At the Aug. 27 board meeting trustee Karen Budinger spoke in favor of considering marijuana as a viable source of revenue for street improvments. During the finance and personnel committee report to the board, Budinger said the town’s enterprise funds can pay for items like a new trash truck which the board approved a purchase of earlier in the meeting, water projects and repairs and upgrades. But the general fund is the only one that can be used to improve streets, and sales and property taxes are its only funding sources.
“The only hope we have for the streets is finding some additional revenue,” said Budinger. “So my slogan would be ‘Pot for Potholes.’ I really hope the community backs it.”
Budinger said the finance and personnel committee and town treasurer Ross King, who was not at the meeting, are asking the board to consider new revenue sources in drafting the budget, including business registration fees, exercising of existing pre-annexation agreements, food truck licensing, and short-term rental fees — all topics that have been or are currently being considered by the board but not included in the preliminary 2020 budget figures.
The town has put marijuana questions before voters twice. In 2010, voters banned all retail marijuana sales in town by a margin of 16 votes. In November 2014, voters rejected sales of marijuana products, but a separate ballot question on taxing marijuana sales passed by a wide margin. It is possible, said Budinger, for the town to pass an ordinance allowing the sale of marijuana without a vote of the people.
Budinger said they question whether ballot language was phrased correctly, and if enough public discussion and community involvement was offered prior to the elections. It is possible that the town may not need to hold an election to legalize sales, said Budinger. “But what we’re proposing right now is just an open public discussion and study of what other towns are doing.”
Town Planning Coordinator Evan Bolt, an intern whose year-long stint with the town that began in June is funded by a grant, presented a spreadsheet to the board listing where available the marijuana tax rates and annual revenues earned from sales of marijuana for some 70 towns and cities. The town closest in size to Paonia is Mancos, said Bolt. Located between Durango and Cortez near the Four Corners area, Mancos has a population of 1,415, and the government employs 14.
According to Bolt’s research, Mancos operates fewer than three cannabis shops (the website wheres
weed.com states that Mancos has one marijuana shop). In its 2019 budget, Mancos projects marijuana revenues of $510,000. The town is unique in that it taxes sales and charges a flat $3 fee per transaction, said Bolt.
Bolt said he spoke with Mancos representatives who said they approached the issue based on how it could improve and work for the town. Following legalization, the town experienced “a small uptick in crime,” and with marijuana revenues were able to hire an additional law enforcement officer.
Mancos also saved time and resources by letting the state vet applications, allowing the town to consider only those applications accepted by the state.
Budinger requested that the board hold a special study session on the matter in the near future. “What we’re proposing now is just an open, public discussion,” said Budinger. The town wants to know what other towns are doing, the impacts both positive and negative, and how the town feels about it.
“Not only is it a divisive issue, it has also gone before the voters twice,” said Mayor Charles Stewart. In considering further discussion, he urged caution. “Any action that this board takes needs to be noticed significantly to the public.”
During commitee reports to the board, trustee Bill Bear reported that the Public Works committee discussed sidewalk repairs at its most recent meeting. Some trees will have to be removed in order to repair certain areas and they’re going to have to be done rather quickly, said Bear. The town is soliciting bids for tree stump removal at Fourth Street and Onarga and Third Street and Box Elder and will be removing in-house stumps at other locations. The work will allow the town to repair sidewalks “critically impaired” by the stumps, said Bear.
The board also approved to purchase a new trash truck. The KY3558-59 25Y Phoenix Chassis will be purchased from Cedar Falls, Iowa-based Curbtender Inc. Cost for the new trick is 176,460. Funds will come from enterprise fund trash reserves, of which the town currently has $249,000. The town will also put $10,000 in trash capital improvement funds toward the purchase.
The town’s Heil trash truck is 20 years old, said public works directord Travis Loberg. Recent repairs to the truck have been “substantial” and costly, and the truck bed has a large track that the town has attempts multiple times to repair. The suspension bushings lasted about two and a half years and need replacing again.
The board also voted to continue discussion on a business license ordinance ordinance at the request of town attorney Bo Nerlin. With numerous other items needing attention, Nerlin has not had sufficient time to address the revised language defining businesses that would be required to obtain or renew the annual license. Discussion will continue at the Sept. 10 board meeting.
Also on the agenda for the Sept. 10 meeting will be the Poulso Park project.
Paonia awards bid for teen center roof
By TAMIE MECK
The Town of Paonia committed to paying toward a new roof for the Ellen Hansen (Smith) Teen Center at Paonia Town Park. The building, which is used year-round, is owned by the town, with operations and activities overseen by an all-volunteer teen center board of directors.
Trustees considered three project bids at Aug. 27 board meeting before awarding the low bid of $46,256 to Hotchkiss-based Clisset LLC. The contract calls for removal and replacement of the existing roof, with an option to install downspouts at the four corners of the building for an additional $1,300.
The teen center board of directors is pledging $15,000 toward the project. In July, Delta County Commissioner Mark Roeber, who represents the North Fork area, pledged $20,000 from the district’s share of the Conservation Trust Fund toward the project. The town will cover the balance of the project with capital improvement funds.
The teen center building is about 30 years old and the existing roof has been repaired numerous times during its lifetime, and water has caused some damage to the building’s interior. The town submitted a grant application to the Department of Local Affairs for a new roof earlier this year, according to interim town administrator Corinne Ferguson. After meeting recently with DOLA representatives, it was recommended that the town re-submitted the grant application to DOLA, with a focus on repairing interior damage.
Teen Center board president Bob Bushta thanked the town and everyone who made a new roof possible.