Pueblo West Metropolitan District board members were disappointed but not surprised voters slapped down their request for a 1 cent tax to fix Pueblo West roads during Tuesday’s election.
Ballot Question 5A received only 1,885 votes of support while 4,040 voters turned thumbs-down on the tax.
“I was hopeful. Perhaps if the economy were doing better it might have passed,” said outgoing board President Christine McCarthy. “It leaves the district with a real challenge on keeping up our roads. We may have to give them back to Pueblo County for maintenance.”
McCarthy said the district has $40 million in needed road improvements. It spends about $2 million a year on maintenance, about a little more than half of that comes from Pueblo County — federal gasoline tax revenues that are paid to states and local communities each year.
The 1 cent tax would have added about $1 million to the road budget each year.
“The (federal money) we get from the county just isn’t enough,” McCarthy said. “We may have to give most of our roads back to the county.”
Metro District Manager Jack Johnston said there are 403 miles of roads in Pueblo West — 218 miles with hard surfaces and 185 miles of gravel or softer surfaces.
The metro district and county officials have argued about road maintenance in past years. By contract, Pueblo West must give county officials five-years’ notice before turning any roads over to the county for upkeep.
Board member Lew Quigley said he was disappointed in the voter turnout for Tuesday’s election. More than 22,000 ballots were mailed out to Pueblo West, Colorado City and Rye area voters for the election.
“And we got only 6,000 ballots back? That’s not much of a turnout,” he said.
Quigley is no stranger to tax elections. He was Pueblo city manager for 16 years.
“Right now the mood is voters distrust government and are annoyed at the idea of more taxes,” he said Wednesday. “But my question is if voters don’t want to tax themselves to fix their own roads, how do they expect to get it done?”
In Tuesday’s election, three new board members were elected: Judith Leonard (3,172 votes), Mark Carmel (2,589 votes) and Barbara Bernard (2,159 votes).
Incumbent board member William Vickers finished fourth (2,097 votes) and incumbent board member Mike French fifth (2,086 votes). The final two candidates were Joe Mahaney (1,266 votes) and James Maggard (1,035 votes.)
But Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz said there are 117 ballots that haven’t been counted yet because of an assortment of reasons — ballots were unsigned or signatures couldn’t be read. County officials are contacting those voters to resolve questions.
If all 117 ballots supported Vickers, there is a chance it could change the results posted Tuesday, but is not likely, according to Ortiz.
The county has until May 16 to complete a final “canvas” or count.
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