SNOWMASS VILLAGE -With the June 26 primary election less than two weeks away, this week the Snowmass Sun is running a question-and-answer with the four candidates for the District 4 (Snowmass) seat on the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners. Under the county's home-rule charter, party affiliation plays no role in which commissioner candidates advance to the general election in November. Voters can choose one candidate in the primary, with the top two vote-getters advancing to the general election. Though the candidates must reside within District 4, they are elected at-large. Voters throughout the county may cast a vote for any one commissioner candidate on the primary ballot.Among the candidates, Steve Child and John Wilkinson are running as Democrats, while Darryl Grob and John Young are running as unaffiliated candidates. Pick up The Aspen Times through June 15 for more on where the candidates stand on a variety of issues.
Age: 64Occupation: Cattle rancher, Village Shuttle bus driver, cross-country ski instructor, retired schoolteacherYears in the valley: 51Prior civic experience: Serving from about 1974 to present: Pitkin County Weed Advisory Board chairman, Pitkin County Agricultural Building Review Board, Snowmass/Capitol Creeks Caucus Board, Land Use and Weed subcommittees, founder of annual road cleanup, bass singer for Aspen Choral Society. Former: President of Wilderness Workshop board, founder of Wilderness Monitoring Project, Governor's Energy Office Small Hydro Working Group, Statewide Water Supply Initiative, president of Basalt Elementary School and Basalt Middle School parent/teacher organizations, Light Rail Transit Committee.How would you make a difference in county government as a member of the Board of County Commissioners? I would provide a voice of reason on the board, would be a good listener to all sides of an issue, and make well thought out and objective decisions with the good of the community in mind and at heart. I would treat all constituents with respect and fairness, and would make decisions based on the merits of the proposals. Since District 4 encompasses Sky Mountain Park, please explain how you feel about the dog ban covering most of the open space, including the former Droste property. Also, do you see room for flexibility in the wintertime closure period for the open space (Dec. 1 through May 15)?I feel that the ban on dogs is appropriate given the likelihood of conflicts between dogs and wildlife, bikers, horseback riders and other hikers. It might be possible to allow dogs to go there on leashes, but many people tend to let their dogs off the leash once they are away from the beginning of a trail. This abuse would quickly lead to reinstating a full ban on dogs.There are many miles of other trails in the area where dogs are already allowed to go, and people should use these trails if they want to take their dogs along for exercise and companionship.A flexible period of trail closure is very appropriate. Once the elk have left the property to their calving grounds on Owl Creek and Burnt Mountain, there is no reason not to let people start using the area.The Aspen-Pitkin County Airport master plan update will likely have been adopted before you take office, but what elements of the draft plan as it now stands do you support or not support, and why?The current terminal is clearly in need of replacing, largely due to its location 7 feet below the level of the taxiway which leads to flooding, and the severe overcrowding brought on by the addition of TSA operations and the bunching of airplane departures and arrivals.A terminal of about 60,000 square feet, built where the proposed space is just east of the existing terminal, would be very comfortable and functional. The building should be designed to fit into the character and scale that the Aspen community desires to maintain, with a possible expansion in mind for the future if the need arises.Any additional fixed-base operator facilities should be accommodated on the east side of the airport if possible to keep all the development clustered near the highway transportation corridor. The plan for rearranging the fixed-base operator facilities to accommodate more parked private aircraft is good.I favor a surface parking lot for cars, coupled with a real good interface with public transportation to encourage people to not use cars when coming to and from the airport.
Age: 66Occupation: Aspen fire chief, retired; wildfire mitigation project manager, city of Aspen, current; planning consultant, SE Group, Fort Collins, current; consultant, Pitkin County Sheriff's Office, currentYears in the valley: 37Prior civic experience: At the core of my civic career I served 32 years in Aspen fire service, earning increased responsibilities and leadership roles until becoming their first paid fire chief. Besides the incumbent community duties delivering safe and effective life safety response, I was a front-runner in the development and regional coordination of critical civic efforts such as the Pitkin County Public Safety Council. All the while I continued serving my community by volunteering for the Aspen HistoricalSociety Special District Board, founding the Roaring Fork Veterans History Project and working alongside the Aspen Thrift Shop, where I was elected an Honorary Thrift Shop "Lady." My love for our valley and our wonderful environment has led me to efforts such as the Hunter/Smuggler Focus Group and For the Forest to preserve and protect.How would you make a difference in county government as a member of the Board of County Commissioners?The fundamental role of a county commissioner is to serve as a steward of our community, our homes and our environment. I offer leadership focused on problem solving and pragmatic solutions crafted in a financially responsible manner. Critical thinking and responsible action that focuses on continual improvement befits a professional public servant. We need a few good problem-solvers that deliver. I can do that.Since District 4 encompasses Sky Mountain Park, please explain how you feel about the dog ban covering most of the open space, including the former Droste property. Also, do you see room for flexibility in the wintertime closure period for the open space (Dec. 1 through May 15)?The fundamental management goal in a wildland urban intermix such as Sky Mountain Park is to ensure the continued health of our forests and wildlife. The challenges emerge when we choose to accommodate access and infringe these settings for ourselves.In the Brush Creek Valley/Droste Mountain Park Interim Management Plan, dogs are currently allowed on many trails but must be leashed and all dog waste removed. It's really not about the dogs, it's about the dog owners who do or do not adhere to the basics. The balance of the open space is being surveyed to "... set in motion a natural and historical resource study that will be combined with recreation user information to develop the long-term vision and plan for all the properties."This is as it should be. Dogs and seasonal closures are being systematically studied to ensure we proceed in a responsible manner. My dog Tiehack and I can't wait to go.The Aspen-Pitkin County Airport master plan update will likely have been adopted before you take office, but what elements of the draft plan as it now stands do you support or not support, and why?Our airport is our portal to and from the world and a hub to and from our communities and our four mountain economies. The importance of its contribution to our valley would be difficult to overstate now and in the future.The current phase of planning maps out options for the physical layout and sizing parameters of its major features to include improved ground transportation, expanded commercial airline passenger terminal operations and general aviation upgrades to include a second fixed-base operation on the west side of the runway.Our planning is driven by concerns for safety, improved capacity based on rational projections of future demands and efficiency of operations to maximize service delivery while promoting energy and environmental savings. All this must be done within extremely tight constraints of geography and community. I strongly support their effort and methods.
Age: 57Occupation: Commercial insurance agent for Neil-Garing Agency in the Aspen office. I have worked in the insurance agency business for 36 years. I am working full time and plan on continuing full time if elected. The perspective of my longtime success in local business will help shape the success I hope to continue for our local economy.Years in the valley: I moved to Aspen in 1979 to accept a job at Aspen Agency which then merged with Neil-Garing Agency. I have not spent more than two weeks away from Pitkin County at any one time since then. I met my wife here and we have raised our children here - Lindsey is at Northern Michigan University and Davin is in the 11th grade at Aspen High School.Prior civic experience: Currently mayor pro tem on the Snowmass Village Town Council; council member elected in 2004 and 2008; 2000 to 2004, town of Snowmass Village Planning Commission; currently treasurer of Pitkin County Library - I have been on the library board for 18 years; 1995 to 1999, State of Colorado Trails Committee; seven years on State of Colorado Library Advisory Board; eight years on Aspen/Snowmass Nordic Council; six years on the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority Board of Directors.How would you make a difference in county government as a member of the Board of County Commissioners?My real-time experience as an elected official will allow me to immediately participate in the issues facing the commission. There is a sign at Aspen Elementary School which speaks to my perspective: "That which is right isn't always popular, that which is popular isn't always right." Making the right decision as a public official is usually never easy, nor always popular. You have to have thick skin, and take the criticism both good and bad. I have learned to explain my position, even in opposition to issues.My experience in overseeing the budgets of Snowmass Village, RFTA and the library has made me very fiscally conservative. The budgets of all three entities have not had to rely upon using reserves for operations - even during the economic downturn.Cooperation and collaboration with various groups and entities in Pitkin County would be high on my list.Since District 4 encompasses Sky Mountain Park, please explain how you feel about the dog ban covering most of the open space, including the former Droste property. Also, do you see room for flexibility in the wintertime closure period for the open space (Dec. 1 through May 15)?I have been a part of the partnership between the city of Aspen, Pitkin County and Snowmass Village for the planning of the Sky Mountain Park. The Drostes' approval for nine homes on the property prohibited even the owners from having dogs on the critical wildlife area.The wildlife survey that was completed in October 2011 strongly recommended that, due to the wildlife, rare plants and birds, dogs be restricted from the Sky Mountain Park.We have to rely on the experts for their recommendations, and I support them. Dogs will still be permitted on the Highline, Lowline and Brush Creek trails.I would be in favor of considering opening the Brush Creek Trail year-round as recommended in the same survey. It would be a wonderful addition to the nordic trail system in winter. The Snowmass Village nordic trail could be connected to the Rio Grande Trail to make an unbelievable loop for our system.The Aspen-Pitkin County Airport master plan update will likely have been adopted before you take office, but what elements of the draft plan as it now stands do you support or not support, and why?There is an obvious need for some sort of redevelopment at the airport. Between the internal TSA security area, baggage claim and traffic circulation connection to RFTA, there needs to be a redesign of the airport and terminal.The idea of a plan is to look at what the maximum potential can be for the airport. That does not mean that it could be or should be developed to the maximum extent.I participated in several of the design charrattes and agree with the recommendations from the plan. I would support the phasing of rebuilding of the terminal. I would support starting a new building similar in size to the current building. The cost to remodel would be more than new construction. The cost of rebuilding would be paid for by airport funding sources, not using taxpayer dollars.Redesigning the airport is necessary to meet ADA standards, security standards and generally more efficiency in handling passengers and baggage.
Age: 60Occupation: Affordable-housing and land-use consultantYears in the valley: 37Prior civic experience: Pitkin County; trails director, airport terminal manager, assistant airport manager; road and bridge director, Snowmass Village; first town manager, built the conference center, 172 affordable-housing units, upgraded snowmelt road, rebuilt all roads, started the transportation system, police department, public works, housing department, sanitation department, community development department, and general government services, Basalt and Rural Fire District; Current board of directors member, Aspen Valley Hospital; Represented hospital when current facility was expanded; also served on the Aspen School District financial advisory board, various homeowners boards, volunteered for youth sports in many capacities and created affordable housing in seven mountain communities.How would you make a difference in county government as a member of the Board of County Commissioners?The current board does a very good job as evidenced by the fact that both Michael Owsley and George Newman are running unopposed. The new dimension that I will bring is a wealth of experience on both the public and private sides. My experience in the resort industry helping to create two resorts (Snowmass Village and The Canyons in Park City) will add a dimension that doesn't exist. Having participated in hundreds of millions of dollars of public/private projects with a history of on-time/on-budget results will assure the citizens that an airport project would not become a financial boondoggle.Since District 4 encompasses Sky Mountain Park, please explain how you feel about the dog ban covering most of the open space, including the former Droste property. Also, do you see room for flexibility in the wintertime closure period for the open space (Dec. 1 through May 15)?I learned a long time ago, as a city manager, that dogs are a complex issue. The public is usually split right down the middle on how they feel about them. Dogs under control are not usually an issue; the problem begins when they are allowed to run at large. Their impacts on wildlife are no more than the humans using the trails if they are restrained. I would be in favor of expanding the area that they can be exercised if they are leashed. If it is abused and becomes unenforceable then most likely their range will need to be restricted.Similarly, the use by humans, and the mode of travel utilized, varies depending on the circumstances, especially concerning the weather. In a low-snow year, the elk have generally vacated the area by May 15 as they follow the snow line utilizing the new growth, highly nutritional grasses, that sprout behind the melting snow. In a heavy snow year, they more than likely will not move out of the Wildcat area until the snows recede. I would be in favor of a system that sets the time restraints based on the facts surrounding the year and not a hard-and-fast set of dates that might be baseless.The Aspen-Pitkin County Airport master plan update will likely have been adopted before you take office, but what elements of the draft plan as it now stands do you support or not support, and why?I think the commissioners and Jim Elwood have done a good job reaching out to our community, and by Michael Owsley's count there have been 49 meetings on the airport to date. The area where they have hit a nerve is in the possibility of allowing the terminal to grow to 80,000 square feet. Almost everyone I have talked to believes that is fundamentally excessive.I agree that the security, baggage, passenger waiting, restrooms and food service are all areas that need improvement. The ramp space is also crowded with aircraft in peak times. These can be accommodated in an efficiently planned building in far less than 80,000 square feet.My vision would include an "energy neutral" building that could showcase to the world that there is a far better way to build than most communities embrace. I would encourage Amory Lovins and his Rocky Mountain Institute staff, along with the Aspen Skiing Co.'s senior executives, to participate in the creation of a building that demonstrates the state-of-the-future technologies that can be used today. Colorado water law is archaic in that it makes recycling water very difficult to achieve. That being said, I believe we need to make an honest attempt to make that happen in this building.