Rico is making moves in an effort to join the San Miguel Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART).
The first step to officially becoming a SMART member was completed during a meeting Thursday afternoon in Mountain Village, when the board unanimously approved an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the Dolores County community.
Rico officials have continually expressed interest in being included under the SMART umbrella, but since the town doesn’t fall within the transit authority’s taxing district that includes the Telluride School District, voters would have to vote on it. Rico Town Manager Kari Distefano explained the town plans to put a .75 mill levy question on the November ballot.
“I’m hopeful the voters will go for it,” she said during a SMART meeting Thursday afternoon in Mountain Village. “We’ve gotten a good response. People love the current service. I think they’ll love it even more with a new vehicle.”
SMART currently oversees the Southern Route between Rico and Telluride, including stops in the Ski Ranches and San Bernardo. A 10-person shuttle van, which SMART purchased from the Town of Mountain Village, is currently being used, but Rico has received a $70,000 grant from the Rico Center for a new 25-passenger bus, Distefano explained. The handicap-accessible bus is equipped with bike and ski racks, she added, calling it the “perfect little snow country vehicle.”
SMART Executive Director David Averill explained the operating cost for the Rico service will be approximately $55,000 a year based on three hours of service a day at the vendor’s — Telluride Express — hourly rate of $75. The $10,000 Rico will put toward the cost, plus route fares ($3 walk-up or $2 in advance one way) help offset the operating costs, so SMART would most likely be responsible for less than $45,000 when it’s all said and done. The new bus will eventually be wrapped in SMART colors, a cost of $12,000 to $13,000, but the 2019 budget has $150,000 earmarked for service expansion, Averill explained. The Rico route will still include stops in San Bernardo and the Ski Ranches. While Ophir residents would like to be one of the stops between Rico and Telluride, Averill said a safe pick-up location is the main hindrance at the moment. But once that’s figured out and the bus replaces the Southern Route shuttle van, it may be used for an Ophir pilot program, similar to Rico’s initial service schedule.
Averill said there is nothing in the SMART bylaws that prohibit it from expanding services outside of San Miguel County.
The SMART board named Telluride council member Todd Brown the new chair, San Miguel County Commissioner Hilary Cooper vice chair and Mountain Village council member Dan Caton treasurer.
Cooper commended Mountain Village Mayor Laila Benitez for serving as chair during SMART’s first two years.
“Your leadership and skill at communicating has been tremendous,” she said.
Board members also recognized Amy Levek, who filled the role of director and spearheaded the job search that brought Averill to town in late 2017. She stayed on board for several months after Averill arrived in order to make the transition smooth.
The board also unanimously approved IGA extensions with San Miguel County and the Town of Mountain Village. The one-year IGA with the county includes transferring management of the recently opened Lawson Hill intercept lot to SMART. The Mountain Village IGA extends an agreement between the two entities that requires the town to oversee maintenance of the shuttle van.
The February agenda will include an overview of transit policies and procedures, which were discussed Thursday, but approval was postponed after Cooper expressed her concerns with them, including emergency protocols and the pet policy.