Settlement with former manager Scanlon affected Basalt’s books in 2017
Basalt town government ended up short on revenue last year because less development occurred than anticipated and it had greater expenses than budgeted, in part because of a legal settlement with former manager Mike Scanlon.
Town Manager Ryan Mahoney told the council Tuesday night that the government spent $233,669 more than it collected last year.
“Essentially what that did for us is it didn’t allow us to backfill our reserves as much as we would have liked,” he said.
However, the reserve fund will be restored to 33 percent of the general fund in this year’s budget, he said. Thirty-three percent is the annual target.
On the revenue side, Basalt’s sales tax collections were up 6.21 percent in 2017 compared with the year before. However, the number of building permits issued was only $247,000 when $600,000 was anticipated. Mahoney said a major project at Willits Town Center launched this year rather than last year, pushing collection of those building permits into 2018.
On the expense side, the town and its insurer split payment of a $250,000 settlement with Scanlon. The town also paid $30,000 in unbudgeted legal fees in the Scanlon legal dispute and it paid $20,000 to find his successor.
Scanlon terminated his contract in August 2016 after his relationship with some members of the council deteriorated. He filed a notice of claim in December 2016 contending the town owed him for lost wages and benefits, attorney’s fees and costs in an amount “that may exceed $500,000.”
He contended the town violated his First Amendment right to freedom of speech, breached his contract, intentionally interfered with his contract, intentionally interfered with prospective business relations and defamed him.
Scanlon never filed a lawsuit, but his notice of claim triggered negotiations and a mediation session. The town hired an outside attorney that specializes in personnel issues to represent it. A deal for $250,000 was approved by the council in June 2017.
The settlement prohibits either party from discussing the reasons for the parting of ways.
In other Town Hall business:
• Mahoney is seeking both a new attorney and a new finance director. Attorney Tom Smith resigned earlier this year after saying it was time for a change. Finance Director Judi Tippetts resigned effective Tuesday. She accepted a position with Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork.
The council interviewed legal firms last month and Mahoney checked the references of a preferred applicant. He hoped to gain council direction in a private session for negotiations with the firm. Mahoney said he would advertise on professional websites and with the Colorado Municipal League for a new finance director. His goal is to fill the position by July.
• The council voted 7-0 to approve a contract with Grand River Construction for an estimated $662,984 in street projects. Some of the biggest items include milling the road surface in the Willits Roundabout and repaving to eliminate ruts, milling and paving on East Valley Road from the roundabout to Sopris Village Drive to the west, and milling and paving of Two Rivers Road between Homestead Drive and Highway 82. The roadwork will be undertaken in a “tight timeframe” and most of it should be completed during a four- to six-week period this summer, Mahoney said. The town is undertaking traffic calming on East Valley Road in the Willits residential neighborhood under a different contract.
• Verizon Wireless confirmed that it broke ground on construction of a cell tower site in West Basalt. The goal is to “complete the build phase within 90 days of breaking ground, again, barring any variables outside of our control,” a company spokeswoman said. It is anticipated that the new tower will improve service in some parts of the midvalley.
While new restaurants enter the Aspen scene, there are several spaces that will remain empty this winter. Meanwhile, the retail market remains extremely hot.