Mel Blumenthal
Columnist
Snowmass Village, CO, Colorado

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October 23, 2012
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Mel Blumenthal: Missed opportunities in local energy

In light of all the heated debate and controversy concerning Aspen's flawed hydro and geothermal projects, I decided to spend a bit of time on the Internet last weekend searching for some successful renewable energy projects in other mountain towns.

Lo and behold, the first one that popped up seemed a likely candidate and easily replicable in our valley. And best of all, for Aspen's elected officials and hard-core environmentalists, it has the potential to repair some of the negativity and harsh accusations directed toward Aspen's mayor, city council and Skico's very green Auden Schendler in their pursuit of questionable environmental projects at any cost.

Manure-powered ski lifts are Killington, Vt.'s, answer to the production of renewable energy in an environmentally friendly manner. As reported by Reuters News Service last week, Killington will use 300,000 kilowatt hours of electricity made from their locally sourced cow manure that is converted into methane gas and burned to generate electricity, which runs their Express Gondola to the top of the resort's namesake 4,241-foot peak.

Although our local mountains are substantially higher than Killington's signature peak and Skico likely uses a lot more electricity to power our lifts and other mountain amenities, Aspen's elected representatives and Schendler, Skico's in-house environmental guru, would be wise to take a look at this environmentally friendly renewable source of electrical energy rather than devoting their time to bad-mouthing and demeaning others who are concerned with the likelihood of damage to our streams and other water resources as well as the huge economic costs associated with the city's currently proposed and questionable hydro and geothermal projects.

The good news is we have more than enough local BS to power our resort for the foreseeable future.

A bit closer to home, Snowmass' powers-that-be appear to have dropped the ball on what was anticipated to be a significant attraction to increase the economic vitality and vibrancy of our resort.

In last week's edition of the Sun, there was an announcement that the Ice Age Discovery Center was relocating to an out-of-the-way location on the below plaza level of the Mall, which most folks around here have never visited and probably don't even know exists.

That got me to thinking, what ever happened to our Ice Age discovery? Just a couple of years ago it was a nationally and internationally heralded paleontological discovery of significant scientific proportions headlined in important scientific journals and the consumer press on a regular basis, but today it appears on the brink of extinction.

Following the serendipitous discovery of prehistoric ice age fossils at the Ziegler Reservoir our town staff, council and marketing gurus went into high gear planning for the preservation and exploitation of this significant find.

They established what came to be known as the Tusk Force, which did some good initial groundwork but unfortunately due to political infighting was disbanded before their work was completed. Our elected representatives then turned over the responsibility for carrying through on the project to a newly formed charitable foundation, which was neither controlled by nor accountable to the town or to anyone else as far as I can determine.

Once the town abandoned its oversight of this project, we've not heard much if anything regarding whether the project is still alive or being allowed to slowly recede into the ether soon to be forgotten along with the Ice Age Discovery Center (which will now be out of sight and unfortunately out of mind).

Over the last couple of years lots of good people have volunteered their time, efforts and resources to keeping the Ice Age Discovery Center and its programs alive awaiting the promised "big plan" that would honor the importance of this discovery and ensure its permanence for all to enjoy and learn from.

I fear that our town leaders have erred by walking away from this significant discovery, but it may not be too late for them to take it back in-house or to make sure that whatever outside organization they've delegated the responsibility to follows through and keeps the community and the world regularly apprised of their progress. Otherwise this valuable and important scientific discovery will likely soon be forgotten.

During this hectic election season please don't overlook our important local council election in which three out of the four candidates running for the two open council seats - Daryl Grob, Chris Jacobson and Stan Stokes - unfortunately have no prior experience on any of our town boards charged with the responsibilities of land use planning, financial oversight and marketing.

Sadly their responses to the questions put to them in last week's edition of the Sun were much too general and showed their lack of insight into these key issues. As a result they didn't provide us with sufficient information to determine which of them, if any, is capable of doing the job they're campaigning for.

Before voting for one or more of these three candidates I'd suggest you make every effort to dig deeper in order to determine who among this group is best qualified to make critically important decisions during the next four years concerning the completion of Base Village as well as other key development issues such as renovating and upgrading the Mall and Snowmass Center and completing our town entryway; affordable housing; environmental sustainability; resort marketing; town finances; and which of the three is best capable of working through these issues with the other members of the council whose terms are not expiring.

The fourth candidate, incumbent Markey Butler, due to her many years of service on the Planning Commission, Town Council as well as several other key community organizations does have the requisite experience and skills to deal with the critical issues facing our community from day one.

Your comments are always welcome at secondview@earthlink.net.


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The Aspen Times Updated Oct 23, 2012 04:03PM Published Oct 23, 2012 04:02PM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.