Incumbent willing to sink or swim on his 4-year record |

Incumbent willing to sink or swim on his 4-year record

Scott Condon

Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi, facing his first re-election effort, hopes that voters in the Roaring Fork Valley remember that he hasn’t been a stranger over the past four years.Menconi, a Democrat, is facing challenges from Republican A.J. Johnson and unaffiliated candidate Albert “Buz” Reynolds in the commissioner District 2 race.Although Basalt and El Jebel aren’t in his district, Menconi said he stayed heavily involved in key issues in this corner of the county, such as development of recreational facilities at Crown Mountain Park, formerly known as the Mount Sopris Tree Farm, representation on the Basalt Regional Library District and efforts to build pedestrian trails.He noted that one of the toughest issues over here that he had to vote on was the proposal to locate the Eagle County government building and community center on a corner of the old tree farm. The land was purchased for open space, but the county decided to build its offices on a five-acre piece of the 120-acre property.Menconi approved the site even though people he respects asked him to consider placing it closer to existing developments, he said. He said he felt it was most fiscally responsible to approve it on the tree farm.He also wants voters in the valley to remember that he and the other commissioners devoted $750,000 to infrastructure improvements and construction of a soccer field at Crown Mountain Park even though they had promised only $70,000 worth of work.Menconi said he is aware of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s fiscal crisis and he endorsed the 2 percent sales tax increase the bus operator is seeking in n see Menconi on page A6– continued from page A3Basalt, El Jebel and other parts of the valley.Menconi, 45, is the founder and executive director of the Snowboard Outreach Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to getting underprivileged and at-risk kids onto the slopes of ski areas across the country.He is confident enough of his performance while in office the last four years that he is making it the focal point of his campaign. He touted his support of the purchase of the 4,800-acre Bair Ranch by the Eagle County open space program. The ranch is located on the east end of Glenwood Canyon.The proposal purchase was controversial because foes claimed it had limited development potential and that buying conservation easements wouldn’t add public access to the land. The divisive debate carried up to the county commissioners, which had to approve the purchase. Menconi and Michael Gallagher supported the purchase. Tom Stone opposed it.Menconi and Stone also engaged in a very public dispute over Referendum A, a proposal to fund water projects throughout the state.”Referendum A had no protection for Western Slope water,” Menconi said.For much of the last four years, the relationship between Menconi and Stone, a Republican, has been stormy. Menconi has questioned the ethics of Stone voting on an issue where it appeared to some that he had a conflict of interest.Stone supported a failed effort to recall Menconi. Stone has also teamed with Gallagher to prevent Menconi from serving as chairman of their board. The chairmanship typically revolves annually.Menconi acknowledged he’s often at odds with the other two commissioners. “Without question it’s been an ongoing pattern, but one I’m proud of,” he said.Menconi views it as sticking up for principles. “I was elected to represent the people of Eagle County. I wasn’t elected to get along with the other commissioners.”Both of Menconi’s opponents in the race are trying to use the bickering among current commissioners to their advantage. Without specifically blaming Menconi, they claimed they possess the ability to put an end to the fighting.The commissioners’ ability to work with other governments in Eagle County – municipalities and special districts – is also under fire from Johnson and Reynolds. Menconi acknowledged the commissioners have a reputation of being difficult to work with, but claimed it isn’t his fault.He said he tries to work with the other boards but Stone and Gallagher have a style that is more “exclusive leadership.”Menconi said he would support placing a proposal on the ballot to expand the number of commissioners from three to five. The idea has been championed by other candidates in the campaign as a way to increase representation of the people.However, Menconi said the proposal has potential drawbacks. Expanding the board would require changing to a home rule style of county government, which would require a new charter dictating how county government runs. Uncertainty exists over how that charter would turn out, Menconi noted. He also said expanding the board from three to five members could be costly because of two additional salaries.If he wins another term, Menconi said his No. 1 goal would be to get a grip on explosive growth anticipated for the county. There are projections that the population will double by 2020.”The question is, do you just lay down for those projections or do you work for a different outcome?” he said, adding the latter would be his choice.Another top goal, he said, is to implement funding to provide child care. Menconi said he would support devoting a special property tax for child care or use funds from the county’s general budget to build child-care facilities and offer assistance to families. Those revenues could also be used to help needy families acquire health insurance for preschool children.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is