Council candidates address homeless concerns, fate of Glenwood Springs Airport | PostIndependent.com

Council candidates address homeless concerns, fate of Glenwood Springs Airport

In addition to numerous other topics covered at Monday’s Issues and Answers Forum, Glenwood Springs’ Ward 3 candidates took on the issue of homelessness, while the At Large contenders weighed in on the future of the city’s airport.

“It affects my ward in that we have a lot of homeless people who will walk through. I know we have found syringes in our front yard from time to time so it definitely is an issue,” said Ward 3 candidate Ksana Oglesby, who answered first in response to question about how the city’s homeless population had impacted her ward and what solutions the council could utilize to address those issues in the future.

Oglesby said she wanted to see the issue of homelessness addressed with more “heart and compassion,” and was in favor of studying ways in which other cities dealt with their homeless populations, as opposed to simply “kicking the can down the road.”

“If you do not put bathrooms downtown where everybody can use bathrooms, then people will go in the river and then you have created a problem,” Ward 3 candidate Jennifer Vanian answered.

Vanian believed the homeless population deserved to be treated with dignity and respect, and said she wanted mental health to play a larger role in the ongoing conversation. She said she would like to see a mental health center located in town.

Ward 3 candidate Charlie Willman agreed with Oglesby and Vanian that the city’s homeless population deserved to be treated with dignity and respect. But he had two concerns.

“We need to protect our citizens from being harassed by people on the street. … It is something that we have to work in conjunction with the Forest Service, the [Bureau of Land Management], the county on how to best make sure that the people who live in the hills do not start a fire and cause a problem,” Willman said.

While the At Large council candidates were not asked specifically about Glenwood’s homeless population, they were questioned about another complex issue: That being the future of the municipal airport.

Consultants have presented three options to the city regarding the future of the facility — expanded and improved aviation services, mixed-use redevelopment with a helipad to accommodate emergency flight services, or full residential redevelopment of the property.

Current At Large Councilor Jim Ingraham said he recognized the airport’s importance to the community, but also heard from those who wanted to see it developed to provide more housing in the area.

“I am not sure what the right answer is. It is premature to try to pick one,” Ingraham said. “Ultimately, that land belongs to our citizens, [and] they will pick. But, we need to provide them with options and information.”

At Large Candidate Erika Gibson, like Ingraham, wanted more information regarding possible land-use scenarios. She did emphasize the airport’s importance to the community.

“We need more information. But, one thing that I did hear loud and clear is that it does serve a real service to our hospital in terms of the landing pad for the helicopter [and] the refueling center,” Gibson said.

At Large Candidate Tony Hershey did not want to see the airport removed and argued that if it did, Glenwood would never have an airport within its city limits again.

“If South Midland gets any worse we are going to need that airport because the people are going to have to fly to get to their homes,” Hershey halfway joked before showing his support for the airport.

“There will never be another airport within the city limits, and I don’t want to lose that resource. I think it is way too important,” Hershey said.

mabennett@postindependent.com