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County Town Hall Meeting Attracts Broadband Debate

Austin Cope
Jim Mahberg of Mancos shares his views on economic theories with the Montezuma county commissioners on Monday night

A spirited debate over the idea of using a one-cent sales tax to fund a county-wide broadband project dominated talk at a town-hall meeting Monday with the Montezuma County commissioners. About 30 people attended, many thanking the board for holding the evening meeting.

But several said they were disappointed the county had proposed the tax, which would fund a $39 million project to bring high-speed Internet to every home. Jim Mahlberg of Mancos argued it was not a free-market-style decision and accused the board of bowing to special interests. He said if it doesn’t make sense for a private company to develop such infrastructure, it doesn’t for the county. Commission Chair Larry Don Suckla countered that it wouldn’t make sense for a private firm to maintain county roads, but government provides such services. Suckla said broadband could allow his children to come back to the area to live. But Bud Garner of Cortez said people already have connectivity through smartphones and laptops. Garner said people who choose to live in a remote area shouldn’t ask someone else to pay for their services. Cortez Mayor Karen Sheek called broadband the fourth utility and said being a part of a community means doing what is best for it. The board voted in June to put the tax question on the ballot, but on Monday the commissioners said they could change their minds.

Gail Binkly is a career journalist who has worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette and Cortez Journal. She is currently a freelance writer as well as the editor of the Four Corners Free Press, based in Cortez.
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