The number of motorists ticketed for speeding in Dolores has fallen precipitously this year, prompting some head scratching among town officials.
At the town board meeting Monday, Town Manager Ryan Mahoney said only two citations had been issued so far in 2013. Speeding violations have averaged about 60 in recent years.
Mahoney had no hypothesis for the sharp drop.
"It's a mystery to me," he said Tuesday. "It's puzzling."
Mahoney plans to discuss the issue with Sheriff Dennis Spruell, to see whether deputy assignments had changed. The Montezuma County Sheriff's Office provides law enforcement services to the town in lieu of its own police force. The arrangement has been in place at least 15 years, Mahoney said.
When contacted Tuesday, Spruell disputed the idea his deputies are giving Dolores the short shrift.
"I still have the same level of law enforcement (assigned to Dolores) I always have," he said. "I don't know why speeding is down. But that's a good thing, right?"
Spruell said he has one deputy assigned to Dolores full time. When that deputy is unavailable, another fills in. The MCSO also splits the cost, with Dolores School District Re-4a, for a school resource officer position. Given his responsibilities on school grounds, though, deputy Chris Barry is not available to write many speeding tickets.
Dolores is paying the MCSO $147,000 this year for service. Mahoney said the town also purchases a vehicle every three years for $35,000.
"Dolores has full access to the detective division, the drug task force. They're getting a good deal. They'd pay a lot more to operate their own force," Spruell said.
The town of Mancos budgets about $290,000 annually for its own marshal's office, clerk/treasurer Heather Alvarez said.
"While our payment doesn't buy a full, dedicated police force, for the town it's a significant amount of money and there's a legitimate expectation of service," Mahoney said.
Dolores Town Attorney Mike Green said there's no cause to suspect negligence by the MCSO - "I'm not saying something's wrong here" - but that the issue was worth further discussion.
Trustees were concerned about the speed of through traffic on Highway 145. If there is no visible law enforcement presence, they said, blatant speeders might not be held in check. Entrances to town coming from Cortez and Rico historically are the most ticketed areas, where the speed limit drops to 35.
Also Monday, Mahoney said new residential and commercial building permits are holding steady. Numbers-wise they are coming in at a slightly "greater clip" than 2012. Ten permits have been issued through April, compared to a total of 22 for all of last year.
Going into the all-important tourism season, sales tax revenue is $1,100 lower than 2012. But Mahoney said it was too early to draw conclusions.
"Last year we reached June being 10 percent down for the year. We finished the year a few percentage points higher than 2011," he said. "I don't put too much credence in the numbers this early."
Today, Dolores High School students are installing the first three metal baskets, or "targets," for the disc golf course in Joe Rowell Park. Eventually the course will include nine "holes."
Students first pitched the idea to the Town Board in March. The town bought two targets, which the high school's welding shop used as examples to fabricate five more. The final two will probably be made next year, Mahoney said.
The course is free and accessible to the public.
In other news, basic chemistry helped solve a corrosion problem at the town's water tank.
Scuba divers from Farmington inspected the tank last Wednesday for sediment build-up and cracks.
"Basically they make sure the tank isn't rotting from the inside out. They check for punctures in the tank where birds might get in," Mahoney said.
The tank's integrity was sound, but divers did find some rust. As a remedy, they dropped magnesium rods inside. Water quality is not affected, Mahoney said.
Finally, Mahoney discussed results from a study by three Fort Lewis College students, quantifying the demographics and spending habits of mountain bikers in Montezuma County. They surveyed 23 local businesses and more than 200 bikers, at Phil's World and Sand Canyon, over two weekends in March.
Sixty percent of the riders were men. The largest age bracket, 41 percent, was 35 to 50 years old. It was an educated lot - almost 80 percent had college degrees.
Eight in ten rode with at least one friend. Almost two-thirds came from outside Montezuma County.
The average visitor from outside Montezuma County spends about $62 during a visit, the survey found. However, when the extremes were eliminated (those spending nothing and those spending more than $150), that amount dropped to $36.
The students acknowledged in the report that "the data was skewed a little because it (was) not peak tourist season" and because it did not include riders of the Boggy-Draw area.