According to preliminary results, the 2018 Community Priority Survey has echoed the results of the 2016 survey that streets and roads in Pueblo West should continue to be the highest priority for the District and the most important issue into the near future, Metro District staff will present the official report for the 2018 survey at the regularly scheduled District Board Meeting on at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 10.
This survey, the second since the District ramped up its communications division in late 2015, is a guidepost to inform the Board of Directors on what services Pueblo West residents believe should be the focused priority for the near future. The 2018 survey received 1,053 responses demonstrating a 98% confidence level based on a population of 30,000. This means we are confident that 98% of surveys identical to the one we just conducted will yield the same results, demonstrating that the results are statistically significant and representative of the greater Pueblo West community.
With over 50% of respondents of the 2016 Community Priority Survey stating Streets and Roads should be the District’s focus, staff began engaging the community at monthly community meetings called Roadshows. Public support for making Streets and Roads the top priority continues two years after the initial priority survey, with 45% of residents expressing this in the 2018 survey. In the spirit of transparency and accountability to our residents, District staff are listening to residents and engaging the community at nearly a dozen Roadshows since March 2017. By way of roadshows, through two cohorts of Citizen’s Academies, and through dozens of articles published both online and in the Pueblo West View, the District has expressed to residents the challenges, accomplishments, and ways to improve the roads situation.
In 2017, with less than 12 employees and limited equipment, the Streets and Roads Division maintained nearly 208 miles of County approved public paved roadways; nearly 136 miles of County approved gravel roadways; nearly 44 miles of County unapproved gravel roadways; designed and engineered public improvements such as trails, drainage, and traffic signals; inspected public improvements; coordinated on projects with other agencies; provided oversight of right of way permits for excavation and access; managed the EPA storm water permitting process; and provided grant management for Public Works projects (application, bidding, construction, inspections, reporting, etc.).
All of these tasks and activities have been accomplished with a budget comparable to Fiscal Year 1994 funding, (less than $3 million). To make matters worse, the cost of road construction materials and labor has increased by more than 19% over the last 5 years alone, making existing funding less effective over time. Despite exceptional efficiency and utilization of current resources, our streets and roads budget at best can only maintain the status quo and at worst will likely degrade over time.
To address the problem, the District staff has engaged thousands of residents over the past 18 months with potential courses of action used by other communities throughout the nation. These proposals included returning all Pueblo West roads back to gravel, turning responsibility for the roads over to Pueblo County, or recommending a sales tax specifically and only to improve roads (see CRS 32-1-1106(1)).
A solution of turning all roadways back to gravel would significantly decrease the maintenance costs, allowing for progress and overall improvement with the current budget at the expense of no paved roadways anywhere in the District.
If the District turned the responsibility of the roads back to Pueblo County, several things would have to happen. First, the District would have to improve or build approximately 60 miles of roadways deemed unacceptable by the County up to County standards. This would cost $13 million at $1.2 million per year, and would take 10.4 years to accomplish under current funding.
Second, the District and residents of Pueblo West would relinquish political control of road maintenance from the elected five-seat Metro Board of Directors, giving it instead to the three-seat Board of County Commissioners. This would also place the maintenance of 403 miles of Pueblo West roads into Pueblo County’s existing 800 miles of roads, consequently reducing the overall priority of Pueblo West into the future.
Third, this would significantly impact Pueblo County’s roads budget and maintenance resources. The result of this action would be increased upfront costs to Pueblo West to get roads up to acceptable levels. By relinquishing responsibility from the Metro Board to the County Commissioners, residents will lose local control and no longer be able to call upon the Metro Board to make improvements. Instead, residents will have to work with the County Commissioners, of which, none of the current Commissioners are Pueblo West residents.
In Pueblo West, roads are an ongoing issue that Pueblo West residents have told the District that they desire action. The 2018 Community Priority Survey reinforces this fact. The District is committed to continued efforts to be transparent and accountable to residents, and engage them collaboratively as we work towards a common sense solution. We encourage residents to attend the April 10 Board of Directors meeting for a full overview of the 2018 Community Priority Survey results.