Rico election

Voters in Rico head to the polls on Election Day to decide on two key ballot measures. (Courtesy photo)

The ballots are in, and the votes are tallied. Residents of Rico voted Tuesday to approve a ballot measure to join the San Miguel Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) and fund transportation services for Rico.

With 66.5 percent of the vote, according to complete but unofficial results, the decision to join SMART was largely supported by Rico’s residents. SMART Executive Director David Averill was pleased with the results.

"SMART is excited to bring Rico into the fold and continue bringing transit services to the community,” he said. The Rico route will now benefit from “a permanent revenue stream to help offset the cost of the current service, and Rico will get representation on the SMART Board,” Averill added.

With the Telluride workforce increasingly seeking housing in neighboring locales, the current route serving Rico, which leaves early in the morning and returns in the early evening, has already been popular with commuters. Making Rico a SMART member may also pave the way for other area communities, like the West End, to eventually join SMART, and add affordable and environmentally friendly transportation options to the residents there.

Currently, SMART serves Rico via the Southern Route. The only revenue the route collects is from fares ($3 one way or $20 for a 10-trip pass). If Rico joined SMART, the operating cost of a route would be between $45,000 to $50,000 a year, Averill previously said, based on around 2 hours of service a day at the vendor’s — Telluride Express — hourly rate of $75.

NO TO CENTRAL SEWAGE

More controversial among Rico residents was the measure to fund a centralized sewage system and wastewater treatment plant for the town. The measure was voted down on 60.2 percent of the ballots, according to complete but unofficial results Tuesday night. The measure proposed a mill levy that would have created a new property tax to fund the repayment of a $3 million low-interest loan from the Colorado State Revolving Fund, along with a $1 million grant from the Department of Local Affairs. While some residents saw the measure as a step towards a much-needed modernization of Rico’s aging sewage infrastructure, which currently consists of individual septic tanks, others resisted the idea of more taxation. For a home assessed at $250,000, the mill levy would have generated $43.94 per month until the loan was repaid.

The idea, according to town manager Kari Distefano, was to start with the town’s commercial core and expand out to the rest of the town in phases, putting a modern sewage system in place that would in turn help attract more commercial activity to the hamlet just 28 miles from Telluride. Although this election was Rico’s first in over 10 years, the idea of centralized sewage has been on town officials’ minds for some time.

“It’s always been a concern of the town as the town grows and we get more people,” Rico Mayor Pro Tem Barbara Betts said. “I think proponents of the measure are going to be really disappointed. We have to look at it as the people have decided, and we’re going to have to go back to the drawing board and figure out something else. That’s our job.”

OTHER NEWS

Rico residents also voted to approve Ballot Issue 3, a measure targeted at creating more freedom of choice for telecommunications services in the area. Eighty percent of voters favored the question, which states that residents will be able to opt for community-owned infrastructure, such as new fiber optic technology, and choose from either public or private providers. While previously residents have felt their hands were tied on telecommunications choices, the passing of this measure will ease restrictions and create more options.

The community voted for three Rico Board of Trustees seats. Among the five candidates, Brandy Randall, Nicole Pieterse and Joseph Dillsworth were elected to the board.