Eagle County gathers input, information on home rule | AspenTimes.com

Eagle County gathers input, information on home rule

Talk of Eagle becoming a home-rule county – which could give Basalt and El Jebel a board of commissioners seat – gained momentum Wednesday night, despite some warnings of unintended results. No decisions were made during the meeting Wednesday. But Commissioners Arn Menconi and Peter Runyon continued to express support for the idea, which would allow Eagle County to expand its board of commissioners from three members to five.State law also requires home-rule counties to allow residents to introduce ballot referendums – which typically are used to repeal decisions made by county commissioners. That prompted some in the audience, particularly former Eagle County commissioners, to oppose the idea. “This could be a lawyer’s heyday,” said Bud Gates, who was an Eagle County commissioner from 1978 to 1990.Menconi wants to meet with towns across the county to get more input. Most of those who attended Wednesday night’s meeting were government employees, elected officials or former elected officials. That prompted Commissioner Tom Stone, who opposes the idea, to say there is a lack of public support for the idea. “This ought to be coming from the citizens,” Stone said. “This shouldn’t be a top-down mandate.”Roaring Fork supportRoaring Fork Valley officials and residents continue to favor the home-rule concept. Residents in that part of Eagle County, which includes the communities of Basalt and El Jebel, continue to complain about a lack of good representation on the county level. Eagle County residents elect three at-large county commissioners. Because most of the county’s population lives along the Interstate 70 corridor, the commissioners are more concerned with issues that affect those communities, the argument goes.Having five commissioners, and at least some elected only by voters in their district, is the solution Runyon is proposing. Basalt Councilman Leroy Duroux supports it. “Not only would we get more direct representation for people living in far-lying districts, I also believe five representatives could give better [representation] at a state and federal level,” Duroux said. “I hope we can come to some kind of solution to the perceived notion that residents in our valley aren’t really receiving a fair shake.”Cathleen Krahe, who lives in the unincorporated part of the Roaring Fork Valley, said the commissioners were her only representatives.”I would like five commissioners, one from our area,” she said.Keep it simple, silly?Several officials from surrounding counties presented their thoughts on home rule. Representatives from Weld and Pitkin counties, the only two home-rule counties in Colorado, said there were several benefits to the switch. Pitkin County Manager Hillary Smith said she enjoyed working for five commissioners. There is more discussion and more diversity of opinion having more commissioners on the board. However, there are complications with Pitkin County’s government structure, said Tom Oken, Pitkin County’s chief financial officer and treasurer. The charter, or governing document, is fairly extensive. Because it was written in 1978, it sometimes comes in conflict with new state laws. Any change to the charter requires a public vote, Oken said. “We have probably charter amendments on most every election since our charter was adopted in 1978,” he said. Weld County Attorney Bruce Barker suggested that Eagle County avoid making several significant changes to the county charter to avoid having that happen.What is home rule?In Colorado, counties have the option of becoming what’s called a “home-rule” county, which allows residents to restructure their government by rewriting the county’s governing document, or charter. For example, home-rule counties may convert elected positions – such as county treasurer, coroner and sheriff – to appointed positions. Home-rule counties also may expand their board from three commissioners to five and change the way those commissioners are elected. Talk of converting Eagle County to a home-rule county re-emerged during November’s election campaign. Most supporters are pursuing the idea because they hope to expand the board to five members. Because Eagle County has fewer than 70,000 residents, it must become a home-rule county first before expanding the board.

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