Governments take on pot, broadband

From legalizing the sale of recreational marijuana to taking broadband issues into their own hands, numerous cities, towns and counties in Colorado considered a slew of ballot measures during this year’s elections.

According to vote totals compiled by the Colorado Municipal League and Colorado Counties Inc., 19 more cities and seven more counties were added to the list of local governments that have opted to do something about their internet connections.

As a result, 65 cities and towns, and 28 counties, have approved local ballot measures to look into creating their own broadband services.

“Colorado statues require an affirmative vote of the people before municipalities can provide or partner with the private sector to provide broadband, a vital service to both commercial and residential consumers,” CML Executive Director Sam Mamet told his members in a blog posting. “To underscore the importance of this issue to the public, 65 municipalities have now approved broadband ballot issues, 19 of them in this election. Every city and town that has proposed municipal broadband has been given overwhelming support from voters.”

Several communities are now acting on efforts to improve their broadband services.

Rio Blanco County, which approved a broadband measure in 2014, is in the early stages of creating a public-private project to create a countywide broadband, cellular and emergency services project.

The Delta-Montrose Rural Election Association also is in the process of installing fiber optic lines as part of a phased project called Elevate Fiber to bring high-speed service, to start, to Paonia, downtown Montrose and the Cobble Creek area.

The nonprofit group Region 10 announced late last month that it had selected a contractor to start construction of broadband infrastructure in Montrose, a project that ultimately is to extend to other counties in the region, from Delta to Hinsdale.

Last month, the Grand Junction City Council signed a $50,000 contract to conduct a demand survey of broadband in the city.

On marijuana, Palisade wasn’t the only town on the Western Slope to approve the sale of medical and retail marijuana. The town of Dinosaur in Moffat County approved both by overwhelming margins.

Routt County voters also approved a 5 percent excise tax on marijuana sales to fund such things as roads, county facilities and public health and safety projects. San Juan County approved a 3 percent excise tax to pay for economic development programs, public health and safety, and road and bridge improvements.

Mamet said other measures approved by local governments included such things as a tax on sweetened beverages (Boulder), backyard chickens (Lochbuie), a lodging tax (Dacono), a 1-cent sales tax for sidewalks and streets (Grand Lake) and a sales tax to support the San Miguel Authority for Regional Transportation (Telluride).


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