The issue of whether to impose a 10-cent fee on grocery bags will be blowing in the wind until Nov. 5.
The Durango City Council decided Tuesday to put the issue on the ballot rather than repeal the ordinance it passed earlier this month in a 4-1 vote.
Councilor Keith Brant made a motion to kill the 10-cent fee, but it died for lack of a second.
The referendum was prompted by a petition drive by residents opposed to the fee, which could still go into effect March 1 if upheld by voters in a mail-in vote.
David Peters, a member of the anti-fee group, Bag Ordinance to Vote, said he just wanted “good governance.”
When gathering the necessary 344 signatures to force the referendum, he said residents were “livid” that the council originally had passed an ordinance requiring a 10-cent fee on disposable plastic and paper bags at the checkouts of Walmart, Albertsons and the two City Market stores.
Residents wanted their say about the controversial issue, Peters said.
The referendum will be a ballot question during the regular Nov. 5 election, and will not cost the city additional money. Voters will have to decide a funding issue for Durango Fire & Rescue Authority during the same election.
Mayor Dick White thanked petitioners for getting signatures in early, keeping the city from having to pay up to $19,000 for a separate election.
Because the grocery-bag fee is a city issue, noncity residents will not be allowed to vote.
While not commenting directly on the referendum, councilors still made their feelings known.
Back from a trip from Los Angeles, where plastic grocery bags are banned, Councilor Dean Brookie said he was impressed that 18 million people could survive without them.
Councilor Sweetie Marbury invited Utility Director Steve Salka to explain how plastic bags flushed down the toilet are messing up the sewer system.
In other news related to sustainability, some residents reportedly are contaminating the glass-recycling containers behind Wagon Wheel liquor and north City Market.
These two locations became glass-only for recycling Saturday because the expanded recycling center on Tech Center Drive has been completed.
In its first day of business Saturday, the recycling center took in about $1,000 from the new $1 fee charged to noncity residents to drop off their recycling. City residents are not charged.
In addition, the council approved additional funding of $335,343 for the extension of Animas River Trail from the 29th Street to Animas City Park at 32nd Street.
The trail currently ends at 29th Street in the north.
The extension through Memorial Park is estimated to cost $1,571,612, but available funds were only $957,346, mostly coming from Colorado Department of Transportation grants.
The trail extension through Animas City Park ending at Bennet Street will cost $515,993, but the city had budgeted only $345,000.
The budget adjustment was necessary because “we don’t really know the cost (of projects) until we put them out to bid,” said Kevin Hall, assistant community development director, in an interview.
The extra funding will come from a half-cent voter-approved sales tax for the Durango Community Recreation Center and the river trail.
In addition, the city also is getting a supplemental grant of $155,169 from the Colorado Department of Transportation to make railroad improvements to the area.
The work should begin in the next two to three weeks.
The council also approved a conditional-use permit for the construction of a mountain-bike park at Chapman Hill. To help fund the project, estimated to cost about $550,000, the city is applying for a $333,450 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund, which is funded from proceeds of the state lottery.