Durango School District 9-R is expected to vote this month to contribute money to Hermosa Meadows Road improvements, which would be a step toward the roadway becoming public.
The school board is scheduled to vote Feb. 28 to commit as much as $375,000 to bring the road up to La Plata County standards, which is required before the county will agree to acquire the road and assume maintenance costs.
“The homeowners associations are in partnership to bring closure on the road issue,” district spokeswoman Julie Popp said. “We’ve been in discussions for a few years now.”
Popp said the school’s pledge would likely come from the fund balance. Private homeowners would help cover the remainder of improvements.
About 10 miles north of Durango, the road runs east off U.S. Highway 550. It accesses private homes as well as Animas Valley Elementary, which is the only district school without access from a public road. “The school district, years ago, made the misstep of building a public school accessed by a private road where there was no enforcement or long-term maintenance plan,” Popp said. “What it boils down to is creating a public access road for a public school.”
The school was built in 1994.
Each year, the district and neighboring homeowners associations pay for snow removal and maintenance, but the county would incur those costs if it acquires the road. Popp said school funding for road maintenance fluctuates from year to year. She did not provide an amount.
For years, the cost of improvements has stalled the change.
Hank Hayes is president of the Red Rock homeowners association, which is one of the school’s neighboring residential communities along with Blue Sky Ranch. Though county commissioners favor an $800,000 improvement option, Hayes said the total cost remains up in the air, but he expressed confidence that homeowners and the school district will raise the necessary amount.
“Each HOA is different and has various amounts available, so each board is working in concert with their homeowners,” Hayes said. “We estimated that it would cost around $1,500 per property owner, but that isn’t an exact number.”
Hayes said the homeowners associations will assemble a volunteer board to oversee the project and hire a contractor for the work, with a goal to finish by the beginning of the 2017 school year.
As for the $800,000 estimate, “we’re hoping it can be done for less than that,” Hayes said.
In a meeting late last year that resurrected the years-old debate, county commissioners stressed that they are not in a budgetary position to assume control of a road in poor condition, given their revenue shortfall and an existing catalog of roads and bridges in need of repairs.
Commissioners intend to draft a letter in the coming weeks promising homeowners associations that the county will acquire the road provided it is improved to county standards.
“This investment will bring final closure to this issue, and we appreciate the support of homeowners in the community,” District Superintendent Dan Snowberger said. “It will cease investments in snow removal and basic maintenance that have been in place since the construction of Animas Valley Elementary, and we appreciate the county’s consideration of adopting this road and recognize the need of the county to be fiscally responsible and bring the road up to a high set of standards without increasing the burden on the Road and Bridge Department.”