Around 20 community members turned out Tuesday evening for a forum on ways to fund Bayfield street maintenance and storm drainage infrastructure.
It appeared they were drawn by one option being considered by the town board as a way to generate new revenue - a reversal from previous decisions that banned any medical or recreational marijuana businesses in town.
Town Manager Chris La May has estimated that a retail (recreational) marijuana store might generate $10,000 in new revenue from the town's current 2 percent sales tax, plus another $7,500 if the town were to apply for a share of state tax revenue from recreational marijuana sales.
Of the 12 people who commented Tuesday night, all but one totally opposed allowing marijuana businesses. They were a mix of in-town and rural residents.
Several said they moved to Bayfield because it's a good place to raise kids and has great schools. They worried a marijuana business, and the clientele it might draw, would damage that.
"The idea of selling pot on Mill Street undermines everything," local attorney Marian Tone said.
Anne Cook said, "It's a choice to smoke marijuana. Drive somewhere" else to buy it.
Wendy Cox, who lives east of Bayfield, said she works in an office next door to the first recreational marijuana shop that opened recently in Durango. The man who runs it "is very nice, but we get their clientele all day long. Ninety percent of it is from New Mexico. During Snowdown, they had people 10 deep buying marijuana. When we have parades, you'll have a different clientele."
The smell is an ongoing issue as well, despite requirements to contain the smell, Cox said.
Only David Black wanted marijuana businesses to stay on the list of options.
Town Manager La May started off the forum with a presentation on why the town needs more revenue for streets and for storm drainage infrastructure.
The town currently has around a $1 million backlog of street maintenance, plus the maintenance that is needed each year to come, he said. There's a $1.7 million backlog of storm drainage infrastructure improvements.
He cited highway engineering statistics that every dollar spent to maintain roads in good condition avoids $6 to $10 needed later if roads are allowed to deteriorate.
"If we wait 10 years, the $1 million backlog will be $6 to $10 million," he said.
La May's presentation included the list of ways to increase revenue, including marijuana businesses. But he advised that the anticipated revenue from all of them would not fill the street maintenance funding gap.
That leads to another option - reducing town expenses, meaning staff cuts or reduced services. "Around 60 percent of our costs are personnel," La May said. "That's probably the first place we'd look."
Mayor Rick Smith told forum attendees that the town will probably try yet again this November to get town voter approval to raise the sales tax rate from 2 percent up to 3 percent, with the additional money committed for road- and storm drainage-related projects.
Town voters rejected that increase twice in 2014, leading to the list of other revenue options or spending cuts. The additional sales tax would bring in around $260,000 a year.
Several forum speakers supported another try for the sales tax increase.
Ron Dunavant said, "I think that's the fairest. It's paid by those of us who live out of town."
Former town trustee Debbi Renfroe said, "It's the only fair way. The people who use the roads pay for them."
Most of the other revenue increasing options listed by La May would fall on town residents and businesses, such as new or increased utility franchise fees that would show up on the bills of in-town customers, monthly storm drainage fees, and a road impact fee charged with building permits.
Also on La May's list are higher fees for Parks and Recreation programs, higher fees to use town facilities, overweight vehicle fees, and permit fees for someone doing work in a town right of way.
Given the short time between a November vote and when the 2016 budget will have to be approved in December, Smith said staff will probably do two budgets, one for if the sales tax increase passes, and one for if it doesn't.
Discussion continued during the regular town board meeting after the forum. Trustees opted to take marijuana businesses off the list.
They opted to keep recreation and facility rental fees on the list, also overweight vehicle fees pending a Colorado Department of Transportation computer database of towns and counties that overweight vehicles pass through, the storm drainage fee, and a new LPEA franchise fee.
Trustees Ed Morlan and Michelle Nelson will work with La May to recruit people for a committee to promote the sales tax increase to voters, something that wasn't done in 2014.