Elected officils from Basalt, PitCo and Eagle County vow collaboration

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

Elected officials from Basalt, Eagle County and Pitkin County met in what was deemed a “historic meeting” Tuesday and vowed to work together on solutions to major issues such as child care and affordable housing.

There have been promises of collaboration before, but then the board members retreated to their separate jurisdictions and the intended actions fell by the wayside. But numerous participants in Tuesday’s two-hour gathering said they want action rather than planning meetings.

“If we’re going to do this, we have to be serious,” said Basalt Town Councilman Rick Stevens.

The midafternoon meeting was attended by six of seven elected officials from Basalt, all three from Eagle County and four of five from Pitkin County.

Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry labeled it “kind of a historic meeting” since no one could recall the three jurisdictions meeting at the same time, at least in recent years. She said governments must take a regional approach in areas such as the middle Roaring Fork Valley, where the boundary between Pitkin and Eagle counties is blurred and intermingles with Basalt’s boundaries.

“These jurisdictional boundaries don’t seem to matter as much anymore,” Chandler-Henry said.

The managers of each of the three governments — Mike Scanlon in Basalt, Jon Peacock in Pitkin County and Brent McFall in Eagle County — urged the elected officials to home in on issues they want to try to work together to tackle and then the managers will try to plan a course of action for review.

Affordable housing quickly climbed to the forefront. Roaring Fork School District Superintendent Diana Sirko, who attended the meeting, said if the school district hires 60 new teachers this year, one-third will likely be gone within two years because of the high cost of living — specifically housing. Another third will be gone within five years, she said.

With the economy of the Roaring Fork Valley “rebounding a bit,” it’s tougher again to find affordable housing, Sirko said. It’s tough in Glenwood Springs but tougher farther upvalley. The school district covers Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.

Sirko said a partnership between the school district and local governments makes sense to provide affordable housing.

Another top priority was child care. Shirley Ritter, director of Kids First, a clearinghouse for child care services in Pitkin County, led a team that spoke to the elected officials about the need for affordable child care.

Stevens suggested that the group test their collaborative skills by picking a midvalley site where a child care center can be built and do a pro forma on how much it would cost to build and operate it at an affordable rate.

Eagle County Commissioner Jill Ryan said the discussion will likely have to include a tax.

To try to ensure that the group advances on issues rather than just talks about them, they created a subcommittee to keep the momentum. Gary Tennenbaum of Basalt, Patti Clapper of Pitkin County and Jeanne McQueeney of Eagle County will meet with the managers to brainstorm on ideas the governments can work on.


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