The Ignacio Town Board has outlined its top six priorities for the next two years, with housing and broadband at the top of the list.
The town completed a new strategic plan for 2021-23 earlier in March. The plan acts as a guiding vision for how the town plans to prioritize goals, strategies and funding. It is also the town’s first strategic plan in many years, said Mark Garcia, interim town manager.
“It’s essential. We needed it for planning and organization,” Garcia said. It helps “to make sure you have the funding in your budget and have some direction for what the board would like staff to work on.”
The strategic plan drew input from all seven Town Board members and staff leadership under the guidance of Sagebrush Limited, a Durango-based consulting company.
Town officials identified six primary areas of interest: affordable housing; utilities dependence; business and economic development; infrastructure upgrades; public engagement and board training; and succession planning for leadership positions.
For each category, the plan outlines major challenges and opportunities likely to arise by 2023 to ensure the town’s goals stay on track.
For example, the town has had low turnout on important issues in the past. In the plan, it prioritized offering opportunities for public input through multiple channels so the community feels heard. It emphasizes collaborating with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.
The town is focused on housing affordability and availability. A recent housing study showed Ignacio had an older housing stock – the average build date was 1953 – which means housing development is needed to replace nonhistoric homes.
Housing is one of the town’s top priorities for 2021. Ignacio staff members are wrapping up the Rock Creek Housing Plan, which could create up to 115 new units, and they plan to ask developers to bid on the project in midsummer.
The plan also highlights potential development on a 21-acre plot known as the Slaughterhouse property and wrapping up the land-use development code.
In the infrastructure category, broadband internet is another top goal this year. Ignacio has partnered with FastTrack Communications on a $3.9 million grant application to provide fiber-optic internet to homes and other premises in town. If approved, FastTrack would provide a grant match of $900,000. The town should hear whether it received the grant in April, Garcia said.
The town of Ignacio launched the strategic planning process in August 2020 and spent less than $5,000 on the project, Garcia said.
The Town Board passed the plan March 8 in a 6-1 vote.
Trustee Sharon Craig, the sole vote against approving the plan, advocated for publishing it to the town’s website before its approval to give people the chance to comment at the next town meeting.
The strategic plan was developed without public input because of public meeting constraints during the COVID-19 pandemic, Garcia said during the meeting.