Ballot Issue 1A sales tax revenue at work
Progress on streets, trails, community center and emergency response thanks to 1A sales tax
By Town Administrator Frank Lancaster
It has been three years since the citizens of Estes Park approved a 1 percent additional sales tax for specific improvements in the Town. I want to report back to you how the additional sales tax is working in our community. For background, voters approved the 1 percent additional sales tax in Ballot Issue 1A during the April 2014 Municipal Election. The tax is in effect until 2024 and must be used for the following purposes:
Since its inception, the 1A sales tax has raised just over $6.7 million. This is for the period from July 2014, when it went into effect, through March 2017, since sales tax is received about 45 days after the end of the month. By the end of 2017, it will raise an estimated $9.1 million.
Streets (60 percent)
Fixing roads is expensive and takes planning, equipment and labor. Although 10 years may seem like a long time, it's not very long to address all of our road needs. In 2017 we expect to spend approximately $2.28 million on Town streets. To most effectively use the sales tax revenue, we have developed project priorities and a schedule based on sound engineering principles and a knowledge of the condition of the pavement network. We have a dedicated Pavement Manager in the Public Works Department, and he coordinates all the work accomplished with 1A street funds. Learn more at www.estes.org/streetimprovements.
One of the most active programs of the 1A street funding is the spray patcher machine that allows us to very efficiently fill and repair potholes during most months of the year with just one operator. This year we have filled over 759 potholes. We completed 1,948 repairs in 2015 and another 1,516 in 2016. We can even arrange a ride along if you are interested. You can learn more about the patcher and see where we have been repairing potholes and doing other repairs at www.estes.org/potholepatching.
Major road improvements funded by the 1A street funds include Dry Gulch Road, with a new attached concrete trail on the west side of the road, and the bike trail extension under U.S. 34 connecting to the Lake Estes Trail. Currently we are working on major improvements to MacGregor Avenue north of Wonderview Avenue. These include repaving, an attached concrete trail, storm drainage improvements, and an enhanced pedestrian crossing at the Wonderview Avenue intersection. Other improvements include about 20 miles of roadway crack sealing, large asphalt patch repairs at 11 locations, chip seal resurfacing on 20 streets and new asphalt overlays on four streets. New to the program this year is resurfacing of the Town parking lots. A new asphalt overlay of the Riverside lot was completed in June.
Community Center (25 percent)
Each month the Town transfers 1A funds to support the construction of the Estes Valley Community Center. So far $1.6 million have been used in the construction of the new Community Center that is under construction and slated for opening next winter. The Estes Valley Recreation and Park District is the leader of this project to build a great new amenity for our community.
Public multiuse trails (12.5 percent)
As part of the Dry Gulch Road rehabilitation project, we built a new trail underpass at U.S. 34 that connects the bike/pedestrian lanes along Dry Gulch Road with the Lake Estes Trail. This means bikes and pedestrians don’t have to cross U.S. 34 -- one of the busiest roadways in the valley. Also, paired with $300,000 in Larimer County Open Lands funds, we’re using $250,000 in 1A Trail Expansion funds for the construction of the MacGregor Avenue trail.
Emergency Response (2.5 percent)
One of the very first things we did with 1A funds, in December 2014, was to launch our own information and emergency radio station -- Estes 1470 AM. Listen to the new station next time you get in the car, or check it out online through a link at www.estes.org. With this new radio station we can quickly broadcast emergency information. When there’s no emergency, we include other public information updates about facilities, events and road closures, weather emergencies and traffic updates. Other investments we have made to improve emergency response include upgrading our mobile command truck with equipment to safely monitor and manage incidents from a long distance, purchases of hazardous material safety equipment for Town first responders, and the purchase of a HAM antenna system for the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) folks to be able to assist with emergency communications should traditional communication infrastructure be compromised. These funds also are allowing us to provide hazardous material training to front line staff in the utilities, streets and parks departments.
We take the fiduciary responsibility of using your tax funds very seriously and we want to be completely transparent with how your investment in our community is being spent. So you can easily track the revenue, we set up separate funds for each purpose in the Town budget -- to separate it from all other operating funds of the Town. We also have a special page on our website at www.estes.org/ballotissue1a just for the 1 percent sales tax. We update this page to show you how much tax is coming in and how we have been using it in each of the four specific areas.