BAYFIELD – A question repeatedly asked by the Bayfield Board of Trustees and residents in attendance at Tuesday night’s public hearing was “How are we going to pay for that?”
The main focus of the meeting was the approval of Bayfield’s 2023 budget, and Town Manager Katie Sickles broke down the specific money the town would be working with in 2023.
She said the town has $13.9 million in revenue, $17.3 million in expenditures and $10 million in reserves.
Though housing, broadband and the senior center HVAC replacement are major goals for the town’s budget, the conversation in the public hearing was steered toward the immediate needs of an understaffed marshal’s office, an understaffed parks and recreation department, and an understaffed public works department dealing with extensive road repair projects and street maintenance around the town.
The 2023 budget also focused heavily on the growing issue of stormwater maintenance.
“We obviously need stormwater improvements,” said Public Works Director Jeremy Schulz.
Stormwater maintenance has been a consistent topic of conversation over the last few months in Bayfield, as various residents have complained of damage to their properties as a result of a lack of stormwater infrastructure improvements within town limits. The damage to properties was especially acute over the summer months when Bayfield experienced an unusual amount of heavy rainfall. On June 26 alone, 3 inches of rain fell in less than two hours.
“The townspeople don’t want to pay a tax for stormwater management,” Sickles said. “We asked them that at our stormwater meeting.”
In 2014, Bayfield officials looked at implementing a storm drainage plan, Sickles said in a previous interview with The Durango Herald, which would have cost the town between $200,000 and $1.2 million. Such funds would have forced town officials to make drastic reductions to other departments.
“Yes, we need to find funding, but from where? How are we going to pay for it?” said Trustee Lori Zazzaro.
The question of where and how the town of Bayfield will get the money to pay for certain infrastructure and department needs extended to other areas of the 2023 budget during the meeting.
Lt. Brandon Tisher, Bayfield’s interim marshal, laid out the needs of a marshal’s office that is woefully understaffed, particularly in the wake of losing the department’s former marshal, Joe McIntyre, who recently retired.
“We’re asking for a 16% increase in budget,” Tisher said. “We’ve had an increase of overtime by $15,000. We need more training hours.”
He also pointed out the monetary needs of the department’s aging vehicles.
“We’ve had a $60,000 increase in operating expenditures,” Tisher said. “A $15,000 increase in just vehicle maintenance. We’ve had a lot of mechanical issues. Eventually, we’ll have to replace our aging fleet.”
Schulz also asked for money to buy an additional utility truck for the Public Works department, as well for repairs to other vehicles.
He pointed out the multitude of responsibilities and projects public works has on its plate for the coming months and not enough staff to get everything done.
“We need to hire another full-time employee,” he said.
In a similar position to the other overworked departments, Parks and Recreation Director Ryan Orendorff asked the trustees for money to hire a full-time coordinator position, as well as a part-time employee to help with the department’s many projects, including putting a heating system in the bathrooms at Bayfield’s Pine River Park.
“We have the restroom project, and the park benches and picnic tables at the park need to be replaced,” Orendorff said. “We also need more bear-proof trash cans.”
He also discussed putting in a barrier net at the baseball field, replacing a key card system at the senior center, and switching from ditch water to municipal water, so the town can start using the water sooner in the year.
“We’re playing catch up,” he said. “We need another seasonal, part-time worker and a full-time coordinator.”
After hearing from all of Bayfield’s departments on their funding needs, the trustees approved the $17.3 million spending budget, even with the question of stormwater management still unanswered.
“But what about the stormwater issue?” asked a resident in attendance.
“We don’t know enough yet,” Sickles said. “There is no set budget for this issue at this time.”
Currently, stormwater management is considered a high priority on Bayfield’s 2023 budget, with an estimated expense of $65,000, which will be pulled from the town’s General Fund or its Sewer Fund Revenue and Reserves.