community looking to the future, and repair those relationships that were damaged during this long and contentious struggle. 

We have much work to do. We cannot ignore that we have many more unpleasant and expensive tasks in our future. The Spur needs significant and expensive repair, many of the town’s streets are failing and our sidewalks are crumbling. Our water often travels through old and worn pipes, and many of our recreational amenities such as Town Park, the Pavilion, our playing fields, and Elks Park are suffering from years of over-use and little investment. We have invested heavily in affordable housing and open space. We have also invested in community amenities other towns can only envy. In short, the “fun stuff” has been done. However, we must also re-invest in our community infrastructure (things that are “less-fun”) to insure our families, our children and their children will have the things that make communities safe, healthy and economically viable. 

Telluride needs to plan for the future rather than allow the future to simply happen to us. Our economy is based on tourism and recreation, and while some people may not believe in our economic realities, most of us would not be here, nor would we have the amenities we currently enjoy, without our recreationally based economy. As the economy improves from the current recession, the town is likely to face new challenges, which must be addressed through planning and preparation. The constant struggle between economic viability and protecting our community standards has the potential to further divide our community, thus we must find ways to work together to create a community for both those who are already here and those yet to come.

This community needs its citizens to get involved in the future. This council sees the same energetic people at public meetings, which are appreciated, but there is a great deal of energy, talent and new blood in this community that is not being heard or tapped into. Government by special interests is not good government. We see that everyday in the federal system and we all complain about it vigorously.  

We enter 2009 with a financial reality check facing us. Our revenue flow, quite simply, comes from people who visit our town and spend money here. Without those people coming here, staying here and buying here, we are a town without a strong revenue base. With the acknowledgement that we are a tourist based economy comes the understanding that we rely heavily upon sales tax and real estate transfer tax to be able maintain our infrastructure, to support the arts, to build affordable housing, to focus on achieving our environmental goals, to have a viable economic base, and to provide the services required by our citizens and guests.

In order to build upon our strengths, we need an increased viable bed base for our guests. This increased bed base will make our businesses stronger, increase our sales and lodging tax revenue and allow locals to stay here and thrive. The commercial core needs to be revitalized with the ability to grow their business profitability.

We are a town that is second to none. We have one of the strongest school districts in the state, we are a top ranked ski destination, we have a strong summer economy, we share common environmental concerns and those who visit us, are overwhelmed at the good fortune of those of us who live here. It is up to us to strengthen our economy for the future. If we turn away from this challenge, then everything we hold dear, from the Valley Floor to housing for locals, will fade away.

The economy will come back. It is our responsibility to make sure that we have taken this time to focus our efforts on being prepared for that return.
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FaceOnMars
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January 13, 2009
In reading Stu's list, it makes me wonder:

"What's the point of calling shots if your cue ain't straight in line?"

If ONLY the waterline repairs (at 1.something million) were put to the voters a couple years ago instead of tying it in with YET ANOTHER developer driven 'beautification program' (at several something million dollars), the town may have actually have one less item on the "todo list".