Earliest Basalt can secede from Eagle is the fall of 2000
Midvalley residents won’t be able to decide before November 2000 whether they want to stay in Eagle County or jump ship to Pitkin.
Eagle County officials have determined that an election on secession cannot be held in an odd-numbered year, according to County Clerk Sara Fisher. It must be held at a general election in an even-numbered year, she said.
Fisher learned about the limitation while researching a variety of procedural questions for the Midvalley Caucus, a group of Basalt- and El Jebel-area residents exploring the possibility of seceding from Eagle County.
Secession proponent Jacque Whitsitt, a Basalt councilwoman, said the caucus was considering trying to get the issue on the November 1999 ballot, but wasn’t set on it. She said the group would likely seek a legal opinion to “verify” the information from Eagle County officials.
Fisher’s information came from assistant county attorney Renee Black, who noted in a July 19 memo that secession elections are governed by state law.
Black wrote that if the Eagle County commissioners received a secession petition they would be required to place the issue on the next general election ballot. Colorado law, Black added, “states that `general election’ means the election held on the Tuesday succeeding the first Monday of November of each even-numbered year.”
The question now is whether the secession movement will sizzle or fizzle over the next 16 months. It was launched last winter when citizens got together to consider a variety of governing options for the midvalley. That effort bogged down because different factions favored different approaches.
The Midvalley Caucus was taken over last month by a faction that only wants to consider getting the Roaring Fork Valley portion of Eagle County out of Eagle County and into Pitkin County.
Whitsitt said the group had asked Eagle County Clerk Fisher to outline the necessary procedure when it was discovered that an election couldn’t be held until November 2000. Whitsitt declined to comment on whether that helps or harms the secession effort.
In a nutshell, here’s how the secession process would work:
Proponents would need to gather signatures from a majority of property owners from the area targeted for secession. Fisher is determining how many signatures are required.
Next, if the signatures were ruled valid the issue would have to be scheduled for election by both the Eagle and Pitkin county commissioners in the next general election.
Then, elections would be held. Residents of both counties would have to approve the proposal or it would fail.
There would not be a separate election for residents in the Roaring Fork Valley portion of Eagle County. Their votes would be tallied with the county as a whole, said Fisher.
The Midvalley Caucus is meeting Monday, July 26, at 6:30 p.m., in the town of Basalt recreation house by Basalt High School to discuss its direction.
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