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Forum considers road plan

Eighteen county residents attended the Roads Advisory Task Force forum Sept. 10 — nearly a record breaking figure for abysmal attendance at a local government meeting in 2009, and bested only by a Sept. 1 event when zero citizens turned out to hear the county commissioners grant 25-year vested property rights to a 1,207-unit development on a 500-acre parcel near downtown Pagosa Springs.

According to 2008 U.S. Census Bureau figures — estimating the county population at 12,648 — it appears 12,630 citizens chose to opt out of the discussion on how the county proposes to spend more than $4 million of their tax dollars on repaving projects slated for 2010.

That said, and based on information presented at the forum, the lion’s share of the $4 million will likely go to roads in Pagosa Lakes.

Specifically, and as of Sept. 10, the Roads Advisory Task Force recommended spending:

• $2.31 million on repaving Piedra Road, from its intersection with North Pagosa Boulevard south as far as the money will allow, or roughly two miles.

• $1.46 million on repaving Aspenglow Boulevard.

• $1.59 million on Cloud Cap Avenue.

• $843,150 on Handicap Avenue.

• $3.04 million on roughly three miles of the upper portion of Trujillo Road.

• $531,300 on Carlee Place.

Task Force members live on the following roads: Snow Circle, County Road 400, U.S. 84, Dyke Circle and Nature’s Way Court.

The proposed project list totals $9.78 million and will have to be whittled down to meet the $4 million figure. All the proposed projects are repaving projects.

Although Pagosa Lakes residents have been vocal advocates of repaving projects in their subdivisions during the Sept. 10 and Aug. 12 road forums, the fact that the bulk of the dollars would go toward Pagosa Lakes projects was not lost on one attendee.

“What about the rest of us?” the man asked.

Good question.

Archuleta County Public Works Director Ken Feyen said the project list was derived from analyzing key data on the county road inventory including safety factors, average daily traffic counts, the road’s condition and its remaining useful life. In addition, Feyen said the task force looked at equitable distribution of capital improvement dollars and the economic ramifications or impact of certain projects. Thus, the six-project list was born.

Collectively, task force members agreed it was grueling to distill the county’s most pressing repaving needs to a six-project, $4 million list, and acknowledged the dollars available were painfully insufficient. Thus, not everyone in the county would be happy with their recommendations.

“I have a real concern trying to pass a bond issue with the roads on that list. Why bother, the money is all going to PLPOA,” said task force member Bob Frye.

However, based on historic Archuleta County election patterns, Frye’s deduction may prove counter-intuitive.

According to county staff and the commissioners, the subtext of their aggressive 2010 road plan is to demonstrate competence and the ability to execute on projects which may then bolster voter support for a $12 million road bond issue slated for 2011.

If past election patterns prove anything, it’s that if voters in Pagosa Lakes subdivisions support a candidate or ballot issue, that individual or ballot measure has a strong chance of success at the polls. The reason? Sheer numbers. The highest concentration of registered voters live in Pagosa Lakes subdivisions. Thus, the political equation regarding a road bond issue may read: paved roads in Pagosa Lakes equals happy voters, which equals success with the $12 million bond issue.

However, those same voters, already having paved roads, could dismiss the bond issue if they perceive that the need for improved roads does not exist.

Next steps

The Roads Advisory Task Force will make recommendations to the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners Sept. 22 at 1:30 p.m. in the commissioners’ meeting room at the courthouse.

Following the recommendation and a public hearing, the board will make their decision on how to allocate the $4 million for 2010.

By the end of September, county staff intend to engage engineering firms and begin survey and geotechnical work in October, with construction slated to begin as soon as possible in the spring of 2010.

During the winter, the task force will review the results of a recently-commissioned road study — due in December — and will use the revised data in conjunction with public works staff to develop a five-year road capital improvement and maintenance plan. A draft capital improvement plan is expected spring 2010.

Show up

According to Archuleta County Administrator Greg Schulte, the next opportunity for citizens to weigh in on the road plan will occur Sept. 22 when the commissioners make their final decision on road projects for 2010.