GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - From their mutual opposition to oil and gas drilling in the Thompson Divide area to a desire for a comprehensive, long-term approach to the city's traffic concerns, the two candidates for an at-large city council seat found little to disagree on at a Thursday candidates forum.The closest Stephen Bershenyi and Lyle Beattie came to differing on anything was in answer to a question about the joint city of Glenwood Springs/Colorado Department of Transportation's proposed 20-year access control plan for Highway 82/Grand Avenue through Glenwood Springs.Even then, they both recognized that the access plan is needed, and that it is intended to be a long-range, flexible plan to guide future access decisions."This is a future plan, and will serve as a blueprint," Bershenyi, the incumbent at-large city councilor who is seeking re-election to a second, four-year term, said at the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association Issues & Answers Forum."We made the decision as a council to examine the plan in sections, in an effort to try to avoid any unintended consequences," Bershenyi said in support of continuing to work with CDOT to adopt the plan later this spring."It is also something that is able to be modified," he said.Beattie, a retired businessman and former Glenwood Springs councilman, though five decades removed, said the access plan seems to be a "well done, extensive" long-term plan.However, as a 20-year plan, "I'm not sure we have to approve the access control plan today," Beattie said.If adopted, Beattie said the city should retain its right to amend the access plan in the future.The single race between Bershenyi and Beattie for a city council seat will be decided by city voters in an April 2 mail-ballot election.Two other council members whose terms are up, Matt Steckler in Ward 2 and Leo McKinney in Ward 5, were unopposed for re-election and are not listed on ballots that were sent out earlier this week.
Although the current CDOT-led study to replace the Grand Avenue bridge with a new span on a new alignment was not specifically among the question topics at the forum, Bershenyi called it the "elephant in the room.""The bridge is a grave concern to council and to all of us in this room," Bershenyi said. "We're only halfway through this process, and part of that process includes an ability to say 'no.'" If the bridge is ultimately built, he said it should not prevent the city from studying an eventual Highway 82 bypass option to address the Glenwood Springs "bottle neck.""The way we solve the bypass issue is to initiate a conversation with all the [local governments from Aspen to Parachute] and form a working group."By approaching it as a regional transportation issue, an inter-governmental group would be more successful in lobbying for state and federal funding to do a bypass study and possibly build a bypass, Bershenyi said.While City Council unanimously endorsed further study of the proposed curved bridge alignment from Grand Avenue to the intersection of Sixth and Laurel, instead of the current straight shot to Pine, Beattie said he has not taken a position on the bridge alignment.On the issue of potential drilling in the Thompson Divide south of the Four Mile area, which would have serious traffic impacts for Glenwood Springs, Beattie and Bershenyi agreed that the area should be preserved.Beattie said he supports U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet's proposal to remove public lands in the Thompson Divide area from further oil and gas leasing."I am hoping this issue will take care of itself by that area being removed," Beattie said, adding, "it would have an overall negative impact" if new drilling is allowed in the area.Bershenyi said the Thompson Divide is already an estimated $53 million boon to the area's economy, as a result of hunting, recreation and cattle operations."Truly, there are places that ought not be drilled," he said.The candidates also touched on a range of other issues at the forum, including local traffic circulation, accessibility of city council members, the city's land-use process, tourism and future development of the confluence area.The Issues & Answers Forum was recorded for rebroadcast on Glenwood Springs Cable Channel 10, at 7 a.m., noon, 7 p.m. and midnight today and Sunday.
Beattie, who turned 89 in December, made a point in his opening statement to say that "age is just a number." If elected, he said he's up to the task both mentally and physically.In fact, he said he's now reading Deepak Chopra's latest book, "Super Brain," which he said goes into how the human brain continually regenerates. The key to keeping the brain healthy is using your mind, Beattie said."I have always been interested in giving back to the city," Beattie said of his reaction when he was approached by leaders with the Glenwood Chamber about running for city council."I did serve in this position before," he said of a six-year stint on Glenwood Springs City Council in the 1960s, including two as mayor.After moving back to Glenwood Springs last year following 16 years in Arizona, Beattie said he "thought it would be a good opportunity to get back into service."Beattie was born and raised in Boulder and moved to Glenwood Springs in 1953, where he was co-owner of L-P Gas and Appliance Co. with his late brother, Hal, until the mid-1990s.Bershenyi, 65, is a native of Glenwood Springs, dating back to 1870 on his mother's side and 1903 on his father's side. His uncle, Walter Frost, was the elected Garfield County Clerk and Recorder for 40 years in the early part of the 20th century."I have a great deal of interest in this community," he said, calling his city council post his "second-most important job" to driving a school bus for the Roaring Fork School District."I do take seriously my obligation to the community," Bershenyi firstname.lastname@example.org