2A passes by 12 votes | PostIndependent.com

2A passes by 12 votes

City leaders can begin planning to fix existing streets and consider building some new ones after Glenwood Springs voters approved a half-cent sales tax.

But just barely.

Voters decided 1,113-1,101 to approve the 20-year tax increase. It will raise an estimated $1.8 million in its first year and fund street maintenance and repairs, a traffic efficiencies program targeting traffic-calming measures such as bike lanes and roundabouts, and payment on existing transportation-related debt.

An existing 0.25 percent transportation tax will expire at the end of this year, and provides almost all of the funding for maintaining and reconstructing city streets.

Voters last fall narrowly rejected a 0.5-percent tax proposal for purposes including street maintenance, even as they approved a measure to let the city issue bonds to borrow against the income of the tax had it been approved.

Now the city has funding that will allow it to proceed with bonding if need be. Building a direct connection from Eighth Street to Midland Avenue could be a top priority. City officials see the connection as essential to improving access between downtown and the Glenwood Meadows commercial development, which is now beginning to open.

Counting of city ballots was slowed Tuesday because of 552 people who walked in to vote on the final day of the election, city clerk Robin Unsworth said. Final results weren’t available until midnight.

Some 1,600 people had mailed in their ballots before Tuesday, and 47 mailed-in ballots arrived Tuesday.

Altogether, 2,220 residents voted on the tax, or just over 50 percent of active voters, meaning those who had voted in last year’s election.

City officials had warned of dire consequences if the tax measure failed. The city would have likely had to turn to its general fund for street projects, leading to cuts in other programs.

The city is recovering from several years of lagging sales tax revenues, as a result of the 9/11 attacks, the national recession, the Coal Seam Fire of 2002 and the opening of the Wal-Mart in Rifle. It has relied on surpluses from its landfill and electric utility operations to make up for other shortfalls but city officials say that practice can’t go on indefinitely.

This fall’s tax had faced little organized opposition. Stan Stevens, a longtime critic of tax increases in Glenwood Springs, had spoken out against it, saying the city needed to make more appropriate use of existing funding sources and also can rely on new revenues from the opening of the Glenwood Meadows commercial development.

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