Basalt council candidates reveal their pet projects for the town
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For biographical information on the six candidates and more of their views on top issues, go to https://www.aspentimes.com/news/local/six-candidates-for-basalt-town-council-outline-their-priorities/.
A bus that connects Basalt’s two halves, a recreation center, enhanced arts and culture, better ways for citizens to weigh in, child care and a study of the valley’s carrying capacity.
Those were the diverse ideas identified by the six candidates for Basalt Town Council as their pet projects Monday night during a forum. The candidates are running in an at-large race for three seats. The election is April 7, though ballots will be mailed out mid-March.
Moderator Todd Hartley of the Roaring Fork Weekly Journal forced the candidates to play their cards right off the bat by asking an open-ended question about what projects would be “near and dear” to their hearts in the next four years if they win election.
“What’s nearest and dearest to my heart is my kids, and so their future is most important for me,” Tiffany Haddad said. “If there was a pet project, I would say more recreation for them — a center. We’re the only town in this valley that doesn’t have a rec center. I would like to see that come into fruition one day, if not for them, for other children. I know that for parents, it would be a huge help.”
Jennifer Riffle, the only incumbent in the field, wants the Roaring Fork Valley’s collective governments to have a better understanding of the carrying capacity of Highway 82, the public bus system, the schools, water and utilities.
“Having such a carrying capacity study I feel would be such a valuable investment,” she said.
Riffle noted that an affordable housing coalition recently paid for a comprehensive needs assessment and existing conditions report. The resulting report is helping shape policy by governments throughout the valley. There are so many aspects to life in the Roaring Fork Valley that could benefit from similar study, she said.
Elyse Hottel said if she had a pet project, it would be expanding all avenues of communication that are available for the town’s residents. The goal would be enhancing participation in the decision-making process.
“Simply having a comment period at a council meeting on a Tuesday night at 6 p.m. when it’s dinner time and you’re trying to get your kids to bed, it’s just not inclusive enough,” Hottel said. “With all of the online avenues right now, I think there’s definitely opportunity there for us to communicate better with the community, even if it’s as simple as taking a quick online poll while you’re on the bus and you’re saying, ‘Here’s the council issue: yes I agree, no I don’t agree.’”
Dieter Schindler said his family’s struggles to find adequate early-childhood care when they moved to the valley makes that a top priority for him.
“As far as I understand it, it’s a valley-wide problem and there’s a lot of information and study and discussion around it,” Schindler said. “While I would obviously like to see that continue, I also think there’s got to be something out there that we can pull in right now and hopefully maybe move towards the end rather than wait for that silver bullet that’s going to resolve an issue that affects more than just our community.”
Glenn Drummond said strengthening community is near and dear to his heart.
“We’ve all got to realize whether we are in Old Town Basalt or Willits, we’re a community and for some reason, it seems to have gotten to a point where Willits is Willits and Old Town is Old Town,” Drummond said. “We’re all one. We’ve got to work together.”
He believes working together to solve common problems will do the town good. One such project is a community connector shuttle.
“A pet project? I would say an in-town commuter,” he said. “Get something that circulates certain times of the day and gets people to park-and-rides so that we’re taking traffic off the highway, we’re helping mitigate the problem we already have.”
Candidate David Knight was traveling on a business trip but participated via a live feed into the forum at the Eagle County office building and community center in El Jebel.
“I love music. I love the arts. I would love to see what more we can do to champion that in our community,” Knight said. “It’s such an enriching thing for everyone in our community to participate in or observe.”
Another couple of priorities, he said, are improving infrastructure, including broadband, and managing growth.
“I feel that we need to manage growth in a way that realizes our constraints but recognizes we have some organic growth in our community,” Knight said.
Building affordable housing didn’t emerge as a pet project for any of the candidates, although several identified the lack of workforce housing as a potential drawback of the development proposal that could end the nearly decade-old debate over the fate of the former Pan and Fork site.
The candidates were in general agreement that the proposal to split the property for development and expansion of a riverside park was a good compromise in a divided community. The current council will potentially wrap up its review of the Pan and Fork project Tuesday night.
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State department of transportation crews are well on their way to clearing Highway 82 to Independence Pass, which should open on schedule May 27 at noon.