Durango residents have told city leaders that improved streets and sidewalks and storm water management top the priorities that they want the city to address most immediately.
That information comes from a week of 15 meetings the city held in September. It gathered feedback from 790 people on how to fund about $200 million in construction and equipment the city needs.
The outreach focused on projects that must be funded out of general city revenues, such as a new police station. It excluded city departments like parks and recreation, transportation, trash, sewer and water projects because they have dedicated sources of funding.
The community supported redesignating the 2005 half-cent sales tax, currently used for the Durango Public Library, Florida Road and open space, and a new half-cent sales tax, to help pay for projects funded by the general fund. Others suggested increasing lodgers tax, according an executive summary.
“It was encouraging to see that the community members that came out to provide input and participate in the process were open to discussing ways to generate revenue,” Assistant City Manager Amber Blake said.
However, a half-cent sales tax on its own would not pay for all the city’s construction and equipment needs.
Some suggested cutting the city’s spending in other areas to pay for construction, the summary said.
For example, some people suggested eliminating assistants to managers, Blake said.
“We appreciate the fact that folks were willing and open enough to give us feedback on how we can change our spending,” she said.
The feedback will be applied to developing the 2019 budget.
Blake was not surprised streets and sidewalks ranked high for residents.
“If the streets are not maintained and you can’t get to work, that has an immediate impact on your quality of life,” she said.
But she was impressed that storm water management ranked highly.
“It is a crucial component of keeping our community functional,” she said.
It will likely become more important as the community experiences changing weather patterns.
In the coming months, the city plans to do similar research to determine what the community’s vision is for Durango.
The outreach will focus on services and programs, because the city is projected to face an operational shortfall in 2020.
If the city cannot afford to fund all current services, the city wants to make sure it is focusing on what will help achieve the community’s vision, Blake said.
The city recently wrapped up the process to update its comprehensive plan, which focuses heavily on development. The outreach the city plans to do will have a more operational focus.
“It might seem like we’re constantly in planning mode. ... At the same time we are planning or updating plans, projects are getting done,” Blake said.
For the upcoming visioning process, the city expects to hold some open houses, but the staff also wants to meet with small groups, such as homeowners associations.
“There is a quiet majority that is out there working two or three jobs. They have got kids, they have got hobbies, and they don’t necessarily have time to go to a public meeting,” she said.
If residents are interested in inviting a city official to speak with a group or club about the visioning process, call Blake at 375-5005 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.