SILT — Parking, pot and economic development were some of the hot topics at Tuesday night’s Candidate Forum here, as two candidates made their pitch for the mayor’s post and the other six for the three open trustee seats.
The meeting was conducted by the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce and was moderated by Cheryl Minter of Western Slope Communications.
Incumbent Mayor Pro Tem Rick Aluise is seeking the mayor’s seat along with Mark K. Anderson. Both men have long family histories in the area, but that’s where the similarities end.
Aluise pointed out his previous governmental experience as town administrator, both in Silt and in Wellington County as well as serving on the council in both areas. He also said he runs a successful business in town and brings that experience and knowledge to the table, along with his municipal knowledge.
He is seeking election as mayor because he wants to see the completion of goals that the board had set four years ago.
“Of the goals we set, nearly every one of them has been accomplished,” Aluise said.
Anderson admitted that he was not a “career politician,” but said he is running because he wants to ensure the town remains a good place for people to raise their families.
“We live in one of the most beautiful valleys in the nation,” he said. “We’re surrounded by natural beauty and an abundance of resources.”
When asked their thoughts about retail marijuana, Aluise said he felt it was no longer a question of whether or not he supports it.
“I’m not in favor of it and I’m not against it,” he said. “But it is now a constitutional right in Colorado whether we like it or not. And enforcement costs are going to be the same whether people buy it here or not. It’s legal, we zone it and we tax it. That’s a much better way of taking care of it.”
Anderson said he didn’t think it was necessary for the town to sell marijuana.
“I don’t think we can afford to gamble on it,” he said. “I don’t think Silt needs to be a destination stop on the marijuana tourism train. If people need marijuana, they can go to Glenwood Springs or Carbondale.”
Of the six seeking the three trustee seats in the election, three are incumbents — Mayor David Moore, who is stepping down as mayor, and trustees Paul Taylor and Bryan Fleming. The new candidates include D. Aron Diaz, Dylan Lewis and T.J. Tucker.
On the topic of economic development, all the candidates agreed that continued efforts should be made to bring a grocery store into town, but there were mixed feelings on how that should be brought about.
Some candidates felt the town should join the Rifle Regional Economic Development Corporation (RREDC), while others said they’d rather see their tax dollars focused strictly on Silt.
“I think we should take any opportunity we have to let people know that we’re open for business,” Tucker said. “If it brings us closer to getting a grocery store, that’s a positive thing.”
“I think the RREDC is an organization that is taking a direction that the town of Silt should look at going,” he said. “We should use every opportunity we have to bolster our commercial base in Silt.”
Fleming said he’d rather see the money spent with the town’s Urban Renewal Authority (URA), which has been instrumental so far in bringing in the Dollar General store and planning for a new Subway store.
“I think the money it costs to be a member [of the RREDC] is better off spent on the URA and keeps our tax dollars within our community,” Fleming said.
Moore and Taylor agreed.
“I’ll look at each and every opportunity we have,” Taylor said. “But I think the URA is the wave of the future. I feel our money is better spent in Silt.”
Lewis wanted to see how the RREDC could benefit Silt.
“If they have something — if they can show us what they can bring — but until then, I don’t have anything to say to them,” he said.
A question asked of both sets of candidates — the mayors and the trustees — was whether they would support a parking area at one of the RFTA bus stops on Highway 6.
All candidates said they would be in favor of a parking lot, but it was pointed out that there was no land available for it.
“Parking is an issue we’ve been trying to address for a long time,” Aluise said. “When new businesses come in, we require that they provide suitable parking for the size of their business. As for bus stop parking, the problem is finding property that someone doesn’t already own.”
Moore echoed the sentiment.
“I’d support it if we had the land to do it,” he said. “Parking has been a problem in Silt for years. And I think we’re going to have to live with it right now.”
Taylor pointed out that there were pedestrian and bike trails to the bus stop.
“You can walk or bike to the bus stops very easily,” he said.
Diaz said that the lack of a parking area to a busy bus stop was actually indicative of a bigger problem — the fact that there are not enough jobs in the town.
“People are riding the bus to some place else because they work some place else,” he said.
In closing, there seemed to be two schools of thought — those who could bring knowledge and experience to the board and those who could offer fresh, young ideas.
“You know what you’re getting when you vote for me,” Fleming summed up.
Or something new.
“I have no long ties or history here,” Tucker said. “But I have a fresh set of eyes. There’s still a lot of work to be done. They‘ve turned it around, now we need a fresh set of eyes to fix old problems.”
There were no questions or comments about the town’s one ballot question asking whether voters approve the positions of town clerk, town treasurer and the police chief to fall under the supervision of the town administrator.
Voters should receive their mail-in ballots this week and must return them by March 31 for the April 1 election.