Many residents of Bayfield and Ignacio are not happy the county clerk's Bayfield Motor Vehicle branch office is closing and are circulating petitions to keep it open.
"It's disappointing," said Mike Pacheco of Ignacio, who owns Paco Glass and has been a long-time board member of the Ignacio Chamber of Commerce. "This is taking money from Bayfield businesses."
Pacheco said he knows when residents of Ignacio, Allison and Arboles go to the Bayfield office to renew their vehicle registrations, they often do other errands in Bayfield or get gas or eat lunch in town.
The Bayfield office is easier for area residents to visit, as well, particularly senior citizens who don't want to drive in Durango traffic, he added.
"I think our county commission has forgotten about the people beyond Durango," he said.
County commissioners have responded that with a low poperty tax rate of 8.5 mills, and declining oil and gas revenues, the county has no choice but to cut some services that it would like to keep but can no longer afford.
A full response from the three commissioners and La Plata County Clerk Tiffany Parker is in the Opinion page of this week's edition on page 4A.
"The Bayfield Motor Vehicle branch serves approximately 10,000 customers each year, at a total cost to the county of $13.70 per transaction," the county officials wrote. "This figure includes staff time, facility, equipment and materials costs. In the Durango office, the total cost to the county per transaction is $6.70. Closing the Bayfield branch office will not only save the county money with each transaction, but will also streamline the accounting and processing functions associated with motor vehicle services. The Bayfield staff will move to the Durango office to help offset the existing heavy workload there and continue to provide services to all county residents."
Petitions are circulating at several locations and neighborhoods in Bayfield, Forest Lakes, Vallecito and Ignacio asking the commission to keep the office open.
"We pay taxes, too," said the organizer of the petitions, Phyllis Ludwig of Bayfield. "This whole area deserves it." Another idea is to keep the Bayfield office open a two or three days a week.
Petitions are at the Patio and Farmer's Fresh Market in Ignacio, Vallecito Lake Country Market and Rocky Mountain General Store in Vallecito, and Bayfield Auto Parks, Mini Merc, Brenda's Old West Cafe, among other locations in Bayfield.