A property tax measure to expand Durango-La Plata County Airport expansion lost by landslide, while a tax increase to fund La Plata County roads and bridges was defeated by a slim margin.
The airport question was defeated 62 percent to 38 percent. The roads and bridges question lost more narrowly, 52 percent to 48 percent.
“It’s disappointing. If we had heard people’s concerns, maybe we could have done a better job of addressing them,” said campaign manager Patrick Cummins of the roads and bridges measure.
Campaign workers spent a lot of time talking with people at events, and they heard mainly positive feedback about the tax increase.
La Plata County asked for about $40 million more to spend over 10 years for road and bridge projects.
This was the second time the commissioners asked voters for more money to help make up for a downturn in oil and gas taxes. It also failed narrowly in 2015.
Commissioner Julie Westendorff said the campaign was run better this time, than it was in 2015, she said.
“I appreciate the support I got from our citizens group,” she said.
The owner of a $400,000 home would have paid $76 more in annual property taxes as a result of this increase.
The county had planned to use the money to reconstruct 24 miles of roadway across 12 roads, 32 miles of asphalt paving at 12 locations and 11 bridge and intersection projects.
Durango, Bayfield and Ignacio would have received some of the new property tax revenue for projects as well.
On the airport tax, Mayor Christina Rinderle said she placed 800 campaign calls to promote the airport expansion and many of those calls were positive, she said.
“I am honestly surprised,” she said of the airport measure’s defeat.
“I am still determined in continuing to advocate for this investment for our community.”
The 20-year property tax increase for the airport would have raised $40 million for a new terminal on the east side of the runway. Matching funds from the Federal Aviation Administration could have contributed another $35 million to $40 million for the project.
The owner of a $400,000 home will would have paid about $50 more each year for property taxes for this expansion.
Air travel increases would have triggered more expansion.
The terminal would have created more room for more travelers, baggage, office space and equipment storage for the airlines.
In addition to a new building, the project would have included more parking space for cars and planes. A safer intersection at Colorado Highway 172 and an extension of County Road 309A that would provide a direct route to the new terminal.
However endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mice have been found living where the road realignment is planned and a mitigation for the habitat destruction has not been determined.
The environmental assessment on three different airport expansion options will continue as planned, Interim Airport Director Tony Vicari said.
Durango city councilors and La Plata County commissioners will have to decide whether to put the question back on the ballot.
Councilor Dean Brookie still feels a new terminal on the east side of the runway is the best solution for the airport to help sustain the community.
“It seems that message was not heard,” he said.