RIDGWAY – In a scenario that seemed strangely familiar, the Ridgway Town Council faced a practically empty meeting room at its meeting last Wednesday, Jan. 8, as it authorized a $1.9 million bond question to be placed on the ballot in the town’s upcoming municipal election on April 1.
The pending bond measure will ask Ridgway voters to increase town property taxes by $160,000 annually to help finance the town’s $2 million cash match obligation for a $10.5 million RAMP grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation, to conduct a variety of downtown infrastructure improvements associated with the Town of Ridgway’s Streetscape plan.
As hashed out at a special council meeting just prior to the holiday season, the ballot language clarifies that the town agrees to bond in the amount of $1.9 million (fronting the remaining $100,000 of the cash match requirement out of existing funds) and includes an annual commitment of $50,000 from its Capital Improvement tax revenues generated by a 0.6 percent sales tax hike approved by Ridgway voters in 2006, or 50 percent of the sales tax revenues flowing into that fund annually, whichever is greater, to help pay down the debt more quickly.
Council previously passed a resolution for a $2.7 million bond question to be placed on last November’s ballot to help finance the Streetscape project through the then-pending RAMP grant or an alternate funding scenario, only to withdraw the ballot measure at the eleventh hour due to strenuous opposition from some of the town’s business owners, who objected to higher property taxes.
Now, the dollar amount of the bonding requirement has been significantly scaled down, and the question is officially headed for the ballot once more. Still, Mayor John Clark acknowledged, “We all know we will need a serious outreach effort; I think that is how things get done in Ridgway. It’s our job to educate [citizens] about all the aspects that make this as positive as I think it is.”
Councilor Eric Johnson also stressed the importance of educating citizens about a $500,000 grant for which the town has applied from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. If this grant is awarded, the town will apply the money toward its matching fund obligation for the RAMP grant, thus bringing down the amount of the bond it will ultimately issue to $1.4 million rather than $1.9 million.
The town won’t find out whether it has been awarded the DOLA grant until just before the April 1 election.
“This is a big, important decision and very few people here,” Clark said, with Councilor Ellen Hunter adding, “This is what happened last time.”
Nevertheless, Councilor Johnson moved to adopt the resolution referring the ballot issue to the April 1 election. The motion passed unanimously.
‘LAKE O’ ACQUISITION MOVES FORWARD
Council also unanimously agreed to move forward with eminent domain procedures to acquire needed easements to proceed with its “Lake O” water storage augmentation project. The property owner in question “has expressed support of the discussion,” said Town Manager Jen Coates.
The procedure is necessary to ensure the release of an existing conservation easement on the property.
An order of possession would allow the construction project to go forward. “It will be a voluntary transaction,” said Coates. “The court will give a rule of order that acts as a deed to transfer interest to the town,” she said, adding that she is “hoping to wrap it up in next two to three months” so that the town will be able to commence construction “when the snow melts.”
STUDENT LIAISON TO COUNCIL PROGRAM GAINS TRACTION
At the suggestion of Ridgway Secondary School junior Mikayla Unruh, who recently served as a Town Hall Student Intern, members of council agreed to implement a program to boost student involvement in town government.
Councilor Jason Gunning, who is on the RSS faculty, will be charged with kick-starting the program, and helping to select a student who would be interested in being a town council student liaison, and eventually helping to create a Ridgway Youth Council with the goal of giving youth a greater voice in community decisions.
AXEL PROJECT CHARITY RIDE PLANNED FOR AUG. 30
Randy Charrette, director of the Axel Project, informed the Ridgway Town Council that his organization plans to host a charity bicycle ride on Saturday, Aug. 30, over Red Mountain Pass, and asked for a letter of support from the Town of Ridgway for the event. Charrette said he is working with the Colorado State Patrol and Colorado Department of Transportation to iron out the details of using US 550 for the event. The charity ride will be a tour and non-timed event, and the highway will not be closed to vehicular traffic.
Charrette’s toddler son Axel Charrette was killed in Mexico last year. The Axel Project, set up by his parents in his memory, gives away pedal-less Strider bikes to kids who might not otherwise have access to one, to spread the feeling of joy and independence that Axel experienced while on his bike.
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