C’dale Economic Development Council searches for direction | PostIndependent.com

C’dale Economic Development Council searches for direction

Lynn BurtonPost Independent Staff

In rapid-fire delivery Thursday, Jo-an Barnett updated the Carbondale Economic Development Council on results from its February retreat questionnaire.At a somewhat slower pace, eager council members threw out observations and opinions that touched on topics ranging from tourism to Highway 133.”The good news about tourism is they spend their money, then leave,” Council member Susie Darrow told others on Carbondale’s economic development advisory board. “The bad news is it’s expensive to get those revenues.”But the Council isn’t taking enough action, grumbled Ernie Gianinetti. “It seems like all we do is talk and meet, and meet and talk, and talk and meet,” Gianinetti said.Questionnaire results indicated some council members want to lobby the Colorado Department of Transportation to improve Highway 133.”We have staff people working on that,” said town manager John Hier.”I’d be willing to meet with legislators,” said Al Fiorello.By the end of the council’s monthly meeting, they agreed to:-Form a task force and talk to the Forest Service about its plans to consolidate local offices, which could result in closing the Carbondale office in the next five to 10 years.-Whittle its project list to four or five tasks that it can present to the Carbondale Board of Trustees in early May.”We have some great ideas,” said council chairman Chip Bishop after the meeting. “We just need to know how to do them.”Faced with declining sales tax revenues and a projected budget shortage in 2004, Carbondale hired Barnett as its economic development director in 2002. Barnett told the council the town’s budget is “an imminent issue,” and in staff meetings there has been talk of a four-day workweek and layoffs to save money.Council member Scott Chaplin, a town trustee, said the town’s budget is okay for this year. “Beyond one year, we have to start asking tough questions, and might have to start cutting back.” he said.Chaplin said the town has $2 million in reserves to handle budgetary shortfalls, but if revenues don’t increase, it will have to cut services.”The number of services we have to do now has increased over 10 years ago,” Chaplin said.”The list is astounding,” said Darrow, who is also a trustee.Carbondale’s lengthy development review process, which for Crystal River Marketplace took more than a year, drew the council’s attention for a quick exchange.”A developer in Atlanta told me what costs him $40,000 would cost $100,000 in Carbondale,” Barnett said.”We recognized we have a bottleneck,” said council member Joe Scofield. “We need to advise the trustees on that.”Hier said the trustees might have to consider holding one marathon public input session for development reviews.Approximately half of Carbondale’s general fund budget comes from sales tax revenues. Those sales tax revenues were down in 2002, so the council is looking for ways to reverse the trend. The first place to start, some council members have suggested, is a $50,000 to $60,000 marketing survey to determine the kind of retail operators the town could attract.”I think you need to do a market study,” Hier said.Scofield, a banker, said a study is needed, but it won’t be accurate until the Crystal River Marketplace retailer lineup is announced. “You need to know,” Scofield.The Carbondale Economic Development Council next meets at 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 17, at Town Hall.Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534lburton@postindependent.com

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