GUEST COMMENTARY | State of the Town Address
by Stu Fraser, Mayor of Telluride
Jul 17, 2013 | 1984 views | 0 0 comments | 56 56 recommendations | email to a friend | print

In January and July, one of my responsibilities is to prepare a State of the Town address.  We are halfway through 2013 and the year has begun with positive energy.  Although our snow was not the best, it did occur during important times for our guests to be able to ski, board and enjoy all the winter activities that Telluride has to offer.  We were rated number five by Ski Magazine and number one  by Conde-Nast.  Our base has broadened because of our airline flights and the addition of Allegiant Air, out of Arizona and Oakland.  The occupancy levels are growing, throughout the region.  Our exposure, through the media and our guests, has been stronger each year.  

Sales tax revenue through the first 5 months  is 11 percent over 2012.  Real Estate Transfer Tax is erratic but showing signs of being strong and potentially surpassing 2012 and the $3.7 million received by the town.  Our projects are moving along on schedule and we are looking to meet the scheduled completion dates.  The calendar of events is growing and from any perspective is surpassing previous years' outcomes.  The Historic Survey is nearing its final stages, as is the update to the Design Guidelines related to HARC.  If there is such thing as a simple statement, related to Telluride and the first half of 2013, it would be that our state of the town is quite promising.  Below are some details:

Idarado-After over 20 years in planning, dealing with water rights, legal issues and budgetary complexity, the Pandora Water Treatment Plant is coming close to finality.  We were able to transfer over $2,000,000 from the capital fund into the water fund, to allow us to make up some of the shortfall in the budget.  2013 appears to be financially resolved for the task of building the actual plant in the east end of our valley.  We are putting in place plans to provide the funding for 2014 when we are planning on opening the plant in November.  This is one of the most important projects that we have faced.  We are definitely getting closer to being able to say that we have put in place stability in our water supply for literally decades to come.  While we will always stress water conservation, we will finally have a storage facility in addition to Mill Creek, our other main water source.  During Bluegrass this year, our water and wastewater plants were seriously challenged.  It is more evident, with each passing month, that the decision we made well over 20 years ago to secure additional water rights, to bond for the initial costs related to the plant and to begin building the plant, was absolutely the right decision. Our relationship with Idarado has become a collaboration versus a confrontation, since we finalized the Comprehensive Settlement Agreement.

Economy-We have been adding building blocks to provide sustainability to our downtown commercial core.  We are still counting on Real Estate as being one of those blocks and  we are concentrating our efforts on having one of the strongest tourism bases in the Western Slope.  We are also putting in place diversification...a word oftentimes used, but seldom acted upon.  The Tourism Board is sending out a message that continues to grow what is now our number one revenue source.  In addition, we are working with the Telluride Science Research Center to make education a larger and more stable part of our economy.  This supports both tourism, as well as real estate.  In close co-operation with the Colorado Film Commission, we have been able to grow our overall economy through film opportunities.  Thus far this year, Coors, Eddie Bauer, Toyota and Outside Magazine/Television have used Telluride for advertising opportunities.  On top of that, the Hallmark Channel has chosen Telluride for an early 1900's series called "When Calls the Heart."  When all issues are resolved, the filming will start in the third quarter of this year.  It is now a 10 episode series, then if well received on TV, it could easily grow into thirteen episodes and beyond that, into a five year opportunity.  Site selection and crew issues need to be resolved but if it occurs, it could bring an infusion into the region of from $8 million to $75 million dollars.  The series is set in Old Telluride, Colorado. 

Arts/Festivals/Special Events/Awards- While we thought 2012 was a great festival year, 2013 could exceed it.  Bluegrass sold out in slightly over 3 hours, without the line-up even being announced.  Blues and Brews is moving towards another very strong year.  The Ride is continuing to build its visitor base.  The Town Park Pavilion is being made into a serious multi-use facility.  With $800,000 being donated by the Telluride Film Festival and an additional $1,000,000 from the town, we will now see festivals, weddings, seminars, winter and summer sports having a shared venue, that will benefit the entire regional community.  As of today, we are on time and on budget for completion in early August.  The Colorado Creative Industries has just announced that Telluride now carries the full title and benefits associated with carrying the designation Telluride Creative District. This is the highest category afforded to Creative Districts within Colorado. Thanks go to Kate Jones and her crew at Telluride Arts for following up on this amazing award and making sure we received it. Erica Kinias and the Telluride Historical Museum just became an affiliate with the Smithsonian Institute.  This is an amazing honor brought about by Erica and her leadership and vision. Balloon Festival went extremely well this year.  Ginny and I flew with Peter and Colleen from Gallup, NM, the lead balloonists of the Festival.  The first day was crystal clear with perfect wind speed and direction.  The Glow on Main Street was absolutely spectacular.  MountainFilm had one of the largest crowds ever and sold out.  The reviews of this festival were extremely positive, with some of our competitive towns like Aspen, where they spoke about the town, the program and the people of Telluride in quite flattering terms.  Ride the Rockies was in town the weekend of June 7th-9th, along with  "The Death Ride."  Bringing 3,400 bicyclists and their friends and families that helped us with a typically slow time, between MountainFilm and Bluegrass.

Staff - Each year I am amazed at the performance of our staff.  From Greg Clifton, to Kevin Geiger to all the Directors and everyone else at every level.  The pride and skill set they all exhibit is something this town should be very excited about.  We keep asking them to do more and they do it with enthusiasm.  The Historic Survey is moving along, as are the Design Standards.  We are seeing more applications coming through our offices.  I work with staff on a daily basis and thoroughly support each and every one of them.  They believe in Telluride and through their efforts they help make us who we are.  Next time you see a bus driver, someone patching the streets or hosing off the sidewalks, thank them.  When you come into Rebekah Hall or Old Town Hall, let them know how much you appreciate them. 

Personal Comments -This past six months, I have had the opportunity to be involved with people and issues that have created lasting memories for me.  Through efforts in an organization called Mayors Against Illegal Guns, I was able to support, on a national and state wide basis, with 900 other mayors, laws  for background checks on gun sales, no assault weapons, no high capacity magazines and elimination of illegal trafficking of guns.  Speaking in front of the House Judiciary Committee on those subjects and being invited to meet with President Obama in Denver was extremely rewarding.  Working with the Governor, the State Tourism Office, the Colorado Film Commission and film producers from Hollywood, securing state funds and sites for a potential film series in our region was unusual and very educational.  Helping bring Ride the Rockies to Telluride as a starting town and making June a bigger and more important month for the Telluride economy, will be beneficial for the entire region.  But equal to all of that was working with three other mayors in educating our eighth graders on how small town government operates, along with the importance of collaboration and having set goals to work towards. 

As I have said with each State of the Town address and this is my thirteenth one, I thank you for allowing me to be your mayor and to help make sure that Telluride is what most of us hope it will always be...an amazing place to live and work.  In the November election, there will be four open seats on council.  I am frequently asked who to support.  My recommendation is to choose individuals who understand what is important to you, not necessarily what is important to them.  After all, we work for you.   

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