Basalt council candidates talk priorities, how to fund them
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For biographical information and more on the council candidates’ priorities, go to https://www.aspentimes.com/news/local/six-candidates-for-basalt-town-council-outline-their-priorities/.
The candidates for Basalt Town Council easily defined at a forum Monday what projects they would pursue once in office, but identifying funding sources to complete them proved more difficult.
The candidates were asked what would be their immediate and long-term priorities if they were on council. Next they were asked what new sources of funding they would explore to fund those projects and the town’s future.
Glenn Drummond was the only candidate to suggest that a tax hike might be required to pursue the town’s wish list. For example, he said, if the town government decides to pursue a shuttle that connects the various sections of town, then it might have to seek a tax hike.
“When it comes to the connector shuttle, I think we all have to be honest with one another — maybe that needs to be put out to a vote to see if citizens want to do it,” Drummond said. “I know the chamber did a study on it in 2015 and the cost was $600,000 to $1 million (annually), so it’s not a small chunk of change and it’s going to take a new revenue stream.”
Other high priority projects also may require new revenue, he suggested.
“That doesn’t mean we can’t get them done. It just means we have to communicate this message appropriately to the community,” Drummond said.
The town has a general fund budget of $7.8 million for 2020. When restricted funds are added, the town’s total revenue is about $12 million. Drummond said seeing the Basalt River Park project completed on the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park property would be his immediate priority. The project will add about 56,000 square feet of commercial and residential development and allow expansion of a riverside park. The sitting council approved it last month.
As a long-term priority, Drummond said, “I think we have to create a sustainable environment and community where everybody in this room wants to live and be part of.”
Dieter Schindler said improving early-childhood care and development would be his immediate priority along with fostering redevelopment of the former Clark’s Market proposal in downtown as a long-term goal.
“If I was to just throw a dart and tell you how I would fund early-development child care, I think we would have to make it an affordable option for people to actually pay and run this as a business, but maybe we look at pre-existing locations where the rent ceiling isn’t so high and we can actually make it work,” Schindler said. “Maybe there’s churches or community centers that have vacant space so we could have a small space (for child care). I think that’s an example of just trying to get creative.”
Tiffany Haddad also said that child care would be her immediate priority and addition of affordable housing a long-term goal.
“For example, I would love for my children to be able to live here if they choose after they graduate high school or attend college,” she said. “As of right now, I don’t know that that would be feasible.”
As for funding, she would seek additional sources outside of town.
“I don’t think all funding necessarily has to come straight out of Basalt,” Haddad said. “We can also look at other avenues and resources in Pitkin and Eagle counties, to take advantage of program even across the state of Colorado to help fund locally what we’re trying to accomplish.”
David Knight identified the redevelopment of the Clark’s parcel among his immediate priorities “and we also have to keep our eye on the ball with climate change. That is existentially the most important thing that’s out there right now,” he said.
In the long-term, providing a youth center for kids that are older than elementary school but too young to be on their own is a priority for Knight.
He wants to raise funds for the town’s projects by nurturing a stronger economy.
“Helping to grow our economy would help to grow our tax base,” Knight said. “That’s a big part of it.”
Elyse Hottell said affordable housing would be her immediate concern in office.
“If we don’t have the housing we need to house the workers, that’s going to be a big hit to our economy,” she said.
Redevelopment of Clark’s is a long-term priority since it is in the heart of the town, she said.
“I think we have good revenue streams in place,” Hottell said. We have sales taxes that are earmarked for specific funds, there are tax credits available for affordable housing. There are methods out there that we haven’t completely tapped into. I’m not going to profess to know everything about those methods but a lot of research can be done.”
Jennifer Riffle, the only incumbent in the field, is traveling abroad and didn’t attend the forum. The election for three council seats is at-large, meaning the three candidates that get the most votes are the winners. The election is April 7. Ballots will be mailed in mid-March.
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