County commissioners will ask voters 2 tax questions | PostIndependent.com

County commissioners will ask voters 2 tax questions

EAGLE — Eagle County voters, they’re all yours.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the county commissioners put two tax questions on the November ballot:

A sales tax projected to generate $5.4 million annually for workforce housing if passed.

Voter approval to borrow up to $19.95 million to finish the Eagle County Trail from Vail Pass to Dotsero, repaid with money from the ECO Transit and open space taxes, and extend the sunset on the open space tax from 2025 to 2040.

The trails proposal would allow county open space funds to be used to construct and maintain paved and unpaved trails without raising the current property tax.

The affordable housing tax would be a 0.3 percent sales tax — three cents on every $10 purchase — to support countywide workforce housing efforts. The tax would generate approximately $5.4 million per year.

So far, the plan for the money includes the following:

• Increasing the number of long-term, affordable rental housing units.

• Acquisition of land for future affordable housing developments.

• Providing down payment assistance loans to facilitate home ownership.

The tax would sunset in 20 years.

The county commissioners argued through two meetings whether to ask voters for a sales tax to pay for early childhood programs, but two of the three commissioners — Jeanne McQueeney and Kathy Chandler-Henry — decided against putting it on this year’s ballot. Commissioner Jill Ryan argued passionately for the tax question.

Instead, the commissioners directed the county staff to try to find $2 million per year in the existing budget that they could spend on recommendations in the Early Childhood Roadmap.

The commissioners spent $50,000 on that plan, to go with the $25,000 the school district spent. The study found that the county doesn’t have enough child care and that it’s expensive.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Theater backers say tax question leaves them out

Supporters of a performing arts center in Glenwood Springs may be inclined to oppose the renewal of a special city sales tax that’s on the fall ballot, because that particular project is not specifically among those listed to receive funding.

But a ballot question seeking a 30-year renewal of the 1-cent city acquisitions and improvements tax is broad enough that a performance theater is by no means excluded, City Council concluded in forwarding the question to voters for the Nov. 8 election.

“I do feel very strongly about this,” said Dave Merritt, a longtime supporter of a performing arts center and associate of Symphony in the Valley, as well as a former City Council member.

Merritt told council at a recent meeting that he can’t support the tax question as worded because it doesn’t mention a performance/concert hall of any sort.

The symphony is just one of the area groups that could make use of such a facility, he said, not to mention the potential to bring in touring performers. But the project keeps getting pushed to the back burner.

“We have been looking at a theater of some sort for a long time, and it was part of the original tax question 20 years ago,” Merritt said of the original A&I tax authorization in 1998.

Merritt said he has talked to other theater backers who feel the same way about the proposed tax renewal.

City voters are being asked to approve a 30-year extension to the special sales and use tax, which is otherwise set to expire after 2018.

A separate ballot question will ask for up to $54 million in bonding capacity using the tax proceeds to finance a range of projects aimed at easing traffic congestion and redeveloping the confluence area and Sixth Street corridor after the newly aligned Grand Avenue bridge is completed.

Among the bigger-ticket capital projects specifically mentioned in the bonding question are safety improvements to the West Midland Avenue and 27th Street bridges, construction of the planned South Bridge across the Roaring Fork River to Colorado 82, a Sixth Street “gateway” redevelopment, and riverwalk amenities at the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers.

After its initial approval 18 years ago, the A&I tax funded several public projects including the Glenwood Springs Community Center, the City Hall building and various trails and park improvements. Tax funds are also used to support the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts and the Glenwood Historical Society, and to subsidize operation of the community center.

Civic groups, including the Glenwood Chamber Resort Association’s Community on the Move committee, have been working with the city in recent months to gauge public support for renewing the tax and asking which projects citizens would like to see funded over the next three decades.

A recent poll of city voters found that 81 percent would be willing to extend the tax for up to 30 years.

Council members said a performing arts facility remains a desired amenity. But at an estimated $20 million or more to build and upwards of $400,000 per year to operate and maintain, based on the most recent feasibility study, it’s not an immediate priority.

“We have seen a couple of different iterations for a performing arts center design. They are gorgeous, but they’re just not feasible when you look at the capital and operational expense,” Councilman Leo McKinney said during an Aug. 18 council discussion when the tax question was forwarded to the ballot.

“I just don’t know how we get past that. … And the real question is, do we need those words in there to get people to vote for this,” he said.

City Attorney Karl Hanlon said there’s nothing to preclude using A&I tax dollars to help fund a performance theater, or even to go back to voters seeking bonding for that or any other specific project.

The city conducted a feasibility study five years ago that looked at building a 350-seat theater space with convertible floor space and a full stage and backstage onto the east side of the community center. That plan also envisioned an enclosure for what’s now an open-air ice rink, which would allow for its alternative use as an events center.

The concept earned support from members of a task force who were working on the project at the time, as well as potential users and city officials at the time.

But it came with a price tag of between $20 million and $26 million to build, plus an annual operating subsidy between $350,000 and $400,000.

Councilman Stephen Bershenyi, who has supported a performing arts center since joining council seven years ago, said it will be his “one disappointment” when he leaves council next year that the city wasn’t able to accomplish it.

“I think there is a huge need for one,” Bershenyi said. “We live on one of the busiest interstate corridors, and multiple acts pass by this community weekly. I think there’s an engine there that we’re missing, and we’re not really looking at what it can mean for our community.”

Other council members maintained that the city could be a partner in funding a performance theater, but not the sole funding entity.

“I would still love to see a performing arts center, but agree … we’re going to need to look regionally to find funding and partner with other groups, instead of it being just Glenwood Springs,” City Councilor Kathryn Trauger said. “It’s absolutely needed, but we can’t do it by ourselves.”

Merritt said the theater project got postponed when the city decided instead to proceed with construction of the gymnasium and swimming pool additions to the community center. It’s time to follow through on that original promise, he said.

‘It’s good to be kind to people’

Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn is truly a nice guy.

Ask nearly anyone in law enforcement around here and they’ll tell you. Now one Florida man who recently took a wrong turn on his mountain bike knows it too.

“I’m really impressed with the character of Billy,” said mountain biker Nate Post. “It seemed to be reflective of a lot of the citizens of Aspen.”

Post, 30, is a Santa Fe, New Mexico, native but lives in Orlando, Florida, where he works in the software section of a cancer research laboratory. He also is a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed with a particularly virulent form of the disease when he was 22 and spent the next two years “really sick” until chemotherapy put him in the clear, he said.

About the time he was declared cancer-free, Post said he hooked up with a charity in the Denver area called First Descents, which provides outdoor adventures for young adults ages 18 to 39 who’ve been impacted by cancer, according to the organization’s website.

Fast forward to the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race earlier this month. First Descents was putting together a team for the race to raise money for the charity, and Post said he volunteered for it. Only thing was, Post isn’t really a mountain-bike racer, he said.

So he he came out to Colorado 10 days early to get some mountain-bike rides under his belt. For one of those rides, Post said he decided to try out the first leg of the race, which goes from Leadville, around Turquoise Lake, then over Sugarloaf Pass and back into Leadville.

He set off from Leadville on Aug. 7, the Sunday before the race, for what he thought was going to be a low-key 15- to 20- mile training ride. Because he didn’t think he’d be gone long, he brought along one bottle of water and no food, he said.

Unfortunately, Post took a wrong turn and ended up at the top of Hagerman Pass. Thinking he was still on the right track, he said he began descending. And descending. And descending.

“I started to get a little concerned,” he said. “If you’ve ever been on that road, you know it never ends.”

As the path changed from mountain bike trail to fire road to pavement and he ran out of water, Post said he began to get really concerned. He finally ran into another person walking along the road at about 7 p.m. and learned he was way off course and about 20 miles from Basalt.

Despite having no water or food, Post said he was confident he could make the 20 mile distance to Basalt, find a hotel and figure out a way back to Leadville in the morning.

“After about 12 miles, I realized I was really bonking,” Post said. “The sun was setting. I was really hurting.”

He was somewhere above Ruedi Reservoir at that point and hadn’t seen a car in quite awhile when he looked over his shoulder and saw a truck coming. Post said he hopped off his bike and flagged down the truck, which was being driven by Linn.

“I was up in Meredith fishing with a friend,” Linn said. “And I was driving home when I saw something I’d never seen before — a bicyclist holding his thumb out. That’s just weird.”

So he stopped and asked if Post was OK.

“He was actually kind of delirious,” Linn said. “He wasn’t making a lot of sense. I’m guessing he was really dehydrated.”

Linn immediately agreed to give Post a ride to Basalt. But as Post calmed down a bit and began to tell Linn about himself and why he was in Colorado, Linn said he just couldn’t simply drop him off in Basalt.

“Honestly, he’s a pretty impressive young man,” Linn said. “There was no way I was going to leave him with a 7-Eleven dinner in Basalt.”

Linn said he also knew getting back to Leadville wasn’t going to be an easy exercise in public transportation navigation.

So instead, Linn drove Post to his family’s home in Aspen, where a dinner of fettuccine Alfredo was on the table. Linn invited Post to sit down with his family, which Post quickly accepted.

“I was devouring it,” Post said. “I think I ate half a pot of pasta.”

Linn offered Post a change of clothes and a shower after dinner, but Post declined, Linn said. They then climbed back into Linn’s truck and headed over Independence Pass to Leadville, arriving about 10 p.m.

A pizza place was still open and Post insisted on buying Linn a slice, so they sat down and ate again, both men said. Afterward, Linn drove back to Aspen, and Post climbed into his truck and drove to Crested Butte, where his friend had been wondering where he was.

Linn said his actions were no big deal and that he felt a bit self-conscious about the story appearing in the newspaper. Still he said he enjoyed the experience and making a new friend.

“I’m a Christian and that’s an important part of my life,” Linn said. “I got more out of it than he did. It’s good to be kind to people.”

Post ended up competing in the Leadville 100, and his team raised $210,000 for the First Descents charity, he said.

“I was totally blown away (by Linn’s actions),” Post said. “I try to do good things and I guess that was my payback or something.”

jauslander@aspentimes.com

Letter: Recall to duty for veterans

As a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, I am thoroughly disappointed with and betrayed by what I see going on in America. The levels of corruption and abuse of power at the highest levels of our national government trouble me.

I asked myself what I can possibly do as a veteran to continue to honor the oath I took many years ago to support and defend the Constitution. Recently, I learned about a nationwide effort to rein in the power and jurisdiction of the federal government and return much of this power back to the state governments and to the people – in other words, to rebalance power between the state and federal governments originally intended in the Constitution by America’s Founding Fathers.

This nationwide effort, called Convention of States Project (www.conventionofstates.com), also seeks to require the federal government to operate under a true balanced budget as well as the merits of term limits on members of Congress and federal judges.

I am now an active supporter of the project, and I urge all my fellow veterans to take that first step to become educated about this nonpartisan effort. Support for the project by veterans could prove crucial to its success, because we represent the 7 percent of Americans who were prepared to give the last measure of devotion in support of our Constitution.

In addition to the above website, inquiries or requests for group presentations about the effort can be made tocoloradovets@cosaction.com, or call 719-482-5997.

Ron Scott

Monument

Letter: CMC amazing community asset

Colorado Mountain College has proven to be an amazing community asset in all nine counties in its service area covering some 12,000 square miles. As I step down after 15 continuous years of volunteer service to the college (because of term limits), it’s time for me to reflect upon the contribution CMC has made to our students, to our taxpayers and to our local economies – and to express my confidence in the leadership of President Carrie Besnette Hauser and her leadership team.

During eight years of service on the elected Board of Trustees (six as president) and a subsequent seven years on the CMC Foundation Board, I have witnessed the development of an educational powerhouse devoted to the success of its students. This devotion has many facets: introduction of five new bachelor’s degree programs to meet both student interests and local job needs; updated associate’s degree and certificate programs reflective of the needs in each community we serve; student success in completion of their AA degree with guaranteed transfer credits to Colorado’s four-year institutions; very low tuition rates, particularly for our in-district students; more scholarship dollars from generous donors awarded to more students with financial needs; growth in concurrent-enrollment offerings with more high school students taking college-level classes for credit; continuous retooling of curriculum in conjunction with local employers needing a skilled workforce; a very talented and dedicated faculty and administrative staff who constantly strive to do their best; and steady replacement of outdated buildings with new facilities.

CMC has proven its capacity to weather economic challenges while still providing a high-quality education to its students, even when the 2008 recession led to nearly eight years of depressed home values and sharply reduced income from the 3.997 mill levy from our taxpayers that provides nearly three-quarters of the college’s income. It’s quite a challenging process to successfully manage the operation of some 11 separate educational sites in nine counties separated by many miles and sometimes difficult travel conditions.

The leadership of Colorado Mountain College, both at Central Services in Glenwood Springs and with the campus vice presidents in each of its seven districts, continues to make amazing strides in serving the higher education needs of the 20,000 students who come to CMC each year. The CMC Foundation has granted more than $26 million to CMC’s students and programs since 2006 and nearly $40 million since its inception in 1985.

As the college celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, I am certain that the incredible progress that I have witnessed during the last 15 years sets a good path for the next half century.

Doris Dewton

Edwards

Roaring Fork tops Rifle to kick off soccer season

Behind a formidable offensive attack and a controlling midfield effort, the Roaring Fork Rams’ boys soccer team got the 2016 season off to a positive start with a 4-2 win, Tuesday, on the road against the Rifle Bears at Rifle High School.

Senior forward Lorenzo Andrade netted a hat trick in his return to soccer after missing the 2015 season with an injury, while sophomore Aidan Sloan added the other goal for the Rams in the win.

“I see a lot of real positives with this offense,” Roaring Fork Head Coach Nick Forbes said. “The whole 11 is comfortable with the ball at their feet, which allows us to work the ball forward, backward all the way to the goalie before working it out wide, which plays right into our gameplan. The boys put in a lot of work this offseason with conditioning and it showed early on.”

To start the game, the Rams’ attack controlled the tempo early as Andrade got behind the Bears’ back line quickly, while junior Marco Ramos and sophomore Ronald Clemente applied pressure from the wings.

Due to the high-tempo attack early on, the Rams were able to force a corner kick that Ramos and Clemente both got headers on, but Rifle’s junior goalkeeper, Caleb Opstein, came up with a big save along the goal line to keep the game scoreless.

Not to be outworked to start the game, the Bears countered quickly as sophomore Diego Suarez pushed the ball up the right win before drawing a call against the Rams, setting up a free kick from Rifle senior captain Alexis Ramos that sailed just wide of the goal.

Shortly after Ramos’ free kick sailed wide, Sloan gathered the ball about 30 yards away from the Bears’ goal and fired a shot that sailed towards the upper left-hand corner of the net, tipping off of an outstretched mitt of Opstein and into the goal for Roaring Fork’s first goal of the season, giving the Rams a 1-0 advantage early in the first half.

The Rams would strike again quickly as Andrade made a strong run down the middle of the pitch before firing a shot on goal that Opstein deflected away.

Unfortunately for Rifle, the save found the foot of Andrade who slotted home his second shot, giving the Rams a 2-0 lead.

But much like they did all night, the Bears battled back and cut the Roaring Fork lead in half as freshman Esteban Espino punched home a short cross in the box past the diving Roaring Fork keeper to make it 2-1, Rams midway through the first half.

Roaring Fork quickly responded though as Andrade netted two quick goals to cap off the hat-trick and the scoring on the evening for the Rams thanks to two great through balls from sophomore midfielder Joe Salinas that put Andrade way out in front of the Rifle back line, giving him a one-on-one opportunity against the Rifle goalkeeper.

“I knew what he [Andrade] had at his disposal,” Forbes said. “He’s a very good offensive player, so I was hoping he wasn’t too rusty from missing last year. As for Joe, he’s just a beast. He’s so good in the middle of the field and I think I would give him Man of the Match because of the way he moved the ball around and set us up offensively. He’s a big part of what we do.”

Holding a 4-1 lead at the half, the Rams seemed to ease up early in the second half as the Bears controlled the ball for much of the half. Unfortunately for Rifle, they couldn’t come away with anything to show for it on the scoreboard early on in the second half.

A strong run down the right sideline by freshman Mayro Hernandez set up a great shot on goal by senior Jose Quinones, but the Roaring Fork goalkeeper turned it away, bailing out his defense which was lax on the play.

A few minutes later the Rams seemed to find a spark as Sloan made a strong run down the middle before firing a shot on goal that freshman goalkeeper Isaac Rivas stopped, deflecting it just off the post and out of play, setting up a corner for the Rams.

With nothing coming from the corner kick, the Rams again seemed to relax defensively just as the Bears went all out, turning up the pressure offensively, resulting in a penalty in the box drawn by sophomore Edgar Jaimes.

Ramos was able to slam home the penalty to cut the Roaring Fork lead in half, but that would be all the Bears could muster to close the game.

“I thought our performance overall was great,” Rifle first-year Head Coach David Romero said. “The guys have worked hard and playing with heart. That’s all we’re asking for this season is to play with heart, learn the basics and bring that effort every night.

“We saw that out of a lot of guys tonight, and I think that was pretty cool to see the young guys stepping up for us.”

Roaring Fork (1-0) will host Moffat County, Saturday, while Rifle (0-1) will host Eagle Valley, Thursday.

Offense comes up big for Rifle

Thanks to an 18-run inning in game one of Tuesday’s doubleheader at Palisade, the Rifle Bears’ girls softball team rolled to a two-game sweep of the host Bulldogs by scores of 26-4 and 15-1, pushing the Bears’ record to a sparkling 5-0 to start the year.

In their perfect start to the season, the Bears are scoring nearly 14 runs per game to take some pressure off the defense and pitching staff.

In game one against the Bulldogs, the 18-run inning shortened the game to just three innings, but in those three innings junior Claudia Abbott hit a grand slam and two singles while driving in six runs to pace the Bears.

Joining Abbott was sophomore Kaitlyn Jackson with a triple and two singles to go along with four runs batted in, while sophomore Shaeley Arneson added a triple, single, two walks and three runs batted in.

“The first inning I was especially pleased with the offensive output,” Rifle Head Coach Troy Phillips said. “It wasn’t like we scored all those runs behind walks; we were hitting the ball well and had some really hard shots, so it was very nice to see us start the game that way.”

Senior Alexus Hendee pitched two of the three innings for the win.

In game two, Rifle again rolled behind its dominating offense as sophomore Kaitlyn Harris singled and doubled to drive in three runs, while Jackson (two doubles) and Arneson (three singles) drove in two runs each.

Jackson pitched three no-hit innings for the game two win while Hendee pitched the final two innings.

Rifle will put its perfect record on the line, Friday, with a home game against Meeker at 4:30 p.m.

Basalt council favors two ballot questions on Pan and Fork issues

The Basalt Town Council decided to ask two questions in the November election to try to bring closure to the fate of the former Pan and Fork property.

One question will ask voters if they want to buy 2.3 acres of land currently owned by the Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. The town has a contract to buy the property for $3 million, contingent on an appraisal showing it’s valued at that amount or higher. The contract also is contingent on voter approval.

The second question will ask if voters will approve roughly $4 million for park improvements.

If voters approve both issues, it would require about $7 million in bonding. A property tax and an existing sales tax would be used to repay the bonds. Town officials also believe they can get open space funds from Pitkin County, Eagle County or both.

The council didn’t take a formal vote at Tuesday’s work session. However, they gave direction to their bond counsel and staff to prepare final ballot wording. The language will be reviewed and voted on by the council Sept. 6 in a special meeting.

Park amenities scaled back

The council agreed to reduce the proposed park improvements by about $2.6 million after listening to the public Tuesday evening and in various earlier open houses.

“I didn’t hear any voices saying, ‘We want the whole meal deal,’” Councilman Auden Schendler said.

The pared back plan features $2.25 million for a “base level design” of the park and $515,500 for a band shell with restrooms and related amenities.

Councilman Gary Tennenbaum said he would prefer the full development plan for the park, but he feels scaling it back is a good compromise with the majority of the public.

“I’ve heard it. I’ve heard we definitely need to pare it down,” Tennenbaum said.

Schendler noted that the two-question approach poses the risk of voters approving the purchase of the land but not approving park improvements.

“Is that not a problem?” he asked.

Tennenbaum said the town would have to phase improvements for the park from its existing sales tax dedicated to open space and trails improvements. It would take more patience, but would still be worth it.

“Buying land is never a problem,” Tennenbaum said.

If voters reject the purchase but approve funding for parks, the money would be used on 2.5 acres of land the town already owns at the Pan and Fork site, along the Roaring Fork River.

“Squishy” wording?

The council and staff were concerned over how to phrase the land purchase ballot question wording to give different factions of town voters confidence in the plan. The council has agreed to devote about half of the 2.3 acres to development. The rest would be engulfed into the park. However, the wording in the ballot question is vague on the advice of bond advisor Paul Wisor.

As proposed, the ballot question will say the land being purchased is “to be used for commercial development and a town river park.” It doesn’t designate a specific amount for development.

Schendler said vague wording will “lose people” from both camps — those that strongly support development and those that favor a park. He wanted a specific amount of development identified.

“It’s just too squishy otherwise,” he said.

The council majority decided it should remain more vague on the advice of Wisor. The council’s intent can be made clear in campaign materials, they said.

Variety of public opinion

The council heard a wide variety of opinions while taking testimony for about an hour. Some speakers were critical of the town’s plan to extend an existing property tax that is being used to pay off a bond issued in 2013.

That bond is on schedule to be paid off by 2020 and, under normal circumstances, the property tax dedicated to it would be paid off. Under the new plan, the property tax would be extended through 2026 to pay off the new bonds.

Ted Guy told the council an extended tax is the same as a new tax. “It is a new tax. Let’s not try to pull a rabbit out of the hat here. It is a new tax,” Guy said.

Greg Shugars said the town has a great opportunity to fund its vision now because interest rates on bonds are the lowest they have been in about 65 years. The ballot proposal assumes a 3 percent interest rate. It’s highly likely the town could get a lower rate, financial advisor Bruce Kimmel said.

Roy Chorbajian urged the council to focus on locking up the Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. land, pare down park costs and proceed as it can with landscaping and amenities.

“Tie up the property,” he said, noting that Aspen is a better place thanks to its major parks — Paepcke, Wagner and Rio Grande.

scondon@aspentimes.com

Garfield County Football Preview

Welcome to the 2016 edition of the Garfield County Football Preview

Click here to read

Ressler named new CEO of Aspen Valley Hospital

Coffee Talk: What is a Doula?

What are the benefits of using a birth and postpartum doula? The Carbondale Branch Library is holding a free educational talk with experienced doulas Hillary Lyen and Teresa Weinstein at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13. For more information call 970-963-2889.

The American West as Living Space library course

The American West as Living Space three-part library course will be led by Christine Smith, communications and humanities faculty, CMC Spring Valley; Ronald Edgerton, Pultizer Campfire Initiative project scholar; and Adrian Fielder, assistant dean of instruction, CMC Carbondale. The course will feature readings and conversations focused on work by Pulitzer-recognized authors, and include nonfiction, journalism, fiction and poetry. Join us on these special Wednesdays at 6 p.m. Sept. 14, 21, 28, at the Carbondale Branch Library. The course is limited to 25 participants who can preregister at the library. For more information or to register, call 970-963-2889.

“Dollar-A-Day Boys” with Bill Jamerson

If you’ve ever admired the overlooks at Rocky Mountain National Park, driven the Scenic Rimrock Highway in Colorado National Monument, or enjoyed a concert at the amphitheatre in Red Rocks Park, you’ve benefited from the labors of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Michigan-based author/songwriter Bill Jamerson will present music and storytelling about the program, which was part of the New Deal, at 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, at the Rifle Branch Library and at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 12, at the Glenwood Springs Branch Library. This event is free, open to the public, and refreshments will be served. For more information, visit gcpld.org.