Glenwood Springs City Council candidates find much to agree on
Post Independent Editor
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Candidates running for the Glenwood Springs City Council, including opponents Russ Arensman and Ted Edmonds, showed friendly agreement on many issues facing the city during a forum held Wednesday.
The forum, hosted by the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association at City Hall, will be rebroadcast on Cable Channel 10 on Sunday at noon, 7 p.m., 9 p.m. and midnight.
The election is Tuesday, April 5. Ballots will be mailed out next week, but only to Ward 1 registered voters. The City Council canceled the election for the three unopposed seats, saving about $5,000.
Edmonds and Arensman, who are opposing each other in the race for the Ward 1 seat, tangled over city spending and whether city regulations are business-friendly.
Otherwise, they agreed on a broad range of issues, including redevelopment of the confluence area, the city’s tourism marketing contract, regulation of medical marijuana, relations with the Colorado Department of Transportation, and the South Bridge proposal.
Candidates Dave Sturges, Mike Gamba and Todd Leahy, who are each running unopposed, agreed on redevelopment of the confluence area and using the city’s comprehensive plan as an advisory document. They differed on how to deal with revenue shortfalls.
Gamba and Edmonds both said the city government has imposed regulations and a permitting process that are unnecessarily hard on existing and new businesses.
“I want to steer government to be an aid to economic development rather than an obstacle or impediment,” said Gamba, who works for a family engineering and surveying company.
“There are people out there trying to create a business, who are running into nothing but brick walls,” Gamba said. “Do we need to let growth run rampant? No, but we need to bring common sense and fiscal responsibility to the community.”
When asked by Arensman to cite a specific example of unfriendly regulation, Edmonds said Gran Farnum Printing spent about $100,000 to deal with “unrealistic demands” by city government when the company moved to its new facility at 1526 Grand Ave. “I’d be happy to detail other people’s experiences,” Edmonds added.
Arensman countered, noting that the city has to “address the potential impacts on residents and other businesses” when presented with a new project.
“It’s a complicated process, but a process that works,” Arensman said. “Just last week, we approved a project with about a dozen variances.”
The city government’s approach to its budget and spending also raised opposing views among the candidates.
Edmonds criticized the city for budgeting $6 million more in spending than this year’s projected revenues, and said the city should be cautious in spending its reserve funds. He also questioned the city’s sales tax projections, which count on a 9 percent increase in revenues in 2011 compared to the amount collected in 2010.
Arensman said City Council is making a deliberate effort to spend down some of the city’s reserves, and is taking advantage of lower construction costs to complete long-sought projects, such as rebuilding Donegan Road, installing a pedestrian bridge from Highway 6 to Two Rivers Park, and building a bicycle trail along the Atkinson Ditch.
Leahy said, “I don’t think anything is off the table” in making budget cuts if revenues fail to meet projections, and noted that cuts would have to be discussed with city manager Jeff Hecksel.
Sturges was more emphatic in asking the city manager for budget-cutting recommendations, and spoke strongly against laying off any city workers.
Gamba said if revenues fall short, the city will have to make cuts in staff and in its spending on infrastructure improvements. “The bottom line is the budget needs to be cut to meet the revenues,” he said. “We are still projected to spend millions more than we are projected to bring in.”
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