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Three Pitkin County board seats open in November

Three of the five seats on the Pitkin County board of commissioners are up for grabs in November, and two incumbents and one newcomer already have declared their intentions to run.

“I just love Pitkin County and I really want to start giving back to the community that has been home for so long,” said Francie Jacober, a retired teacher and resident of Prince Creek Road who will run for the District 5 seat occupied by Commissioner George Newman.

Commissioners Steve Child and Greg Poschman — who represent Districts 4 and 3, respectively — said Wednesday they plan to file paperwork to run for those seats again.

“I really enjoy being a commissioner,” said Child, who will run for his third term. “It’s very challenging and a great way to give back to the community and have an impact on where things are going.”

Poschman, who will run for his second term, said he only made the decision recently.

“We’re doing some good things,” he said, “and I want to see them through.”

Pitkin County commissioners are term-limited after serving three four-year terms on the board, which is why Newman will be leaving the board after 12 years when his third term ends in January.

The three seats up for reelection in November represent the non-Aspen areas of Pitkin County. Child lives off Capitol Creek Road in Old Snowmass and Poschman lives in Brush Creek Village near the intersection of Highway 82 and Brush Creek Road. Newman lives in Emma.

Detailed maps of each district are available on the county commissioners page on the Pitkin County website next to each commissioner’s picture.

Those interested in running for commissioner can go to pitkinvotes.com and click on “candidate resources” under the “additional resources” subhead. Interested prospective commissioners should click on the 2020 candidate packet and print it out, said Janice Vos Caudill, Pitkin County clerk and recorder.

The packet contains information about campaign finance, due dates for particular filings and rules for running for office, she said. All candidates must obtain 100 signatures from Pitkin County registered voters.

Those petitions won’t be available until April 1, Vos Caudill said. Prospective candidates will have three weeks to gather and turn in the signatures, she said. They also must file a candidate affidavit within 10 days of announcing their candidacy.

Pitkin County commissioner seats are elected on an at-large, non-partisan basis. The top two vote-getters in each district in the primary will face off in the general election.

This year’s state primary is June 30, and the general election is Nov. 3.

jauslander@aspentimes.com

Basalt mayoral candidate questions Basalt park expansion

Part of the proposed solution to Basalt’s latest and greatest land-use battle is for a development group to sell about 1 acre of vacant land at the former Pan and Fork site to the town government for expansion of a riverside park.

Basalt Town Council approved the first reading of an ordinance Feb. 11 to use sales tax revenue dedicated for parks, open space and trails to buy the land for $1.34 million. The sale, which needs to be approved in a second reading, would provide what’s been labeled a “big V” of open space and view shed, with the narrow end of the “V” at the intersection of Two Rivers Road and Midland Avenue.

While the first reading was approved unanimously, Councilman Bill Infante indicated at a mayoral candidates’ forum the night before that he might have something more to say about the purchase at council’s later deliberations.

Infante said he realizes that there is a “sacredness” of preserving the “big V” among some quarters of residents in Basalt. However, he said he has reached out to numerous architects, urban planners and landscape designers for their opinions and found little support for using such prime ground to expand a park.

“None of them have applauded the big V as a landscape architectural marvel to be applauded,” Infante said. “They have suggested quite the contrary, that sacrificing the corner parcel of land, which is the highest-valued (part), that would have integrated the Pan and Fork property with Midland Avenue, it would have facilitated the foot traffic that might have contributed to the vibrancy that we want.

“I would have to defer to those experts,” Infante said at the forum.

The other two mayoral candidates, Bill Kane and Rob Leavitt, endorsed the purchased with little debate.

As proposed, the town would buy the acre from Basalt River Park LLC, a development group fronted by local businessman Tim Belinski. The group also is seeking approval for about 56,000 square feet of mixed residential and commercial development along Two Rivers Road. The development would be restricted to the western half of the property. A 3,000-square-foot restaurant would be integrated with the park.

An earlier plan by a different development group contemplated a 150,000-square-foot condominium hotel on the site. That proposal was never formalized after running into opposition from residents at an open house.

Kane said spending $1.34 million to expand a riverside park “is a great value.” The sales tax dedicated to parks, open space and trails generates about $1.2 million annually, so the town has the money for this project without neglecting other pursuits, he said.

Leavitt also said the purchase is a good deal.

“That’s exactly what the parks, open space and trails fund is supposed to do,” he said.

Infante said the question shouldn’t be if the town is getting a good value for $1.34 million. Instead, it’s how else the funds could have been spent. He noted there is about $4.5 million to $5 million in the open space fund.

“One of two things is going on,” he told an audience of about 50 people at the Roaring Fork Weekly Journal forum at Element hotel. “We’re either not spending the money for the purposes of executing the public will or we’re taxing you guys too much.”

Infante suggested the public should pressure council to spend those funds rather than collect them.

“The public should be asking, ‘What in the hell are you doing with our money?’” he said. “Why haven’t you spent it? Because there are a lot of great projects that we could be financing.

“We should be building more trails to distinguish our community as a mountain biking mecca, a hiking mecca, to compete with Fruita, Moab and others,” Infante continued.

Basalt is surrounded by public lands. Colorado Parks and Wildlife owns the Basalt State Wildlife Area to the north and west of town. The Bureau of Land Management owns hillsides to the south and west, at Light Hill and the Crown.

When asked after the forum, where he sees opportunities to build more trails, Infante suggested additional connections to the Glassier and Buckhorn trails on the Crown. Currently, the trail paralleling Southside Drive and the Willits Lane Trail provide connections to the Rio Grande Trail, which runs by the Glassier and Buckhorn trailheads.

scondon@aspentimes.com

Three Basalt mayoral candidates spin the themes of their campaigns

Basalt has three politically savvy veterans running for mayor in the April 7 election who wasted no time carving out general messages in the early stages of the campaign.

So what are their big ideas?

Bill Kane, a former Basalt town manager, wants to create a better process to resolve potentially volatile issues. He wants to avoid the bitter political rivalries that exploded over future use of former the Pan and Fork property.

“We used a process that was reminiscent of trench warfare from the First World War,” Kane said at a candidates’ forum Monday night.

Rob Leavitt, a former councilman, stressed he is running for mayor to make a bigger impact on the growth issues facing the midvalley. He serves on the Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission and has expressed concerns that a proposed master plan update allows too much growth on top of what is already approved. He is aiming for “small, tasteful developments.”

“We can’t build our way out of a growth problem,” Leavitt said.

Current Councilman Bill Infante has emphasized the need for regional solutions to common problems. He pointed out that he has approached representatives of other governments to seek information in an effort to better serve Basalt. Infante noted his approach resulted him being “admonished” by other board members for getting out ahead of the group in his representation of the town. He said at the forum his actions should be welcomed rather than frowned upon.

“Frankly, I think it’s incumbent on every member of council to develop the connections within our community, to develop a sense of identity and common purpose but to reach more broadly to communities up and down the valley, the counties with which we share this incredible Roaring Fork and with our state,” he said.

The three men debated for two hours Monday evening in a forum arranged by Roaring Fork Weekly Journal. The exchanges were extremely polite and included lots of joking around. About 50 people crammed into the conference room at Element Hotel to listen.

When the candidates were asked how they felt about the project that has emerged on the Pan and Fork site after eight years of debate, Kane said the ends are fine even if the means were tainted. A development group has a plan before the council for a mix of commercial and residential development and sale of about 1 acre of land for expansion of the Basalt River Park (see related story on page A3).

Kane said something had to be done with the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park because of the humanitarian and environmental issues it posed. However, nobody wants to go through that type of a process again, he said.

“We relied on the public-hearing process to resolve the issues,” he said. “There is no public process worse than the public hearing.”

Citizens only get three minutes to comment at formal public hearings. Elected officials sit with “stone faces” and there is no dialogue, he said.

“We need to talk to one another,” Kane said. “We need to get away from this adversarial, bitter, rivalry politics.”

Basalt is on the cusp of great things, he stressed. It is developing more of an identity in arts and culture. Its growth boundaries are defined by open space purchases and the master plan. It’s the home to numerous nonprofit organizations. Now, the town just needs everyone to “row in the same direction,” he said.

When asked if a moratorium was a legitimate tool to control growth, none of the three endorsed the method. Infante said regional problems require regional solutions.

“I don’t see that we’re going to manage growth by ourselves,” he said.

Infante added that it is difficult for him to review individual projects in Basalt and determine if 100, 200 or 300 units are appropriate without looking at the bigger picture.

“What I do know is we are not speaking to the communities up and down the valley, we are not speaking to Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties,” Infante said. “We are not talking to the state to address this and all the other issues that we share in any comprehensive way.”

Infante has been on the Basalt Town Council for almost two years. He was critical of prior administrations’ positions on regional issues, such as development of Ace Lane’s Tree Farm proposal. The project in the El Jebel area was approved 2-1 by Eagle County commissioners after a divisive community debate. Basalt asked Eagle County to deny the project so that Lane would have been forced to apply for annexation into the town. That would have provided the town with leverage in the approval process. Eagle County denied Basalt’s request and proceeded with its review. Basalt submitted comments for the commissioners to consider.

“I find that project tragic; tragic not because of what he’s building, tragic because we are not in the process,” Infante said. “We chose to divorce ourselves from the discussion about what is going to be built. How can we divorce ourselves from discussions and planning (connectivity), planning unity? How can we possibly chart a way forward if we remove ourselves willfully from these discussions? It’s the connections that I lament haven’t been strong.”

On growth-related issues, Leavitt stressed throughout the evening the need to be discerning. He said he is concerned about traffic, parking and outdoor resources such as hiking trails and fishing holes becoming overrun. Learning on the Planning and Zoning Commission that 1,000 units are approved but unbuilt “kind of got my heart rate going,” he said.

Too often, the government process focuses on asking constituents how much development should be built on a parcel rather than if there should be development, Leavitt said. He wants to start asking the “right” questions and feels that is best done by the mayor.

Despite the flaws, the process on the Pan and Fork worked to create a better project, in Leavitt’s eyes. The initial proposal was for a 150,000-square-foot condominium hotel between Two Rivers Road and the Roaring Fork River. The current proposal has just shy of 56,000 square feet of development.

“The process was slow — agonizingly slow and painful — but in the long run we came out with a much better product,” he said, noting a bigger park and views to the river.

“I personally don’t think we need any massive developments,” he said. “We need small, tasteful developments in our town.”

scondon@aspentimes.com

Presidential primary ballots mailed out

Ballots for Colorado’s first presidential primary election in 20 years were mailed Monday to registered Democrats and Republicans, Pitkin County’s clerk said.

State voters decided in 2016 to replace Colorado’s caucus system with a primary, which means that registered Republicans and Democrats will receive a ballot with their party’s nominees in the mail. Unaffiliated voters will receive both ballots, though they can return only one.

The ballots will feature 17 Democrats and six Republicans, said Janice Vos Caudill, Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder.

The last day to put the ballots in the mail is Feb. 24, when early voting begins, she said. Before that and after, Pitkin County voters can take ballots to drop-off boxes in front of the Pitkin County Building in Aspen, at Snowmass Village Town Hall and at Basalt Town Hall, she said. The boxes can be used 24 hours a day, seven days a week and are monitored by video surveillance.

Early voting at the Pitkin County Building will take place between Feb. 24 and March 2 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., with Saturday voting occurring between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

For those who don’t want to vote early, Colorado’s presidential primary will take place March 3, when registered voters can go to the Pitkin County Building and vote between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Vos Caudill said.

Colorado’s renewed presidential primary means that 17-year-olds who will be 18 by Nov. 3 — the date of this year’s presidential election — can participate.

Colorado will hold another primary June 30 to determine who will run for state races and U.S. House and Senate contests in November.

Carbondale’s elections moving forward while New Castle, Silt’s headed for cancellation

New Castle and Silt will likely cancel their municipal elections this April due to a lack of candidates running for council and trustee seats.

And, had it not been for a tobacco tax question already on its ballot, the town of Carbondale would have canceled its election altogether, too.

The smaller towns in Garfield County hold their elections in April of every other even year, while Glenwood Springs and Rifle city elections are every other odd year — Glenwood in April and Rifle in September.

Carbondale proceeds

According to Carbondale Town Clerk Cathy Derby, three incumbent trustees filed to run for three open seats on the town’s Board of Trustees. Those candidates include current trustees Ben Bohmfalk, Lani Kitching and Marty Silverstein.

“I think we accomplished a lot in the first four years, but there is still more we can do,” Silverstein said.

Silverstein commended the board for its handling of controversial issues such as adopting stricter tobacco regulations.

Carbondale’s April ballot will ask residents whether they support the implementation of a $4 tax per pack of cigarettes sold, along with a 40% tax on all other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

The filing deadline for turning in nominating petitions with the necessary 25 signatures was Jan. 27.

According to Derby, no official write-in candidates had come forward by Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline, either.

Trustees serve four-year terms and earn $900 a month, according to Carbondale’s Municipal Code.

New Castle

Grady Hazelton and fellow New Castle Councilors Crystal Mariscal and Graham Riddile are the only candidates running for three town council seats up for election, according to Town Clerk Melody Harrison.

With no other questions on the town’s ballot, Harrison will ask the council at its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday to cancel the election.

Candidates had until Jan. 27 to turn in nominating petitions with the necessary 15 verified signatures; only Hazelton, Mariscal and Riddile did so.

Additionally, no write-in candidates filed affidavits of intent by the Jan. 31 deadline.

“I think we have a really good team and have a lot of things going on in New Castle that we’re excited about,” Hazelton, who currently serves as mayor pro tem, said. “I think Graham and Crystal, both, are great young minds that add to the team, for sure.”

Residents do not elect the town’s mayor pro tem. Instead, the council selects one of its already elected members to serve in that capacity.

The mayor pro tem conducts council meetings and signs documents in the event of the mayor’s absence.

New Castle town councilors serve four-year terms and earn $370 per month.

Silt

The town of Silt will also cancel its April election after only four candidates filed to run for five trustee seats up for election.

According to Town Clerk Sheila McIntyre, current board members Justin Brintnall, Kyle Knott and Sam Walls turned in their nominating petitions by the Jan. 27 filing deadline.

Additionally, Trustee Andreia Poston filed an affidavit as an official write-in candidate.

Subsequently, all four candidates will be appointed to the board at either the Feb. 24 or March 9 board meetings, McIntyre said.

According to McIntyre, the town will advertise to fill the remaining vacant seat at a later date.

Silt trustees earn $400 a month and serve four-year terms.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Marianne Virgili edges out Mary Nelle Axelson for CMC Board of Trustees District 2 seat

Marianne Virgili has been elected to represent District 2 on Colorado Mountain College’s Board of Trustees. 

Marianne Virgili
Courtesy Photo

Virgili earned nearly 53 % of the vote whereas her opponent, Mary Nelle Axelson, had garnered just over 47% as of 9 p.m. Tuesday.  

“I am just so grateful for people who voted for me, wrote letters of support or helped with my campaign,” Virgili said. “I am so grateful to have a chance to encourage affordable education, workforce training and lifelong learning.”

District 2 represents the Roaring Fork School District’s boundaries, which extend from Basalt to Glenwood Springs.

Virgili has lived in Glenwood Springs for 37 years and served as president and CEO of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association for three decades before retiring at the end of 2017. 

Virgili will replace the term-limited Kathy Goudy who represented District 2 since being elected in 2011.

Colorado Mountain College Board of Trustees serve 4-year terms. 

Bob Hartzell wins Lake County seat for CMC District 6

Colorado Mountain College’s former Leadville campus dean won the Lake County seat on the CMC board of trustees in Tuesday’s vote

Bob Hartzell
Screen-Shot-2019-11-06-at-9.23.08-AM

As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, Bob Hartzell was leading Christine Whittington 53.94% to 46.06%, according to the Colorado secretary of state.

The CMC board made up of seven people from six counties, and Hartzell has worked with four of them professionally.

Hartzell, who worked for a quarter-century for CMC in six different roles, said his three top priorities are “to listen, to learn and to participate.”

When he was a business instructor at CMC, he also taught classes ranging from secretarial science to snowmaking in the same semester. He has also previously served as the assistant dean, worked in college-wide faculty development, directed a nine-county leadership development group, and also worked in college leadership, and as the Leadville campus dean.

“I’m so glad I ran. The fact that there was competition brought so many more CMC issues to public attention,” Whittington said. “Friends from CMC and Lake County encouraged me to run. I considered it, and when a student encouraged me to run, I decided to take the plunge.”

“I thank Christine for entering the race in the first place. I was the only one with a petition filed, and in fact, she signed my petition,” Hartzell said. “Had she not entered the race I would not be nearly as knowledgeable about CMC and the board’s role.”

Whittington was the CMC library director for three years, the last of a 40-year career of academic positions, teaching, leadership, and advising that spanned Chicago, Maine, Wake Forest, and Greensboro College, among others.

– by Randy Wyrick, Vail Daily

Colorado Prop CC: State voters uphold taxpayer refunds for excess revenue

DENVER (AP) — Colorado voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure Tuesday asking if the state could keep tax revenue that otherwise would be refunded under limits set by the state constitution.

Democrats who control the statehouse had referred the measure, called Proposition CC, to the ballot. It asked if the state could keep revenue in those years when it has a surplus and is required to return that money to taxpayers.

The revenue would have been allocated to transportation and transit, K-12 schools and higher education. Preliminary results showed the measure losing by a double-digit margin.

Voters also were deciding whether to legalize sports betting in Colorado and tax it for water conservation. Early results suggested a close race.

The Democratic-led 2019 Legislature referred both tax measures to the ballot — but unlike sports betting, Democrats and Republicans staked opposite positions on the surplus revenue proposal.

The campaign reflected longstanding philosophical differences over the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, a constitutional amendment that requires voters to approve new taxes or revenue retention measures.

Democrats blame TABOR’s revenue restrictions for chronic underinvestment in Colorado’s schools, roads and universities.

Republicans credit TABOR for keeping taxes low on the private sector, allowing it to fuel the state’s economic growth.

Proposition CC asked voters if the state could keep revenue in those years when it has a surplus and is required to return that money to taxpayers. Any excess revenue would be allocated to transportation and transit, K-12 schools and higher education.

Many local municipalities have adopted similar measures to fund their school districts and public safety.

TABOR also sets an annual state income limit that can trigger tax refunds based on a formula that involves population and inflation. Critics said that prevents Colorado from taking advantage of good economic times to fund schools and transportation.

Legislative leaders from both parties endorsed Proposition DD, saying it was time to bring sports betting out of the dark and tax it for water needs.

The proposal called for a 10% flat tax on net sports betting proceeds. Parent companies operating the state’s 33 casinos could seek licenses for onsite betting as well as online and sports gambling apps.

Enabling legislation passed this year would allow the Colorado Water Conservation Board to use the tax revenue — estimated at $11 million in fiscal year 2020-21 — for grants that further the goals of a state water plan launched under former Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The plan is a living document setting long-term goals to meet the needs of a growing population, agriculture, outdoor recreation and obligations to Southwestern states that rely on the Colorado River.

The state has yet to find a way to meet the water plan’s estimated price tag of $100 million a year. But the sports betting proposal harvested a coalition of environmentalists and farming groups supporting it.

Legal sports betting has grown since New Jersey won a U.S. Supreme Court case in 2018 allowing all 50 states to offer it. But most states that moved quickly to do so have seen limited tax revenue.

An Associated Press analysis shows that seven states that reported on sports betting revenue for the fiscal year that ended in June generated a total $74 million in state taxes — a drop in the bucket for state budgets.

Reasons varied, from slow rollouts to the unavailability in some places of mobile betting.

Eagle County 1A: Tobacco tax way out front in early results

EAGLE — In a pack of jubilant 1A supporters, Eagle Valley High School senior Lily Reynolds might have been the happiest person present.

From the first results reported shortly after 7 p.m. Tuesday night through the second round released at 9 p.m., the Eagle County tobacco tax measure held strong with more than 69% of voters supporting 1A.

For Reynolds, it was a personal victory for a cause she has championed for two years. She became a strong local voice against youth vaping as she saw more and more of her classmates from EVHS succumb to the practice.

“I was seeing kids I have known since first-grade get addicted,” said Reynolds. “It wasn’t just ‘those kids.’ It was everyone. I had friends who couldn’t make it through a class period without leaving to take a hit.”

“I just felt strongly this measure had to happen,” Reynolds said. “It was not being addressed as a problem.”

With 9,620 ballots counted as of 9 p.m. Tuesday night, the measure was leading 6,134 votes in favor to 2,801 opposed. That translated into a 69% to 31% margin of victory.

Ballot question 1A sought voter support for a hefty tax on tobacco and nicotine product sales — 20 cents per cigarette or $4 per pack and a 40% tax on the sale of all other tobacco and nicotine products. Tobacco-use cessation products such as nicotine patches and gum are exempt from the tax.

“It is such a victory for our community and our youth,” said Mandy Ivanov, Eagle County Public Health and Environment Policy and Partnerships Strategist during an election watch party in Eagle. “I am proud of our county that we are leading the charge to approve measures to reduce the impact of tobacco.”

The tobacco tax is one of three key elements the county has promoted to reduce tobacco and nicotine product use. The other actions include raising the legal purchase age to 21 years and instituting a licensing procedure for retail outlets who sell the products.

Ballot Question 7A: Early returns show voters annexing Salida School District into Colorado Mountain College District

Early results show voters overwhelmingly supporting annexation of the Salida School District into Colorado Mountain College’s taxing district boundary.

As of 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, approximately 58 percent of Salida School District voters supported the annexation whereas just over 41 percent opposed it.

Additionally, voters within Colorado Mountain College’s boundaries overwhelmingly supported the annexation with 77 percent favoring it and just 23 percent rejecting it.

Both Ballot Question 5A that applied to just Salida School District voters, and Ballot Question 7A that included all Colorado Mountain College District voters had to pass in order for the annexation to occur. 

Previously, residents within the Salida School District had to pay $170 per credit hour at Colorado Mountain College whereas those that lived within the six-county taxing district only paid $80. 

The reason being, residents within Colorado Mountain College’s taxing district already pay a 3.997 mill levy, which supports the college.

Now that voters have approved the annexation, Salida School District residents will also pay a 3.997 mill levy and $80 per credit hour.

The addition of the Salida School District will have no impact on current taxpayers within Colorado Mountain College’s taxing district. 

The Steamboat Springs School District was the last school district to be successfully annexed into Colorado Mountain College’s taxing district, which occurred in 1982.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Aspen hospital mill levy extension on pace to pass

Aspen Valley Hospital District will continue to enjoy a revenue stream supported by property taxes for at least another decade following a convincing outcome in Tuesday’s election.

As of 11 p.m., tallies showed that 3,338 voters, or 73.04%, approved the property tax, in the form of a 1.5 mill levy, which generates about $4.6 million annually to the 25-bedroom, critical-access hospital’s operations.

The amount accounts for roughly 4% of the hospital’s yearly revenue, according to hospital CEO David Ressler.

For land and home owners, the extension means they’ll keep paying $11.93 in taxes annually on a property with an assessed value of $100,000, and so on.

The mill levy has been in place since 1995 and has been renewed by voters every five years. The current mill levy runs Dec. 31, 2015, through Dec. 31, 2020. The extension will keep it intact through Dec. 31, 2030.

Ressler said the organization’s board of directors opted to bring the renewal question to voters a year earlier for planning purposes into the next decade.

“This revenue is very important to us,” he said Tuesday night. “(The election outcome) will allow us to be able to plan well into the future for 10 years. We’re in the midst of significant change in our industry and we’re a hospital that’s part of moving toward a valley-based environment where we want to be part of the solution for high health care costs.”

The hospital district includes all of Pitkin County except for Redstone.

“We’re excited to see the strong support of our community and the appreciation it has for the hospital,” Ressler said.