Every year publications pull together a "year in review." We published one the first year we were here, perhaps the second, but haven't done one since. Reasons: everyone does it; it’s “easy” filler; and, we wonder how interesting it is to readers.
This year, we thought it would be more interesting to prognosticate on the year to come for Ouray County. Below, in our order of importance, are our predictions as to what will be the top issues and solutions to come for 2018. Have a different opinion? Send us your prognostications in a letter to the editor (under 500 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Finding employees. Every year local businesses scramble for seasonal employees. In 2018, with an improving economy, even more out-of-county seasonal workers will see no reason to trek to Ouray County for jobs, which will be plentiful elsewhere. We watched last year as local businesses continued searches for employees that began in late spring and went well into the busy summer season.
• Water. River recreation, agriculture, calls on water and wildfire risk will all garner more attention in 2018, as Ouray County will go through a drier than normal winter. You don't have to read the Farmer's Almanac to know we're behind the moisture curve already. As reported in the Aspen Times, the Almanac predicts that west of the Continental Divide will have "moderate snowfall - not as harsh as usual.” Just look outside and see all the brown ground, or note that Telluride Ski Resort has only 16 of 147 trails open as of Jan. 1.
• County roads will go on the ballot. Yes, yet another ballot initiative asking voters in our area for more. Recently, residents throughout Ouray County approved bonds for the Ridgway Streetscape project, the Ouray Hot Springs Pool and the Ouray Courthouse renovation. In addition, a mill levy override was approved for Ouray School. Here comes one more — increasing property or sales taxes in the county to maintain and improve roads. Look for the battle over increased taxes to continue in 2018.
• Ouray Ice Park. The City of Ouray will take over operation of the Ice Park in 2018. Buoyed by Lake City taking over its ice park operations from volunteers who have run it for years, Ouray City Council realizes that it, too, can run its park. Most current Ice Park employees are retained, but a few decline job offers from the city. Ouray Ice Park, Inc., continues to operate the annual Ice Festival as a contract group, something akin to "Friends of the Ice Park." The festival grows in scope as the OIPI board finds that focusing on that one event is right in its wheelhouse.
• Affordable housing. The needle won't be moved. With rising real estate prices and too much to be made on too few housing options, no private party will squander land values and profits for the good of the many. Unless a government entity swoops in and gets into the landlord business — and we don't see that happening on the taxpayers' dime any time soon — there will be a lot of talk and little progress in 2018.
• Ouray Hot Springs Pool. The City of Ouray won't be able to will summer to come soon enough in 2018. Warmer summer weather will keep temperatures in the lap pool at acceptable levels, and record numbers of visitors to the county will push pool attendance and revenues through the roof. Everything will look idyllic as you pass the pool. Alan’s prediction: the new boiler installed as an augmented heat source (our prediction) will cost nearly $200,000, inspire hours of debate at city council meetings and push any notion of renovating the bathhouse to the back burner. Beecher’s prediction: no boiler will be necessary and the lap lanes will be so full you will have to circle swim.
• Real estate sales continue to soar. Baby Boomers, flush with newfound portfolio values and increasing equity in their current homes, will continue to flock to Ouray County to realize their retirement dreams. Finding a contractor in 2018 will be near-impossible as building permits increase. Finding an unhappy Realtor in Ouray County will be just as difficult.
• Courthouse surprise. The county will announce in 2018 that closer inspection and more pinpoint estimates on renovations of the Ouray County Courthouse reveal that not only will the project come in under budget, but the sales tax will end well before its sunset date. In a surprise move, dissenters of the project, overwhelmed with the good news, throw an impromptu party for county commissioners.
• Money, money, money. The Colorado legislature finds a way to reimburse school districts for all the funds withheld for the past few years. The Ouray School Board will hold meetings, for the first time in a while, to figure out what to do with surplus cash.
Alan Todd is co-publisher of the Ouray County Plaindealer. He can be reached at email@example.com or 970-325-2838.