Commissioners nix idea to subsidize Avon transit
EAGLE — Avon likely won’t be getting the additional $175,000 it wants from Eagle County to prop up the town’s bus system.
In a work session last week with the county commissioners, Avon officials say that’s what it would cost to haul employees to and from Buffalo Ridge and other places. They insisted that mission of ECO Transit, the county’s bus system, is to move employees, and since Buffalo Ridge is employee housing, the county should help up the transit tab.
Avon asked for another $25,000 this year and $150,000 next year.
The commissioners took a dim view of the request.
Avon raising the rent
Commissioner Sara Fisher was the most outspoken opponent, pointing out that the county came up with $234,000 for Avon’s new transit building, and co-sponsored Avon’s grant applications to pay for the rest of it. Without the county’s participation, Avon was not eligible for the money, Fisher said.
“It would not have been built without the county’s participation. Avon was not eligible for the grants it needed without the county’s involvement.,” Fisher said.
Also, Avon just raised the county’s rent to park ECO buses in Avon, Fisher pointed out.
Right now, the county pays $505 a month for each space in which it parks an ECO bus in Avon — usually nine spaces for a total of $54,540 a year.
Avon wants to raise the rent 22.1 percent ($108) next year to $613 per parking place for a rent total of $66,204 a year.
Define the spine
Avon town manager Virginia Egger said the town’s transit system carries an estimated 17,000 people to their jobs. She said that while Leadville is served, Avon is not and Buffalo Ridge is not.
Fisher was non-plussed.
“Dotsero still has no service at all, and that’s all employees going up valley,” Fisher said. “It’s not like Gypsum is getting incredible service. I have to walk a mile from my house to get to the bus stop.”
ECO’s mission, Fisher said, is to handle the spine of the valley’s transit.
ECO Transit defined that in 2010 as I-70 and Highway 6. ECO routes do a loop through Walmart and some through Edwards, but other than that ECO sticks to the spine, said ECO director Kelly Collier.
“Coming off the spine doesn’t make sense,” said Kathy Chandler-Henry, Eagle County commissioner. “Once we come off the spine, we’ll be pulled and pulled and pulled from other communities.”
Avon Town Council member Jake Wolf said, “We are responsible for these people who are the backbone of our town.”
The county used to help fund Avon’s skier shuttle, from 2003-2006, but cut that funding when the economy hit the skids. Avon would like the money reinstated, Egger said, citing increasing sales tax revenues.
Egger said 143,000 people ride the town’s skier shuttle, and Avon estimates that 14,000 of those are employees.
“It’s a tough sell to say Eagle County taxpayer funds are going to subsidize Avon skier shuttle. It’s hard to make that connection,” said Chandler-Henry. “And what’s to stop Vail from coming to us and asking for money to help subsidize their shuttle?”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.