Eagle-Vail seeks a sales tax increase to fund maintenance, wish-list items | VailDaily.com

Eagle-Vail seeks a sales tax increase to fund maintenance, wish-list items

The bike path and Eagle River on Wednesday, Apri. 18, in Eagle-Vail.

EAGLE-VAIL — The Eagle-Vail Metropolitan District will ask the roughly 2,500 registered voters here to increase sales tax by 1 percent in its Tuesday, May 8, election.

Ballot Issue A calls for the tax to begin in 2019, in an effort to fund streetscape, transportation and safety-protection improvements.

One of the maintenance items the tax would pay for is paint and the application thereof. Striping roads, striping parking lots, striping crosswalks and painting the U.S. Highway 6 fence are all on the Metro District's list of maintenance projects that would be funded using the tax.

Among the businesses affected would be the county's paint sellers, as both Sherman Williams and the locally owned Paint Bucket operate within the metro district on Highway 6. About 50 other businesses can be found selling products to consumers in Eagle-Vail at any time of the year, and those businesses currently charge 4.4 percent sales tax.

By increasing the tax to 5.4 percent, basic maintenance projects — painting, striping, signage and drainage — would likely find funding, and additional funds could also make money available for wish-list items in town.

"Our No. 1 goal is to take care of the stuff we already have," said Jeff Lehman, community manager with the Eagle-Vail Metropolitan District. "But there's other projects we might want to be able to do when the time comes."

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EAGLE VALLEY TRAIL

Lehman cited a sidewalk project that was approved by the Metro District board years ago, but was not able to be undertaken due to a lack of funds.

"It was going put a sidewalk on one of our entry streets," Lehman said. "We tried one year and couldn't make it happen, and then construction prices escalated and we just couldn't get it done."

Lehman also referenced the ongoing Eagle Valley Trail project, which seeks to connect Eagle County from east to west with a single, hard-surface trail for bikers and pedestrians.

The trail is still more than 15 miles from completion, and two of those miles are in Eagle-Vail. The estimated cost of the Eagle-Vail Business District section of the trail is $4.8 million.

A detracting opinion, copied in the election notice sent to voters, says the Eagle Valley Trail is "a responsibility of the county."

Lehman disagrees.

"Many other entities have chipped in to make that project work throughout the county," he said.

Nearby, the town of Avon contributed to the construction of the trail extending to the western edge of Eagle-Vail. That project was completed in 2016 and also contained funding from Eagle County's ECO Trails department, as well as Great Outdoors Colorado and the Colorado Department of Transportation.

The Colorado Department of Transportation plans to resurface U.S. Highway 6 through Eagle-Vail in 2021.

"That would be a great opportunity for us to work with ECO Trails and CDOT, with some contribution from Eagle-Vail's sales tax, to make that trail work for the public and the merchants who have their businesses along there," Lehman said.

TRAIL ACCESS PROBLEMS

Lehman also acknowledged the problems accessing the Eagle Valley Trail that residents on the west end of Eagle-Vail currently face. Stephen Lloyd Wood is a resident in that area who said accessing the trail is extremely inconvenient, despite the fact that the trail is just a few hundred feet away.

From the west end of Deer Boulevard, a walk that could take less than five minutes to the trail is now more than a mile long for one who wants to go it the legal way — without jumping fences — using a proper crosswalk to cross U.S. Highway 6.

"Eagle-Vail and Eagle County need to improve access to the part of the Eagle Valley Trail trail that already exists before spending money on making it bigger," Wood said.

Lehman said the tax increase could do just that.

"It would go a long way to completing exactly that kind of project, if that's what the board approves," Lehman said.

SOFT SURFACE TRAIL

While all uses of the funds will require Metro District board approval, the current board is supportive of funding the new soft surface Forest Service trail connecting Eagle-Vail to Minturn, known as the Evercrisp trail.

The trail has undergone an environmental study and is nearing construction, assuming funding — and a device called a mini excavator — finds its way into Eagle-Vail with help from other local entities.

Evercrisp is the answer to the Whiskey Creek trail, which also connected Eagle-Vail to Minturn but was closed by the Forest Service as a result of the 2011 Travel Management Plan.

"These funds would most likely complete that trail," Lehman said.