ELECTION RESULTS: November 7, 2017

The weather was nasty in Pagosa Springs on Tuesday evening around 9pm. That’s the time of the evening when Archuleta County Clerk June Madrid normally posts election results, on the glass door down at the County Courthouse… on the first Tuesday of November each year… and it’s the time of the evening when I normally jump in my van and head downtown to find out who won and who lost.

But this year was different. This year, the results of Colorado’s off-year elections were posted — already, by 9pm — on a website maintained by Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and his staff.

The results are ‘unofficial,’ but should nevertheless be close to the final, ‘official’ results:

A quick bit of late night analysis.

We had a 41 percent turnout — 4,276 ballots counted out of 10,493 registered voters.

Ballot Measure 5A was a request by the San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) for a property tax increase that would allow the district to obtain a $2 million loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, according to documents published by SJWCD. The loan would in turn be used to purchase additional property needed to someday build the proposed Dry Gulch Reservoir.

As we see, the community rejected the tax increase by more than a 3-to-1 margin. This may well be the worst showing of any proposed tax increase in Archuleta County in the past 30 years or so — slightly more unpopular than the “mega-campus” tax increase proposed by the Archuleta School District in 2011.

The total number of votes cast on the 5A issue was 3,575.

A somewhat larger number of total votes were cast in the case of Ballot Measure 1A: 4,165.

1A was also a proposed tax increase — but in this case, would have increased our local sales taxes instead of property taxes.  The proposal, as put forward by the Archuleta Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), would have allowed the County to collect up to $26.6 million in additional sales taxes over a period of up to 14 years, to be used for new County Sheriff’s facilities — offices and detention center — much larger than what was in use by the Sheriff in 2014, before the jail was abandoned in April 2015, and before the rest of the Sheriff’s staff moved out of the Courthouse in September of this year.

As we see in the unofficial results, Ballot Issue 1A was rejected by a small margin.

As far as I can tell, neither the SJWCD board nor the BOCC had a “Plan B” in the works, should their tax increases be turned down by the voters.  But the water district’s campaign may have been the most damaging to the organization, as it resulted in revelations — reported in both the weekly Pagosa Springs SUN and in the Daily Post — that SJWCD President, Rod Proffitt, may have been accepting illegal payments of taxpayer money since 2012.

Meanwhile, the decision by the BOCC to abandon our existing 9,000-square-foot County Jail in April of 2015 — instead of quickly renovating the facility and putting it back into use — has now resulted in claims by the Sixth Judicial District that the entire Courthouse is poorly maintained and in an “unhealthy” condition.  At the moment, both the Judicial District and the County Sheriff are refusing to occupy their offices in the downtown Courthouse.

Stay tuned for future developments.  Could be a wild ride.

Bill Hudson

Bill Hudson founded the Pagosa Daily Post in 2004 in hopes of making a decent living writing about local politics. The hope remains.