Clerk signs off on Re-1 recall petitions | AspenTimes.com

Clerk signs off on Re-1 recall petitions

Ryan Graff
Glenwood Springs correspondent

Even a successful recall campaign against two school board members likely wouldn’t change the fate of businesses in the way of a school expansion, district officials said.

The Garfield County clerk and recorder, Mildred Alsdorf, approved two recall petitions Thursday ” one each for Roaring Fork School District Re-1 board President Susan Hakanson and board member Bruce Wampler.

Glenwood Springs resident Jennifer Vanian, who opposes the district’s plan to buy commercial property to expand Glenwood Springs High School, submitted the petitions.

The petition cites the school expansion as a “sprawling structure” that adds no actual classrooms but increases overall square footage by “only” 25 percent without taking into consideration other land options or the community need for True Value, which would be displaced.

Petitioners will have to collect 1,324 valid signatures to recall Wampler and 1,856 to recall Hakanson, Alsdorf said. The numbers are different because of the number of people who voted in Wampler and Hakanson’s respective elections. In each case, the number is 40 percent of the votes cast, but anyone in the school district’s voting area can sign the petition.

Though Vanian said she’s ready for the footwork to begin and has the support of many people, a recall seems unlikely to save the homes of True Value, Glenwood Gymnastics and other businesses, officials said.

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“I don’t think it’ll make any difference,” said Michael Bair, a school board member.

Petitioners not only have to force a recall, but also have to find at least three candidates to get a majority on the board. If Wampler and Hakanson are recalled, four school board seats will be up for grabs before year’s end because Bair’s and Pete Delany’s seats come up for regular re-election in November.

If a new board decides not to take over the commercial properties, it would be open to lawsuits for reneging on a ballot issue in which the district said it would acquire six acres, Bair said.

Aside from the possible lawsuits involved if the district reneges on a ballot issue, “the people contracted to do this project would no doubt have a case against us,” Wampler said.

Even without lawsuits, a change in plans would cost millions, he said.

“If they are willing to throw away 10 or 12 million tax dollars they could stop it,” Wampler said.

There is also the possibility that by the time an election can take place, the district could already have taken control of the properties it is negotiating on right now.

Vanian is convinced that she can save the businesses. She has two school board candidates, she said, but declined to say who. And she isn’t convinced the district would face lawsuits if plans changed, though she said she isn’t an expert.

“I think saying, ‘We can’t turn around now because we might get sued’ is just playing with words,” she said.

There has to be a way for the school district and the community to compromise, she said. Vanian suggested the district construct a three-story building, expand to city land on the Roaring Fork River, or take the district’s administrative offices and the Bray building on Grand Avenue.

The district had thought of those solutions but worried about a possible bypass running through the Roaring Fork River corridor and the high school campus, the $2 million to $3 million price to replace the district office and the high cost to buy the Bray building compared to the other commercial space, Wampler said. The campus simply needs to expand, not for the school’s next five or six years, but 50 years, he said.

School board recalls aren’t often followed through in Colorado, said Jane Urschel, associate executive director of the Colorado Association of School Boards, in a phone message Thursday.

“Often [recalls] involve a single issue that somebody is unhappy about as opposed to the overall decisions that the board makes,” Urschel said.

It is also typically difficult to collect enough signatures, she said.