The county opted out of a restrictive state telecommunication law by a vote of 8,469 to 3,628. The Town of Dolores also opted out, by a vote of 371 to 62.
Throughout the 11 precincts, the vote was approved by a range of 61-75 percent.
Precinct 1, representing the northwest portion of the county around Pleasant View, was a tad skeptical, passing the measure by 61 percent.
Overall, the vote is a clear message the community is interested in exploring ways to improve local service, said Chelsea Jones, a publicist for the Montezuma Community Economic Development Association.
“We’re very excited because it means we can begin to strategize on how to upgrade our infrastructure,” she said. “It gives us more options.”
However, organizers of the broadband plan have backed off the original $39 million plan and 1 percent sales tax to help pay for it, Jones said.
“We would like to figure out how to do it without a sales tax,” she said. “Our goal is still to offer affordable high-speed internet as an option for residents.”
Instead of fiber-optic lines to each home, organizers are considering a more affordable hybrid system that involves a combination of fiber optic lines and wireless technology.
Montezuma County commissioners have put out a Request for Information for providers to submit ideas on how to upgrade local internet at affordable construction and service costs.
In the face of shrinking tax revenues from the oil and gas industry, the county commission decided in July that improving high-speed internet service was the best way to diversify and grow the economy. A poll showed support for better service, and economists said broadband attracts businesses.
The county hired an engineer to analyze estimated costs of providing high-speed internet services to every home in the county, and the estimated price came to $39 million.
To help finance the project, commissioners voted 3-0 to put a 1 percent sales tax on the November ballot, in addition to a question asking voters to opt out of SB152. Opting out is a prerequisite for government agencies to fund and build telecommunication infrastructure.
But some of the public balked at the price tag during a town hall meeting in Cortez on July 18, saying the plan needed more time to work out important details like costs for consumers, construction and annual maintenance.
Then the tax question was dropped from the ballot after the county learned they would not make a deadline detailing the tax and financing plan to the state Department of Revenue. The county has since put the brakes on whether a sales tax is necessary, and has gone back to the drawing board to find the best way forward.
“The next step is to bring everyone to the table on how to use what we have and build on that,” Jones said.
There was concern that the opt-out measure could fail because many residents felt it was tied to the proposed sales tax, though that wasn’t on the ballot.
While the Pleasant View and Yellow Jacket communities were less in favor of opting out, the Dolores Valley, which has less internet and cell phone coverage, was most enthusiastic, voting 75 percent to 24 percent to opt out. Precinct 11, in Mancos, and Precinct 6, the Ute Mountain Ute tribe, voted 75 percent and 76 percent, respectively, to opt out.
Re-1 school questionVoters in the Re-1 school district agreed to demolish the old high school by a vote of 63 percent to 33 percent. Cortez residents were the most in favor of the plan, with approximately 65 percent voting for it. Residents around Pleasant View and McElmo Canyon were the least in favor of it, with 58 percent voting for it.
Mancos library In Mancos, voters approved a 2 mill property tax increase to sustain the current level of services by a vote of 65 percent to 35 percent.
“It is very heartwarming to see the community come out and support the library the way they did,” said library director Lee Hallberg. “Without the funding, we would be facing less services and a cut in hours.”
The Mancos Public Library is heavily relied on by middle and high school students in the Mancos School District. Hallberg said the funding allows the library to update the nonfiction stacks the students need.
The highest support for the measure was in Mancos proper. Northwest of Mancos, along Highway 184, voters did not favor the tax, with two voting for it and seven voting against it.