Voters say ‘yes’ to ‘Fix the Fork’

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times

Basalt voters gave a convincing nod of approval to Basalt’s proposed project to “Fix the Fork” in Tuesday’s election.

Question 2B was approved by 770 voters and rejected by 395, according to unofficial results from Eagle and Pitkin counties. Basalt is split between the jurisdictions. The margin of victory was 66 to 34 percent.

Basalt Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said via a text message that “a big information and vision campaign helped” earn approval.

“I think the community saw that Basalt’s future is as a river town,” wrote Whitsitt, who was traveling out of state.

Town Manager Mike Scanlon said he believes town residents felt the time was right to restore a more natural bank of the Roaring Fork River and ease the flood threat. The project has been outlined and discussed for more than 10 years. A top goal for the town also has been to relocate residents of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park out of the floodplain. Studies show the neighborhood is at high risk of flooding.

“I think a lot of people said it’s time to get it done,” Scanlon said.

It probably helped that people saw work underway, Scanlon said. The town of Basalt had funding for the first phase of the project from existing funds. The ballot question asked voters for permission to issue $5 million in general obligation bonds to undertake a greater share of the project.

The ballot question wasn’t a thumbs-up or -down on the project. The town already has started relocating residents of the 35 trailers that were occupied in the park, and a contractor is starting the first phase of the river work. Instead, the question sought the funds needed to finish the project more quickly.

The ballot question gives the town permission to raise property taxes to pay off the general obligation bonds, but the Town Council and administration don’t anticipate a property tax hike. They contend the bonds can be repaid through the existing 1 percent sales tax for parks, open space and trails and money available in the general fund.

Two other questions on the Basalt ballot won easily. Question 2C asked if up to 10 percent of an existing sales tax for open space could be used for maintenance of acquired properties. It was approved 872 to 242 or a margin of 78 to 22 percent.

Question 2D was a housekeeping matter with the town’s Home Rule Charter, allowing the manager more flexibility in terminating appointed officials. It was approved 521 to 317 or a margin of 62 to 38 percent.