By Bill Tiedje
A community meeting to discuss Ridgway's Colorado Department of Transportation Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships grant award for the Highway 62 and Downtown Infrastructure Project will be held at at the Eagle's Nest in the Ridgway Elementary School library on Nov. 18 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
The $13 million project, requiring $2 million in match from the town of Ridgway plus interest accrued during the repayment period, would include adding a center turn lane to Highway 62 from Highway 550 to Laura Street as well as the road paving, drainage and curb, gutter and sidewalk project formerly known as Streetscape.
Ridgway Mayor John Clark said the community meeting was a concerted effort to bring everyone to the table and be involved and aware.
Clark described the project and grant award as an incredible opportunity for infrastructure improvements at proportionally small cost to the town; however, Clark also said he was "not convinced that (the Town of Ridgway) should move forward, because some think that any increase in property tax is more than they bear."
Clark said the name had been purposely changed to highlight the project's focus on infrastructure, also acknowledging that Streetscape had a "nasty taste."
"If the general consensus is it's too much to soon, we're not going to force it," Clark added.
In addition to town council, CDoT officials as well as Engineer Bill Frownfelter of Russell Engineering Inc., will also attend the community meeting.
"The ball is in their court," remarked CDot RAMP Region Five Regional Planner Matt Muraro, referring to the Town of Ridgway's award.
Muraro indicated that CDoT expected to have a financial commitment from the town by Dec. 6.
Clark said he was under the impression that town council would consider a ballot question for the local match in mid-January; however, both Muraro and Clark indicated that not all details of the timeline for a potential ballot question have been resolved.
Councilor Bo Nerlin said he felt the meeting would serve to "take the temperature of the town" on the issue and indicated he had an open perspective on the issue at this point.
Councilor Rick Weaver described the meeting as educational, intended to explain the town's options for considering the project, with a cost reduction of roughly $700,000 from earlier proposals.
Indicating he thought the project was somewhat different after receiving the grant award, Councilor Jason Gunning said, "Hopefully people will show up, that's the key."
No other council members could be reached for comment by press time.
Clark indicated he had heard concern regarding the need to reduce unnecessary "fluff," including landscaping improvements, from the project as well as support for local contractors from local business owners Darin Hill and Tammee Tuttle.
Clark said these matters as well as other sources of funding, including use of Department of Local Affairs grant support and use of the existing Capital Improvements Fund, a 0.6 percent sales tax approved by voters in 2005, would be discussed at the community meeting; however, the project's design would be subject to some restraints such as CDoT intergovernmental agreement requirements as well as ballot language mandated by the Colorado Taxpayer's Bill of Rights.
Muraro confirmed that the CDoT project would be subject to federal contracting requirements.
Clark added that more meetings could be held if additional time was required to answer questions that arose during the community meeting.