Pitco candidates trade harsh barbs
A small group of Woody Creek residents gathered Wednesday evening to listen to the six Pitkin County commissioner candidates emphasize their differences.Attendees kept some of their questions relevant to their portion of the county, including the struggle to improve the Woody Creek Trailer Park for its residents, and preserving open space and curtailing development.The three incumbents, Shellie Roy, Jack Hatfield and Dorothea Farris, often pointed to their experience on the board as knowledge worth hanging on to on Election Day, while challengers Michael Owsley and Tom McBrayer expressed a need for fresh ideas and perspectives. Cheryl Koehne, who is challenging Hatfield in District 4, which encompasses Snowmass, could not attend the forum.Owsley, running against Roy to represent District 3, said he thinks his opponent is “incapable of saying no to any developer that comes in front of her,” and said he wouldn’t have a hard time rejecting developers to keep the county rural.Roy responded by pointing to the urban growth boundary the county has established, and said the commissioners are always trying to “whittle down” what developers try to build.The candidates often came down on similar sides of issues. They agreed, for instance, that it has taken a painfully long time for plans to subdivide and sell lots in the Woody Creek Trailer Park to develop. Another consensus issue was that open space must continue to be protected, and development should be restricted through varying methods.The commissioner hopefuls agreed that the county budget is tight based on rising health care costs and the recent recession, and said in the future the county will have to look into cutting some services or raising taxes.Farris said with sales taxes down, the county may have to seek grants, or raise sales taxes or property taxes to provide some mandatory services.But McBrayer, her District 5 challenger, said he does not agree with tax increases.The opponents also differed on their opinion of local public transportation. McBrayer said he is not a strong proponent of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority since he lives in the Crystal River Valley and the service doesn’t serve him at all. He also said he feels the authority is mismanaged.After Farris stated that she frequently rides the bus and finds it to be a needed service, McBrayer said he sees his opponent as having a conflict of interest on the subject since she is the chairwoman of RFTA.While Koehne couldn’t attend the forum, she sent friend Peggy Burke in her place to read a prepared opening and closing statement that drew sharp differences between her beliefs and Hatfield’s.”My opponent says he’s mindful of the budget deficit, and I suspect that’s true since it happened on his watch,” Burke read. She accused Hatfield of often voting in accordance with fellow board members rather than being an independent voice on the board.Koehne also asserted in her statements that she supports the Base Village project in Snowmass Village.In response, Hatfield said during his opening statements that Koehne has had “zero experience, zero contributions and zero knowledge about the goings on in the county.”He also ran down a list of what he strives for as a commissioner, including keeping a conservative watch over money management, regional transportation solutions, maintaining the local quality of life and being a team player on the board.The candidates in attendance agreed that they have concerns about Base Village’s potential impacts on Brush Creek Road, and keeping an eye on the project’s impacts in the county by working with the town.They also unanimously voiced support for the possibility of a 1,000-foot expansion to the runway at the Pitkin County airport, saying it was necessary for flight safety and for bringing in competing airlines.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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