GUEST COMMENTARY | State of Telluride Address
by Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser
Jan 07, 2014 | 1524 views | 0 0 comments | 58 58 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Telluride is continuing to move in a positive direction. For the third year in a row we have exceeded the previous year's sales tax revenue. This past year was in fact the strongest year ever. It would also appear that with the positive snowfall we could be entering into a more robust winter season.  

As you all recall, we have had stronger summer revenue the past two years than in the winter.  Conde-Nast ranked us number one ski resort for the second year in a row and Ski Magazine came through with a seventh ranking for us. This, along with other national publicity, is showing that Telluride is being viewed quite favorably from outside the region. Bookings and travel data for winter are looking quite strong, as well. Real Estate Transfer Tax is still the most volatile part of our revenue picture and yet it still is a very important part of our entire budgetary process.

While the final numbers are not in on revenue and expenses, as of this writing, we are in a optimistic position. Sales tax revenue could be up almost ten percent and RETT, around three percent. Council is planning conservatively in both revenue and expense categories, for 2014.

The Historic Survey has finally been completed. It began in 2007 and was completed in November, 2013. We had to stop working on the survey during the recession, because of funding issues. In 2010 we reinstated the plan and now have arguably, the most comprehensive survey on record. It shows that all the work that has taken place with HARC and Planning and Zoning over the years is absolutely paying off.  The Design Guidelines are going through revisions and reformatting and should be completed in the second half of 2014.  Our goal was not to bring about wholesale changes, but rather to make them more readable and presented in a format that is easier for the layperson to understand.  We do not see any major changes in the Land Use Code or in the Design Standards/Guidelines. The November election has brought about the departure of two Council members and the addition of two new ones, along with the re-election of two members from the previous Council.  We have a strong team in place for the foreseeable future.  The Pearl Property appears to have reached a resolution, after many years of passionate discussion.  We have been focusing on our infrastructure and attempting to get back onto a schedule to resolve challenges that have been in place for several years.  The recession slowed us down but we are effectively moving ahead, now that revenues are more stable. Below are some specific projects that culminated in 2013 and/or will be finished in 2014.

Pandora Water Treatment Plant

It feels quite good to say that this project should be completed late this year.  It has been in the process for decades. The end result will be clean water and storage for decades to come.  The past two years we have implemented quite restrictive water limits and we may need to do it again this summer, but with a more dynamic water conservation plan in place, along with the new water system, we should be in a much better position to deal with the needs of our residents and guests.  We are working in a collaborative mode with Idarado, which will benefit the entire region.

Town Park Pool

The pieces are coming together for this project which is slated for 2014.  The County is a financial contributor and we are seeking additional grant dollars from GOCO.  With the Town’s budget commitment, we should be good to go … stay tuned on this very important project as we will be reporting on it in the months ahead.  We will also be finishing the final phase of the Town Park core area in 2014.

Bike Path, Main Street Water Line and Public Works Facility

These are all very important projects for the Town and all of them will likely be pursued in 2014 (the Town has a pending grant application with Dept of Local Affairs related to the Main Street water line project).  As you can see, 2014 will be another very busy year in terms of capital improvements.

Economy

As stated earlier, we are doing well with sales tax revenue and real estate transfer tax.  We have a closer relationship with the merchants, lodging and restaurants than we have had before.  Working as a team is paying off for everyone.  This past Noel Night and the Holiday Prelude was an example of public/private partnerships occurring and bringing about, not only the potential for increased economic revenue, but also creating more activity into the downtown business core.  The lights and the ski tree were extremely well-received and were photographed extensively. This will help us build for the future and to increase the economy in the early December period.  There has been no resolution on the Telluride Science Research Center or on the Four Corners area, but we are anticipating outcomes in the near future … both are extremely important projects that have been on Council’s Goals and Objectives in recent years.  The Tourism Board, through highly interactive marketing, is doing an exceptional job in telling the "Telluride Story", to our guests and potential visitors.  We are at the forefront of digital marketing and data analytics.  The State of Colorado is interested in our program and is attempting to incorporate some of our concepts into their larger marketing vision.  While the Hallmark Film Channel didn't work out, the publicity we received from the process was overall fairly positive.  Telluride has been an important part of the total marketing program, with Advertising and Public Relations focused on supporting the entire region.

Arts/Festivals/Special Events/Awards

We have already discussed in last year's State of the Town address, how our summer festival season had taken off. At first glance into 2014, it appears it may be becoming even stronger.  Film Festival sold out in 2013 and the menu of films is getting major Oscar buzz as well as Golden Globe nominations.  The Werner Herzog Theatre was an astounding success … another example of a solid public / private partnership.  We are grateful to the Telluride Film Festival for their involvement with this great project and with the continued operation of the Nugget Theatre.

Blues and Brews had some pretty tough weather conditions, but they also had extremely positive recaps on their program.  The Ride Festival was stronger than its first year and promises to be even better in 2014.  The addition of a partnership between the Ride and Austin City Limits could reap giant rewards for the region. Bluegrass 2014 sold out of 4,000 passes in 8 minutes, a few weeks ago. The collaboration between smaller, but still very important festivals, is continuing to grow.  Our summer calendar is still full.  Our position as a Colorado Creative District has grown into the Telluride Arts District.  We are focusing our efforts in 2014 on working towards building this economic engine and in the process attempting to make Telluride a place where artists can live, work and flourish.

Staff 

2013 was the year MJ Schillaci retired. When you look at the changes that have taken place over the past few years, you can be saddened by not having those amazing people around, but you can also be thankful that we have been able to replace them with such strong individuals.  It is a positive testament to upper management that they have been able to bring out the best from each employee, including both those who recently came on board and those who have been part of our organization, over the years.  

Personal Comments

Each day that I spend working for this town, is a day that makes me truly appreciate the opportunity that I have.  I look at the Council members and realize they also share a genuine love for Telluride.  While we may not always agree, I do believe we all understand the importance of our responsibilities.  It is not just making sure that our status as a Historic Landmark District or our new position of being one of seven Creative Districts is all that is facing us.  It is constantly working to make this town the best that it can be.  It also involves the invisible world of water pipes and wastewater, along with hundreds of other challenges.  Mistakes get made, feelings get hurt but the overall job is visible to each of us every day.  The pride that all seven us of have towards Telluride exists from within.  When I am in Denver or some other town and people ask me where I am from-the answer is always with a smile and great pride in saying quite simply, Telluride.  After spending time with our Governor in town park, at a recent festival, it was obvious that he was entranced with our surroundings and our seemingly endless cycle of fun. It brings an inner satisfaction, that no matter what the challenge, we are willing to take it on. Thank you for being part of Team Telluride.

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