At the heart of Leigh Meigs' and Scott Graham's argument is the 2005 Referendum 2A sales tax, which divided a half-cent increase evenly between capital-improvement projects and POST funding. The referendum did not specify a further division between parks, open space and trails.
Graham, however, said the other components of the 2A money, which included construction of the new public library, were added to the ballot measure on the coattails of what he called the "hugely popular" open-space initiative. At the time of the vote, Graham was chairman of the Open Space Advisory Board.
"When we were putting the ballot language together, I opined strongly there would be a problem with not having a set percentage between parks and recreation development and open space; staff disagreed and I lost that discussion," Graham said.
Graham said studies at the time of the 2A debate showed that the POST funds should be split 62 percent to 38 percent in favor of open space, but former City Manager Bob Ledger disputed that claim.
Ledger said when the city staff was trying to sell the 2A vote, parks and recreation staff submitted a list of potential projects that was heavily weighted in favor of recreation projects. The open-space board, and Graham in particular, objected to the list, and Ledger's staff amended it to include open-space purchases.
"(Graham) came to council meetings and said staff suggested it should be split two-thirds to one-third, and I said, 'No, that's not how it happened,'" Ledger said.
"It was meant to be nothing more than a list that said 'these are the types of things that can be funded.' That idea still lingers that there was some breakout on a percentage, and it's conceivable that some years the council could say it should be 50-50. But another year it could be 90-10 one way or the other."
Graham said the ambiguity of the ballot language has led to continued divisiveness over how the money should be split. Graham acknowledged that codifying the division of the POST funds is unlikely, but he and Meigs believe the creation of two separate plans will be a start.
"You'll hear that any future council can undo this," Graham said. "But if we move forward and end this divisiveness it would take a lot of explaining to do that; it will become institutionalized even though it's not embedded in the ballot language. Both boards can have some real comfort that roughly 50-50 will be coming in, and you can look ahead and decide how best to leverage that money; whereas if it's going to be dog-eat-dog competition every year, nothing will get done."
City Manager Ron LeBlanc said he has no problem with using the current data to create two plans, but he would recommend strongly against starting the process over from the beginning to do so. PROS is being paid $150,000 to rework the POST master plan, $50,000 of which will paid for from a Great Outdoors Colorado, or GOCO, grant.
LeBlanc also said he does not support splitting the POST funds evenly in perpetuity.
"One council can't obligate a future council in terms of budget commitments in the long term," LeBlanc said.
"A future council could have the opportunity for a project that we don't know about now, and we can't limit their flexibility. Right now, we have it split open space from parks and trails, but in any given year, one could take precedence over the other."
Councilor Doug Lyon is worried that undermining the POST rewrite, which he said has been an inclusive public process, could have dire financial implications regardless of how future POST funds are allocated.
"It is absurd to believe that the work of the highly professional consultant engaged is suspect ... and I believe these unfounded allegations of problems with the update could be ultimately damaging to the tune of millions of dollars," Lyon said.
"GOCO wants Durango to have a new master plan, and they gave us $50,000 to conduct an update; they expect they will get an updated master plan."