Special districts not sovereign districts
This letter is offered as a broad response to the letter recently read in the Post Independent complaining about the treatment received by the parks and recreation groups from the town of Parachute. While the letter was much more of emotional complaining and accusations than of factual information, it does exemplify an ever-so-common situation that occurs in most communities, as has occurred recently in Silt, New Castle and Glenwood Springs.
Where single-purpose or “special” districts are established to provide a single public service, such as education, recreation, fire protection, water and sewer, they become separate governmental entities acting and operating quite independent of one another. Therein lurks the difficulty: The districts operate as separate governments in their communities without much regard for the actions and operations of the others. They each and separately levy taxes, and have their separate buildings and facilities, administration and operations personnel, engineers, lawyers, etc., all at taxpayers’ expense. While they each may need to exist to provide a desired community service, they exist with overall less efficient and more expensive costs of duplicated operations.
It is particularly instructive to note that most districts operate and have facilities within a town, where they expect and demand all the municipal services, including street access, water and sewer service, police protection and others. It is quite reasonable, logical and responsible (and should be to no thinking person’s surprise or question) that towns would and should be concerned about the location of other district facilities and their impacts on town services. School facilities and recreation sites can have the same effect upon neighborhoods and town infrastructures and services as would a shopping center, with the parking lots, play fields, extra lighting, large signs, evening activities and high volume traffic through neighborhoods and town streets. Citizens of towns also are taxpayers and would expect that the facilities that they pay for are efficiently managed and maintained for the good and safety of all.
That a town would have a mayor who would make the extra effort to help coordinate a public project with all the affected governmental entities, despite all the resistance and the parochial suspicions and inferences, is a credit to that area.
Taxpayers of all districts and towns deserve the most efficient government and use of their dollars, and “protecting” one’s position or job, just for the sake of maintaining a political independence, does not make efficient government; picture all the separate administrators, lawyers and engineers arguing with one another for those reasons at taxpayers’ expense. There are better ways to sail.
The special districts need to recognize that they are a part of a community, instead of an exclusive “club” or sovereign state, and should make the efforts to see that their facilities will physically “fit into” the rest of the community. Towns need to be made aware of the districts’ needs and how they can best provide services for them in an efficient and compatible manner, especially for future developments. Districts might well be reminded that it is the town, and county, governments which have the authority, through zoning and subdivision regulations, to help protect the district facilities from encroachment adjacent to them by incompatible uses, and to obtain land for future uses for the districts; cooperative attitudes would certainly help to facilitate that system, for the benefit of all.
The citizens and taxpayers of an area would certainly benefit more where the various service governments would develop a formal working relationship of cooperation and coordination of projects and services. What good reason is there for not getting together on a regular basis to review future plans, needed services and mutual problems in their common overlapping areas (maybe just share adjacent driveways or parking lots or other simple facility, for heavens’ sake!). Having separate governments does not mean that they cannot speak to one another about mutual situations to develop some measure of cooperative efforts for mutual benefits.
What a concept – efficient government, out of mutual assistance and cooperation and perhaps more appreciation for taxpayer dollars!
May these comments spark the appropriate leaderships in communities to develop better overall governments.
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