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Bayfield town trustees discuss priorities for 2022 budget

Faster internet, workforce housing top list of key items to tackle
Doug Miller, left, and Natuambu Obleton, both with FastTrack Communications, finish splicing fiber-optic lines in September 2018 in Gem Village near Bayfield. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Faster internet throughout town limits and workforce housing are the top priorities for Bayfield Town Board trustees in 2022.

Board members discussed those and other items in the town’s budget for the upcoming year at a meeting this week.

With all trustees ranking their priorities for the future, the third most popular item was providing 24-hour police coverage, seven days a week, by the Bayfield Marshal’s Office.

Other priorities ranked in importance are:

  • Stormwater development in Dove Ranch.
  • Stormwater management throughout town.
  • School resource officer in Bayfield schools.
  • Paving streets.
  • Bayfield Senior Center commercial kitchen use.
  • Downtown revitalization.
  • Roadside park restrooms.
  • Access to the Pine River.
  • A farm project proposed by Pine River Shares.

The Town Board will consider a budget based on $9.3 million in projected revenue for 2022. Expenditures are currently projected at $10.2 million, with money from $8.6 million in town reserves being used to pay for some capital projects.

Workforce housing

To address the high cost of housing, the town purchased land this summer in the Cinnamon Heights subdivision on the east side of Bayfield for $710,000.

At Monday’s meeting, Town Manager Katie Sickles outlined three options for developing the property.

Board members said they liked the second, in which the town would build the infrastructure for the townhomes, then issue a request for qualifications from contractors to build and oversee the project, using their own architect.

Costs for a home using this option are estimated at $280,912.

For 2020, the median-priced townhome in Bayfield was $331,500, according to the Durango Area Association of Realtors. New single-family homes in a nearby subdivision, Clover Meadows, have been selling for about $400,000, according to the town.

Fiber-optic proposal

The board hopes to finally install fiber-optic lines in town, an issue the town has been trying to resolve for decades.

Broadband should be a top priority for the town so internet connectivity for town residents “is not in the Dark Ages,” said Trustee David Black.

Clearnetworx, based in Montrose, has provided fiber internet service to towns throughout the Western Slope and wants to partner with the town to build a $3.2 million fiber network in 18 to 24 months, Sickles said.

The company was selected through a request for proposals the town issued to implement its broadband study. The town signed a memorandum of understanding, and the proposal might come to the board at its next meeting, Sickles said.

“We need to help the businesses first, so we can boost our tax base,” Trustee Brenna Morlan said, noting local businesses could then create more jobs if they have faster internet.

Clearnetworx will likely ask to borrow money from the town to complete the project in that time frame, Sickles said. Another option is paying about $300,000 to build pieces of the network annually, not reaching the north side of town until 2030 or later, Sickles said.

The town would own a lien on the fiber until the company paid back the loan, Sickles said.

Trustees agreed the idea of a loan to Clearnetworx could be a better and faster way to finally get a network built in Bayfield, and said they look forward to hearing the proposal from the company at a future meeting.

Grants to nonprofit groups

Also for the 2022 budget, trustees must decide whether to approve grant requests from several nonprofits. After moving some requests to other areas in the budget, donation requests this year topped $28,000.

Groups applying for funding this year are Pine River Shares, Community Connections, Women’s Resource Center, Be Frank Foundation, Small Business Development Center, Community Treehouse, Southwest Center for Independence and Bayfield Association for the Advancement of Music.

The Town Board will hold a public hearing about the proposed budget Oct. 25, followed by a budget meeting Nov. 2.

Cleanup day set for Oct. 16

The town is also holding cleanup day starting at 8 a.m. Oct. 16 at 905 Community Lane, off Bayfield Parkway.

Tree limbs, yard waste, small appliances and furniture will be accepted from town residents, who must bring a copy of their utility bill.

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