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City puts pot sales on hold

Council also OKs plan to fund fire services

After emphasizing they have nothing against recreational marijuana, Durango city councilors voted 5-0 Tuesday on a moratorium of business licenses for the sale of nonmedical pot through June 30, 2014.

Because Amendment 64 got majority support in Durango, councilors did not want the public to think they were out to ban recreational marijuana but wanted to give staff time to coordinate local regulations with new state laws.

“This is only a delay, that’s all it is,” Councilor Dean Brookie said. “We’re not kicking the can down the road. We’re just doing business.”

Some issues to be resolved included licensing for retail and social clubs, the location of these businesses, sales taxes and advertising.

These local ordinances will be subject to public hearings when they are drafted and presented to council sometime in spring 2014.

This point was emphasized to “Rasta Stevie “Smith, a marijuana advocate who objected to the council voting on the moratorium without soliciting public comment first.

Smith said it was no way to run a public meeting, but City Attorney David Smith, no relation to Rasta Stevie, said the public hearing on the moratorium actually was two weeks ago.

“You were here,” the city attorney said. “You said nothing.”

In other business, the council approved a 15-year contract with Durango Fire Protection District as well as the ballot language so the issue can go before voters in November.

Fire and emergency services for the city of Durango and the fire districts of Animas and Hermosa Cliff are undergoing a reorganization to simplify funding and governance.

Five different governing boards have approved resolutions in support of the plan, which would leave Durango Fire Protection District with just one governing board.

City Manager Ron LeBlanc said the plan was unprecedented.

“We have no example of anywhere in the country where this has happened before,” LeBlanc said in a study session Tuesday.

Voters in the Animas and Hermosa Cliff Fire Districts will be asked to approve a mill levy of 5.7 mills, which is the historical average mill levy for these districts during the last 10 years.

City voters will be asked to approve a 15-year contract with Durango Fire Protection District.

The city is entering a contractual agreement so it can continue to use sales-tax revenue to pay for its fire and emergency services.

The service fee is expected to be comparable to its current fee of about $2.85 million and would be based on the city’s proportional share of property taxes if it charged a mill levy of 5.7 mills.

In addition, the city would contribute $279,079 to pay off bond debt, $3 million toward a new fire station to replace the current fire station next to River City Hall, and $1.08 million to match what the other fire districts are contributing in matching surplus funds.

Because the costs for the new station and matching funds would be spread out over 15 years, the city would pay about $272,052 additionally each year on top of its fee for service.

jhaug@durangoherald.com



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