Voters in unincorporated Garfield decline to join RFTA |

Voters in unincorporated Garfield decline to join RFTA

Voters took the air out of the tires of an effort to get Garfield County to join the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority.

Residents of unincorporated Garfield County defeated a proposal to get them to join, and help fund, RFTA, and pay for some trails and other transit projects as well. Unofficial results showed the measure was defeated by 5,259-3,417.

The measure also lost in the town of Silt, 454-374, but it won in New Castle, 587-535.

The county vote applied only to residents living outside municipal limits.

Garfield County Commissioner John Martin said he believes the vote is an indication that the county should look at organizing its own bus system.

Martin had opposed the county joining RFTA, fearing that the organization’s financial difficulties could be a liability for the county.

Fellow commissioner Tresi Houpt, who had supported the RFTA proposal, said she thinks the campaign to pass the measure got a late start, and she would like it voted on again after more public education occurs.

“I still believe that public transportation is a critical issue,” she said.

Noting how expensive it is to run RFTA, she said she thought it would be cost-prohibitive for the county to run its own bus system.

Houpt said one reason the county RFTA tax failed may be that Battlement Mesa was being asked to fund the bus system though no bus runs farther west than Rifle.

This was the first time that elected officials in Silt, New Castle and unincorporated Garfield County had put the question of joining RFTA to a public vote.

Western Garfield County already is being served by RFTA’s Hogback Route, which carries more than 50,000 riders per year.

New Castle and Silt were deciding whether to approve a 0.4 percent RFTA sales and use tax. Voters in unincorporated Garfield County were deciding on a 0.4 percent sales and use tax to pay for RFTA and partially fund the Traveler service for senior citizens. In addition, they were asked to approve another 0.2 percent sales tax for trails and non-RFTA transit projects.

Residents of Silt, New Castle and unincorporated Garfield County also were being asked to pay an annual $10 vehicle registration fee imposed by RFTA if they joined the system.

The RFTA tax proposals also included the stipulation that the amounts generated by them would not be subject to the revenue and spending limits of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights Amendment to the state Constitution. Current RFTA revenues are already excluded from those limits.

Also Tuesday, RFTA won approval from voters in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Basalt and the Eagle County portion of the Roaring Fork Valley to increase their taxes as RFTA members, and Pitkin County voters approved reallocating funds from an existing transit tax to RFTA.

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