One of Teller County’s major routes between central/western Teller and Cripple Creek is headed for a major overhaul, as part of a dramatic cost-saving government plan.
Last week, the Teller County Commissioners at their regular meeting approved a proposal to turn Teller One into a dirt/gravel thoroughfare, ending a lengthy and costly effort for continual road enhancements. Officials acknowledged that these paving improvement plans just aren’t working.
Under a newly-approved proposal, the asphalt that currently exists on Teller One will be taken out and then sold to the Colorado Department of Transportation for their new paving recycling program. This plan was recently announced by Brad Shew, Operations Manager of the Teller County Transportation Department. It served as a highlight of the county’s annual road improvement and maintenance plan presentation for 2016.
Other than big changes to Teller One, the plan was rather uneventful, with few notable changes from previous years.
The de-paving effort on Teller One could provide the county with a $5 million windfall, a portion of the funds to be used for a county-wide $2 million Broadband Implementation Study.
“In surveys, we have done, most people say they would prefer a gravel surface on Teller One,” said Teller County Commissioner Dave Pal. “We are responding to resident opinions,” admitted Shew.
During last Thursday’s regular meeting, former county commissioner Gerry Bergemen heavily spoke in favor of the plan. “As I have said before, if you live up here and don’t have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, then you really shouldn’t reside in rural Teller County,” blasted Bergeman, a big proponent of individual property rights and an opponent of excessive building regulations. “Get a hotel in Colorado Springs, if you work down there and don’t have the proper vehicles. Use some common sense. If you want paved roads, move down the Pass.”
The road changes for at least 10 miles of Teller One will occur this year.
The plan is also being welcomed by officials of the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, located along Teller One. They have cited growing reports of fossil endangerment due to fast-moving vehicles and more road rage incidents near the national park. “Our historic fossils need a little more space and solace from maniac motorists,” said Jeff Wolan, of the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. “This way we can concentrate more on our educational programs.”
“We believe this will definitely slow down the traffic.” said Sheriff Mike Esmingar. “Enforcement will be much easier on a gravel surface road.”
From a financial standpoint, Norm Stein, chairman of the Teller County Commissioners, said a good portion of the financial windfall from the de-paving effort will be used to fund an intensive, Broadband Implementation Study. This is the next phase of a project to allow most residents to have better telecommunications and cell phone service. An earlier $70,000 study indicated that the majority of residents in the unincorporated sections of Teller County are residing in the Dark Ages, with only five percent having designated broadband Internet services, according to the stipulations of the Federal Communications Commission.
Plus, if Teller does secure grants for Broadband enhancements as expected, then the county must come to the table with significant matching contributions. “Our residents need to decide between road improvement and better communication services. Our residents have apparently made their choice and road enhancements will no longer occur on Teller One. Telecommunications enhancements have clearly won out,” explained Stein.
The extra money will also provide the county with needed operational funds to manage the jail and offer other services. Since 2008, the county has operated with considerably fewer employees, with a workforce estimated at 80 percent of what it had 10 years ago.
“Finally, we will get some relief,” said Teller County Administrator Sheryl Daker. “For too long, we were always counting on winning big wagers from our annual Super Bowl predictions in The Mountain Crackpot.”