Following voters' approval of a 1% sales tax to pay for Pueblo West roads maintenance, the Pueblo West Metropolitan District and Pueblo County governments have been working closely to ensure a smooth transition of Pueblo West roads maintenance duties from the Metro District to the County, which became effective Jan. 1.
At a press conference held at the Pueblo West Metro District Public Works building on Wednesday, Jan. 11, Pueblo County Commissioner Garrison Ortiz, joined by Pueblo West Metro District Board of Directors President Kim Swearingen, stressed the level of cooperation between the two governments.
"The thing that both governments have tried to really emphasize throughout the transition is that of people," Ortiz said. "Without the appropriate personnel to do this work, and the seamless transition, the work would simply not be getting done."
In November, Pueblo West voters approved Ballot Question 6C, which levied a temporary 1% sales tax that allowed for Pueblo County to assume responsibility for all Pueblo West road maintenance by Jan. 1, 2023. The tax increase would generate a maximum of $5 million annually to maintain, repair and improve roads, as well as associated drainage and stormwater features and facilities exclusively within the boundaries of the Pueblo West Metro District. Additionally, a citizen oversight committee composed of Pueblo West residents would be created to ensure accountability. The tax is a temporary 10-year tax and will sunset by 2032.
"The overall promise that was made was that if this ballot measure passed and money was made available through the sales tax increase here in Pueblo West, that [Pueblo County] would move swiftly to ensure that Pueblo County took over ownership and maintenance of these roads on Jan. 1, 2023," Ortiz said. "That promise was made, and that promise was kept."
With less than two months between the approval of the ballot question and the Jan. 1, 2023 deadline to transfer Pueblo West roads maintenance duties, cooperation was required to make the transition as smooth as possible. Beginning Jan. 1, crews from both Pueblo County Roads and Bridges and the Pueblo West Metro District Streets and Roads divisions worked closely together to ensure service to residents went uninterrupted.
"Getting two governmental entities to work together on a project of this magnitude is easier said than done," Swearingen said, "but I can say that our staffs and elected officials from both Pueblo West and Pueblo County have worked in good faith throughout this entire process to ensure that our citizens receive the streets and roads service that they deserve."
Though road work has begun, an official intergovernmental agreement (IGA) has yet to be ratified by both governments. Details about items such as workforce, worker benefits, equipment, property and more need to be addressed. Despite that, both governments have worked in good faith to begin work while these issues are addressed and enshrined into a new IGA.
"There is a tremendous amount of work that has to go into this transition, from personnel to equipment to buildings," Ortiz said. "There's a lot of things that need to be negotiated and finalized in the intergovernmental agreement to be worked out between the Pueblo West Metropolitan District and Pueblo County.
"I applaud both of our governments for having hard conversations about things like employees, facilities, real estate, and equipment," Swearingen added. "Doing something as consequential as transferring one department from one government to another is frankly unprecedented, and all involved have done their best to go over every detail to ensure that we do this right."
Pueblo West residents requesting roads maintenance or following up on previous requests made before Jan. 1 must now contact the Pueblo County Streets & Bridges department at 719-583-6040 or visit the Pueblo County Public Works website to learn more.