Tuesday, November 6, is looming as the deadline for Hinsdale County voters to return their expansive General Election ballot.
This year’s ballot, printed front and back on two pages, includes a variety of candidates vying for state, regional and county public office, plus separate ballot questions for Hinsdale County voters which seek greater flexibility in broadband and internet services, and separate bond initiatives from Hinsdale County School District and Archulta Joint 50 School District in the county’s South End.
South End voters are being asked to approve a property tax mill levy override raising $1.7-million annually for seven years, while Hinsdale County School District is seeking a well publicized $3.9-million bond issue for reconfiguration and expansion at Lake City Community School.
According to Hinsdale County Clerk & Recorder Joan Roberts, a total of 686 ballots were mailed to
active registered Hinsdale County voters on October 15.
Of those, 178 completed ballots had been returned to the clerk’s office as of mid-day Wednesday, October 24. In addition to routine 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. hours Monday through Friday, the office of Hinsdale County Clerk is also open to receive ballots the next two Saturdays, October 27 and November 3, from 8 a.m. to noon.
Final day for ballots to be delivered for tabulation, either by mail or hand delivery, is General Election Day on Tuesday, November 6. On Election Day, the clerk’s office is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Hand delivery to the office on November 6 is the best option; for voters mailing their ballots, they should remember that the especially weighty ballot requires additional postage, totaling 71-cents, in order to be successfully delivered.
Tabulation of this year’s ballots will be overseen by a panel of judges comprised of Peggy Bales, Lorie Stewart, Karen McClatchie, Bill Reinhardt, Susan Story, and Alice Attaway; Bill Stewart and Shari Heaton are on the sidelines as alternate judges.
A bevy of local candidates are running unopposed for a variety of Hinsdale County offices, a majority of whom are running on the Republican ticket. Among these are Hinsdale County Undersheriff Justin Casey who seeks election as Hinsdale County Sheriff, succeeding incumbent Ron Bruce who is retiring from office at the end of his present term; also running unopposed for Hinsdale County Commissioner District 2 is Kristine M. Borchers who defeated her opponent, David Guilliams, in the GOP Primary in June.
Incumbents Hinsdale County Clerk Joan Roberts, Treasurer Lori L. Lawrence, and Assessor Luke de la Parra are running unopposed in their bid for re-election, as is also Jerry Gray, Unaffiliated, who seeks re-election as Hinsdale County Coroner.
In state-wide and regional elections, incumbent District 3 Congressman Scott R. Tipton, a Republican, is challenged by Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush, Libertarian Party candidate Gaylon Kent, and Independent Mary M. Malarsie; successor-hopefuls to Colorado Governor Hickenlooper are Jared Polis (D), Walker Stapleton (R), Bill Hammons (Unity), and Scott Helker (Libertarian).
Democrat incumbents Kerry Donovan, District 5 State Senator, and Barbara McLachlan, District 59 State Representative, are both facing challengers: Republican Olen Lund is seeking Donovan’s State Senate seat, and Paul Jones, an Independent, hopes to succeed McLachlan as District 59 State Representative.
Other key state races on this fall’s ballot are Secretary of State (incumbent Wayne Williams (R), challengers Jena Griswold (D), Amanda Campbell (American Constitution), and Blake Huber (Approval Voting)); State Treasurer (Brian Watson (R), Dave Young (D), and Gerald Kilpatrick (American Constitution)); and Attorney General (Phil Weiser (D), George Brauchler (R), and William Robinson III (Libertarian)); as well as candidates for Regent of the University of Colorado and a number of Supreme Court and Court of Appeals retention questions.
Uppermost on the minds of Hinsdale County voters are three ballot proposals from Hinsdale County and Archuleta and Hinsdale school districts.
Hinsdale County’s ballot question, as explained by Hinsdale County Commissioner Susan Thompson, seeks greater flexibility in the potential for multiple broadband and internet providers. Senate Bill 152 allowed only existing telecommunication providers — in our case CenturyLink — to provide broadband services and precluded governmental entities such as counties from providing the service.
If passed, Ballot Initiative 1A allows Hinsdale County to provide “advanced services” defined as either “telecommunications” or “cable television” services.
According to Thompson, Hinsdale County never envisions itself as an actual provider of either service, although passage of the initiative will allow “greater flexibility to providing broadband and internet services.” Referring to broadband infrastructure as the “middle mile,” Thompson says passage of the broadband initiative wil aid the county and, in turn, “benefit the residents of the county.”
Hinsdale County’s hands are presently tied by Senate Bill 152, according to Thompson. As a “for instance,” under SB 152 the county was legally precluded from installing fiberoptic cable to the Mountain 71 communications site.
Residents of the South End of Hinsdale County on the Upper Piedra will vote on a separate ballot question, Ballot Issue 5A, in which Archuleta Joint 50 School District is asking permission for a property tax mill levy override raising $1.7-million per year from 2019 to 2025.
The money raised by the property tax increase is earmarked for improvements in Pagosa Springs schools, specifically for recruiting and retention of school district teachers and staff; salaries for full-time school resource officers for safety; full-time kindergarten; and to provide funding to augment staff salaries, supplemental kindergarten and improved school safety at Pagosa Peak Open School.
Hinsdale County School District’s ballot question 4A has been heavily promoted and reported over the course of the past year.
If approved, the ballot issue would increase Hinsdale County School District debt by $3.9-million as a match for $9.4-million which has been awarded to the Lake City school district through a waiver and Building Excellent School Today (BEST) grant administered by the Colorado Dept. of Education.
Money from the bond issue, according to school district officials, is geared to meet health, safety and security issues, reconfiguring rooms in the existing 14,000-s.f. Lake City Community School and expanding the school facility to a total of 31,000-s.f., including 7,124-s.f., 225-bleacher-seat gymnasium.
The $3,950,000 bond issue would require increasing the school district’s present 18.194 mill levy by an additional 4.019 mills which, according to proponents, is still substantially below the state average school district mill levy of 39 mills.
A 4.019 mill levy increase for both residential and commercial real estate (see separate box, below) would raise a projected $340,000 per year to service the 20-year bond issue.
If approved, RTA Architects state that final construction documents will be completed by late April next year. Construction would begin in June, 2019, and completed in summer, 2020.
The Lake City school’s student population now stands at 79 and the enlarged school could accommodate upwards of 120 students, allowing the school district “room to grow,” according to RTA Architect Brian Calhoun.
Evolution of the present Lake City Community School began in 1986/87 with construction of a 6,672-s.f. elementary school, H.G. Heath Elementary, which cost $414,000, including a $150,000 Energy Impact Grant administrated by Colorado Dept. of Local Affairs.
In the intervening years, the school expanded with the addition of 7th and 8th Grade classes starting in 1997, and implemented 9th, 10th, 11th and 12 Grade classes comprising Lake City High School starting in 1998.
Lake City Community School grew to its present size, 14,000-s.f. with voter approval in 2001 of a $1.1-million 20-year bond issue which allowed expansion of the 1986 elementary school with additions to both the east wing (preschool classroom and art/project room) and west wing where a science room and three middle school/high school classrooms were erected. Total cost of the 2001/2002 school expansion was $1,397,289.
$330,000 remains to be paid by the school district through 2021 on the 2001 bond issue based on a remaining debt equating to approximately $93,000 per year based on 5.20 percent interest. If the present bond issue is successfully passed, the school district has indicated it will attempt to refinance the old bonds at a lower interest rate.
A November, 2015, $5.9-million school bond proposal to remodel the school and construct a gymnasium was not approved by county voters.
Impetus for the new $3.9-million school bond issue was boosted last winter with the school district’s successful application for the $9.4-million BEST grant. According to the school, the local district prevailed in its grant request in the midst of $900-million in applications for $288-million in available BEST funds.
The $9.4-million BEST grant is awarded to Hinsdale County School District contingent on successful passage of the $3.9-million bond issue and will be withdrawn and awarded to another qualifying school district if the local issue, 4A, does not pass.
As explained at last week’s public visioning meeting with RTA Architects, the process leading up to this fall’s bond election actually began in 2016 when the school district reviewed facility needs and identified serious school security deficiencies. The district held meetings and reviewed a half dozen other sites before concluding on a single-campus facility incorporating the existing school facility bounded by Gunnison Avenue, Silver Street and 6th Street within the Lake City Historic District.
According to School District President Phil Virden, school board directors and staff toured new and enlarged school facilities in the region, including school campus facilities at Creede, Montrose, Ouray, Silverton, Gunnison and Telluride, a number of which received significant funding through the Dept. of Education’s BEST program.
BEST ultimately approved the $9.4-million grant for remodeling and adding onto the existing Lake City school totaling 70 percent of the anticipated construction costs. RTA Architects was employed by the school district to meet with school staff and public to prepare conceptual designs.
The proposed floorplan retains the entirety of both the 1986 and 2001 school additions without demolition, although rooms will be reconfigured with the three elementary classrooms (respectively 812, 651 and 815-square feet) and 1,109-s.f. classroom for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students who are now schooled off campus in the county’s Wee Care Building. Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten and three elementary classrooms are grouped together as an elementary-themed module in the south end of the existing building.
A commercial kitchen (770-s.f.) for hot lunch preparation and culinary instruction, library (833-s.f.) and art (671-s.f.) are also grouped to the north side of the existing old building, together with separate middle school/high school classrooms for social studies (809-s.f.), math (700-s.f.), and English (762-s.f.).
Health, safety and security are addressed within the old building, as well as new additions, in terms of a sprinkler fire suppression system, public address system, and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) improvements.
New construction also geared toward health, safety and security includes a 1,602-s.f. single-story administration wing with reception, nurse’s station, principal and bookkeeper offices, conference room and staff workroom. The administrative wing is located on the south side of the building with an expansive view out over the playground and main entryway which enters the school through a vesibule airlock with two sets of double doors.
Visitors to the school will enter the building through one set of doors at the new main entrance, after which and they buzzed through after showing proper identification at an admission window.
The entryway in turn leads past the elementary wing and toward a commons area for use as cafeteria, adjacent counselor’s office, 293-s.f. intervention office, special education classroom, and auxillary spaces including four existing bathrooms totaling 483-s.f.
The most visible portion of the new construction is the 7,124-s.f. gymnasium with an east-west axis. Conceptual exterior design for the new addition and gymnasium is still being finalized by the architects, with the expectation that a more finalized design — including whether the gym will have a gabled of flat roof — may be revealed by RTA Architects during a conference call meeting next week.
Adjacent to the gymnasium and paralleling Gunnison Avenue to the east is a single story addition with shed roof which will contain a room with 882-s.f. elevated stage opening out into the gymnasium designed for school event use, as well as health and music curriculum.
Also in this new north-south wing of the building are a new and enlarged science classroom (805-s.f.) Spanish classroom (397-s.f.), career technical education classroom (1,009-s.f.), locker rooms (452 and 438-s.f.), 466-s.f. of restrooms, and, at the extreme north end of the wing, a 299-s.f. weight room.