Ignacio trustees nix school district request

Ignacio town trustees were in no mood to cut a deal with the school district when they met on June 18.

At issue was School Superintendent Rocco Fuschetto's request for the town to extend a four-inch gas line from Ignacio Street and the west alley south to Becker Street and then west to near the new district administration building to serve the new high school.

That would cost an estimated $40,000 to $45,000. The school district wanted that to be a town cost.

Town Finance Director Lisa Rea said, "The $45,000 isn't in our budget. It would be money from the citizens on top of the property tax increase" to build the new schools. She noted the $45,000 is almost the total annual gas bill to the district.

School board member Luke Kirk represented the district at the June 18 meeting. "The current (district) proposal, when we discovered we'd have to install a new line, we could put a meter at the street and it's our line, or give it to the town with a $4,500 credit each year to our gas account to spread it out over 10 years. The town would own and maintain the line without up-front cost."

Town Public Works Director James Brown countered with a proposal to extend the four-inch line the shortest distance to the school east property line and put the meter there. "They could run their (service) line wherever they want. They would own that," he said.

Trustee Dixie Melton said she has received citizen comments "that people feel they are being asked to pay twice (for the new schools). This on top of their property tax increase."

Other trustees agreed.

Brown estimated it would cost $6,000 to get the four-inch line the shortest distance to the school property line.

There was still the question of who pays for that.

Trustee Linda Moore made a motion to deny the school request for gas bill credits and to extend the line as Brown proposed, at school district expense.

Trustee Alison deKay said it should be town cost to get it to the property line.

Brown responded, "Any other utility, if you buy land and want electric, you will pay to get the line there."

Audience member Bernadette Lopez commented, "It's not the town's fault that they (the district) had an engineering error."

Trustees approved Moore's motion on a 3-2 vote, with deKay and Mayor Stella Cox voting no. Tom Atencio voted yes, but he said, "I still feel it's the responsibility of the town to get it to their property line." He wanted Town Manager Lee San Miguel to determine that cost for more discussion at the next board meeting on July 2.

Moore noted the town already gave the school district a deal with a reduced fee for road damage from construction traffic.

In March, trustees voted 4-3 to reduce the overweight vehicle fee from $18,595 to $10,000. Rea noted then that the town was expecting to use $10,000 of the fee for the town's share of the CDOT project cost.