Trauger column: Band-Aid approach won’t cut it on streets fix
I want to thank Jim Yellico [March 18 Guest Opinion] for his recent statement, “…our leaders are doing a very good job of preparing us for success now and in the future.”
Glenwood Springs has the best, fiscally prudent leadership team that this city has seen. The city received two national awards for transparency and understandability for both our Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) and our Annual Budget for transparency and understandability.
This was impressive, because staff is using an archaic, mid-1980s DOS system inherited from a previous finance director. Thanks to leadership, the city is upgrading this system now. Congratulations to Yvette Gustad, finance director, and Steve Boyd, Chief Operating Officer, for this achievement. This will benefit the entire community.
Near the Bottom
This year, Glenwood participated in a statewide Pavement Condition Funding and Performance Survey [https://bit.ly/2UJbfy4] because of the pavement analysis recently done. Glenwood street condition rating is 35 out of 100 — with 100 being the high end of the scale. The average condition rating throughout the state is 70, with most falling in the 63 to 75 range.
At a rating of 35, Glenwood ranks near the bottom; number 75th out of 79 cities in the state for the worst street conditions in the state.
This survey provides a metric for comparison and a measurement to help governmental leaders in prioritizing needs. Mike Skinner, a professional engineer and director of pavement engineering for Colorado Asphalt Pavement Association (CAPA), advises that with a ranking as low as Glenwood’s, it is difficult to find sufficient funding within existing budgets.
Canon City, with a similar rating, faced a choice a few years ago. Voters successfully passed a dedicated sales tax and streets are improving. Grand Junction, Greeley, Ft. Morgan, Colorado Springs and La Junta have also faced similar problems and have successfully recognized that a different approach is needed.
How do we fix the problem we have now?
Glenwood spends and average of $7,824 per mile on street maintenance. The statewide average is $4,973. This is because Glenwood is spending more trying to “maintain” failed streets that should be replaced, along with the underlying infrastructure.
This is not a recent problem. It has been decades in the making. It was, and still is, a failure to see the scope and seriousness of the issue. No amount of belt tightening will create sufficient dedicated revenue to fix this problem.
It is fruitless to blame anyone. It is time to look ahead.
Mr. Yellico states taxes are oppressive. Our street conditions are equally oppressive. They inflict a hardship. Our citizens are suffering real physical and financial injury due to the condition of our streets.
Falls, bicycle accidents, broken axles, flat tires, damaged rims, crashes, as well as a decrease in property value and lost real estate sales due to these conditions, are consequences. These are not scare tactics. These are real.
Those opposed believe that if this tax passes, it will be a hardship for residents and businesses will fail, because people will flock to neighboring towns to shop.
Look at the facts. For an average family of four the cost will be 24 cents per day. Common sense will quickly make most consumers realize that it will cost them more in fuel and time to drive elsewhere than it is worth.
Whether you trust the 73 percent number provided by the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, or not, those outside the city pay significantly more than half of our sales tax. Why we would not want to leverage that assistance?
It is time
Mr. Yellico also agrees that, “1. Replacement of this infrastructure will be more costly if we wait; 2. The majority of our sales tax is paid for by non-Glenwood residents; and, 3. We need new streets and infrastructure.”
However, he fails to understand that we cannot nickel and dime ourselves out of this problem. If we think that we can, we have, once again, kicked that problem down the road and it will cost us all more in the long run; approximately $2.6 million more every year.
Additionally, holding Glenwood hostage to the success of Re-1 School District and RFTA is unconscionable. Even worse is using the increase in property tax to fund the Fire Department and District as an excuse to not support this tax — particularly after the horrid fires we had last year.
worst thing is nothing
I don’t like taxes any more than Mr. Yellico, Mr. Edmonds, Mr. Hershey or most people. However, after months of careful study and consideration I recognize that a parsimonious, Band-Aid approach to this problem — and that is exactly what they are promoting — will come back to bite us for years. Our children and grandchildren will wonder why Glenwood passed up the opportunity to resolve this problem.
Teddy Roosevelt once said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
It is time to do the right thing.
Kathryn Trauger lives in and writes from her hometown of Glenwood Springs. She is currently part of the Fix Our Streets Now campaign, and has served on Glenwood Springs City Council, the Planning and Zoning Commission, and currently the city’s Financial Advisory Board. Her column, Perspective, appears monthly in the Post Independent and at postindependent.com. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 970-379-4849.
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