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The Poncha Springs Board of Trustees meeting on Sept. 24 featured votes to approve a request for a contribution to the CR 120 Trail, adding funds for the Crossroads Welcome Center planning to the 2019 budget, a proposed addition by Colorado Central Telecom to the Poncha Springs Cemetery Hill monopole, consideration of improvements to the Chaffee County Fairgrounds bandstands, and  site piping bids for a water infrastructure project.

The meeting started with a presentation from Chaffee County Commissioner Greg Felt and the Envision Project’s Cindy Williams on Ballot Issue 1A, the Chaffee Conservation Tax. This is a sales tax to create a fund for three types of environmental projects: enhancing forest health; protecting working agricultural and ranch lands; and protecting outdoor recreation areas by managing waste, decreasing erosion and public education campaigns.

“A sales tax allows us to spread the impact to our (Chaffee County) visitors – and they’re also responsible for some of the impacts,” said Felt, noting the estimated impact of the tax on Chaffee County households will be about $40 per year.

Mayor Ben Scanga questioned Felt and Williams on the structure and need for such a tax, particularly about the recreation piece. “Why are we spending residents’ money to help with this? Isn’t that what the lodging tax is for? How about a source of funding directly related to recreation? Fees for every user? Any way that type of fund could be used for this? (The tax) adds to cost of living here, which adds to other issues – have you guys looked at that?”

“The Feds are telling us, ‘we’re land managers, we’re not people managers – it’s like a tidal wave coming from the Front Range,’” Felt replied. “It’s unfortunate that we have to manage it, but that’s what it’s come to. We’ve done a lot of research and we’ve heard back that residents think this is a serious concern – and the way you refer this issue to the community is to put it on the ballot.”

A  request from Donna Rhoades on behalf of SPOT (Salida-area Parks, Open-space and Trails) for $1,000 to finish the last of the CR 120 trail paving passed unanimously after Town Manager Brian Berger pointed out there was $1,000 in the general fund for such projects that had not been used yet.

Representatives from Colorado Central Telecom then presented their case for building on to their existing tower on Cemetery Hill per a request from Chaffee County officials, rather than building a new one. Raising the height of the existing tower will improve line of sight, which will then improve service. Trustee Thomas Moore made a motion to approve as submitted; Trustee Darryl Wilson seconded, and the motion passed unanimously.

Regarding the issue of the Chaffee County Fairgrounds bandstand, Mayor Scanga said that the original approval of funds from the town of Poncha Springs was based on a Great Outdoors Colorado grant being awarded to the county. The grant wasn’t funded, but the County Commissioners approved money anyway. Although Scanga raised the question “Do we want to spend the $10,000?”  Trustees unanimously approved the motion to invest the funds in the bandstand .

Motions to approve the bid on the water improvement project and for staff to order the piping and the type of piping also passed unanimously.

Brian Berger gave an update on the Crossroads Welcome Center planning. He noted that $120,000 had been allocated earlier in the year for repaving, but that the Planning Commission had asked, “What can we do that’s not just a big stretch of asphalt?”

The proposed plan would split large- and small-vehicle traffic to create green space and add a sidewalk to the visitor’s center, short- and long-term parking and a dog park on the small-vehicle side. The plan also includes a Bustang (CDOT bus) stop. The small- and large-vehicle split-out raises the paving cost to $653,000.

Trustee Dean Edwards stressed the necessity of making the visitor’s center “Bustang-friendly.” “The time to strike is now – Bustang has to go there, period.” Discussion moved to how to add two RV dump stations and timelines. Berger said that the project would start in January to make the center ready by Memorial Day. He then asked for a motion to contract with the engineer. Scanga made the motion, Edwards seconded. The motion passed unanimously.