Last year, on Jan. 4, Beecher and I made our predictions for Ouray County for 2018. How did we do?
Here are what our predictions were, along with outcomes, as we saw them:
1. The strong economy would make it difficult to lure seasonal workers to the county.
Outcome: We only know what we hear. Several business told us they struggled. The Ouray Hot Springs Pool was looking for help a lot. Our employment advertising revenue was not as much as the prior year, which may mean less searching or more giving up.
2. Water, or lack thereof, would affect recreation, agriculture, calls on water and increased wildfire risk.
Outcome: Look no further than the Bull Draw and 416 fires to understand how dry we were. Ask any rancher who had their grazing access restricted to BLM land if they thought it was dry. Go back and look at the summer-long water restrictions put in place by each municipality.
3. County roads would go on the ballot, we predicted, as a means to seek a sales or property tax increase for maintenance and improvements.
Outcome: This didn't happen; however, two state measures were on the ballot and both were soundly defeated. And it was certainly on the county commissioners' minds as they embarked on a "Road Show" to get input from the community on roads and grease the wheels for an upcoming local ballot initiative.
4. The City of Ouray would take over operations of the Ice Park.
Outcome: it did not, and thankfully so. After a tense game of poker between the city and Ouray Ice Park, Inc., the OIPI folks kept operations through a mutual agreement. Just as well. The city has enough problems on its plate to worry about adding the Ice Park to that list.
5. We predicted the needle on affordable housing wouldn't move.
Outcome: It didn’t. The Ouray County Housing Advisory Committee finished its five-year strategic plan, a task delegated to it by the city, town and county. The committee presented its plan and awaits reaction from the governments.
6. Our multi-layered prediction for the Ouray Hot Springs Pool was, 1) record numbers of visitors would push attendance and revenues through the roof, 2) the new boiler (Alan's prediction) would cost nearly $200,000, and 3) no boiler would be necessary (Beecher's prediction) and the lap lanes would be packed all year.
Outcome: The city did not purchase a boiler, but it sure needs to. Not only is it a daily guessing game as to whether the lap lanes will be open, the deck heating system — installed, but not operational — could use a boiler-boost, too, as the city must find the money to finance ways to increase water temps.
7. Real estate sales continue to soar.
Outcome: Through November, there were 88 sold listings, as reported by the Colorado Association of Realtors. Prior year, same period, there were 112 sold listings. The average sales price was down, too, but that's a tough indicator because one big or small number in either year can skew the average.
8. County would announce that the Ouray County Courthouse renovation project will come in well below estimated costs.
Outcome: Too soon to tell where costs will end up on this project.
9. The Colorado legislature would reimburse school districts for funds withheld from past years.
Outcome: Not only did this not happen, but Amendment 73, which was essentially a tax on "the rich" that would have generated $1.6 billion per year in the form of a blank check to Colorado schools, was soundly defeated in November.
With that mixed bag of predictions under our belts, here's a look at our prognostications for 2019.
1. Ouray will have to buy that boiler or have angry lap swimmers on its hands.
2. Ouray will somehow find the money for a new wastewater system, but not before a group of homeowners initiates legal action against the city for perceived loss of property value and ability to sell, due to the proximity of their improved and unimproved properties to the current wastewater system.
3. Ridgway will lead the way in affordable housing. It has two or three projects in the works already, and it will create incentives for more.
4. Recreationists who use the upper portion of County Road 5 in the winter will be disappointed when the county allows landowners to fully plow the road. The proposed alternate trail system for county roads 5, 7 and 9 will die for lack of county resources to get it done.
5. More funding for county roads will be on the ballot in the form of some sort of tax, and it will pass.
6. Marijuana grow operations will find it more and more difficult to set up shop, as citizens learn they can successfully protest “not in my backyard.”
7. Automobile related deaths along US 550, from Montrose to Ouray, will reach the highest number ever for any year, as increased tourism outpaces infrastructure improvements. Eyes will be opened as marijuana impairment will be cited as a significant cause in many of the fatal accidents.
8. The weather does an about-face, bringing a snowy winter and wet summer. Neither the county nor either municipality will enact a burn ban, and water restrictions won't be needed.
9. Ouray, once it sees the windfall from the new 3.5 percent LOT tax, decides to keep a portion of the 87.5 percent earmarked for "marketing" in order to pay for improvements at the Ouray Hot Springs Pool. The justification will be that the pool is as much a marketing tool as anything else.