Recreational marijuana heads Rifle candidate forum
For nearly two hours on Thursday evening, Rifle City Council candidates discussed what’s next for Rifle. The possibilities include bringing recreational marijuana to town, the new pool design and the bond issue involving the E. Dene Moore Care Center. There’s also an election on the horizon. With four council seats up for election, including mayor, this year’s six candidates include Helen Artist-Rogers, Brent A. Buss, Joe R. Carpenter and Sean Strode, with Barbara L. Clifton and Theresa Hamilton seeking re-election.
Bringing recreational marijuana to town
In the upcoming municipal election Rifle voters will be asked if they want to see the town’s ban on recreational marijuana sales lifted.
“I feel like the ballot initiative to sell recreational marijuana is something that the people will decide on, but I don’t think additional [access] is the right option,” said Sean Strode. He has worked with the city in Planning and Zoning and on the Visitors Improvement Fund advisory board. Strode plans to prioritize planning for infrastructure, communication and place value if elected.
The question will serve only to provide additional data and information for City Council. It reads: “As a non-binding question, should the city of Rifle allow for the five medical marijuana centers currently or in the future operating in the city to be licensed and regulated for the sale of retail and recreational marijuana and marijuana products: yes or no?”
Brent Buss, who has lived in Rifle for 20 years and wants to be a voice for the town, said he doesn’t know how he will vote on the issue.
“I think we need to leave it to the voters as to what their decision is,” he said.
His top three priorities are managed growth in Rifle’s business community, community development and maintaining a good budget balance.
Of all six candidates, only one firmly stated that they would not lift the ban on recreational marijuana sales in town.
“I personally would have to vote no on something like that,” said Joe Carpenter, who’s lived in Rifle since getting out of the Navy in 1973. “I just think it’s more of a burden on infrastructure: the police force and the city.
“I think in the long run that sort of thing hurts families more than it helps. I wouldn’t want to see a liquor store on every corner just to generate tax revenue. … With proper budgeting I don’t think it will be necessary.”
Carpenter plans to focus on organizational management, infrastructure, and public safety.
Barbara Clifton, who would like to remain on council, believes recreational marijuana is already here and would like to see the city put the potential tax revenue to use.
“My personal feeling is that recreational marijuana is already here,” she explained. “You can buy it in Silt, you can buy it in Parachute and it’s not illegal here in town. We are seeing the effects of that whether it is sold here or not. I would like to see some of the tax revenue used to be able to offset some of those costs.”
Helen Rogers agreed. “Recreational marijuana is already here. It is very accessible.” She would like to see sales tax earmarked for specific purposes. She suggested health and wellness and parks as potential areas that money could be used for.
Clifton’s top three priorities are public health and safety, economic diversity and communication, while Rogers wants to focus on hiring a new city manager, transparency and economic growth.
In 2016, legalized recreational and medical marijuana sales saw a 6.4 percent increase in Glenwood Springs. A total of $6.7 million in marijuana sales generated $248,084 in city sales taxes for the year, according to the year-end sales report.
Parachute legalized sales after its sales tax receipts took a huge hit in the latest natural gas downturn, prompting failed recall and repeal efforts. The move helped the town; nearly 30 percent of Parachute’s sales tax receipts in 2016 were from marijuana sales — $310,000 out of $1.05 million total.
Theresa Hamilton, director of communications for the Garfield Re-2 School District, has a lot of wishes when it comes to recreational marijuana but is interested to see the results of the advisory question.
“We put the question in there as council because we want to be able to set the guardrails and parameters,” she said. “I’m going to be very interested to see how the voters vote on that topic.”
She plans to prioritize leadership, infrastructure and economic diversity.
Support unanimous for new pool and new senior care center
Among the biggest questions being asked on this year’s ballot is whether voters will approve of any debt increase in order to see a new pool complex built. No new taxes are requested or necessary for the proposed project, explained Rifle Regional Economic Development Corporation Assistant Director Katie Mackley. The city plans to borrow funds through the Parks and Recreation Fund. It would do so using the lease-purchase agreement with the Parks and Maintenance Facility at Deerfield Park from 2008. The facility’s debt will be retired in 2018 and the city hopes to then use these funds to repay the new loan for the pool project. Any debt incurred following voter approval will be paid out of existing sales and use tax revenues.
The candidates agreed that they would like to see the current pool upgraded.
Hamilton said the facility has served the community well and remains highly used, but its infrastructure outlived its life span and it no longer meets needs. Strode added that this is a great time to consider a new pool and even sees it as an opportunity to eventually phase in a recreation center. Carpenter said the pool upgrade was a no-brainer.
Grand River Hospital District taxpayers will also be asked to vote on whether to replace the E. Dene Moore Care Center. Engineers indicate the 50-year-old building has reached the end of its life span.
If the bond passes, homeowners within the district will pay $34 per $100,000 of assessed value. The term of the bond would be 20 years, with repayment plus interest totaling $154 million.
That would be a significant investment for the community, but the candidates indicated that it is an investment the town has to make.
“The building is in need of complete repair, I think we have been really lucky to have that building here. I think the consequences would be devastating,” Clifton said.
Like Clifton, Buss sees the senior center as an economic driver for community.
“The salaries and economic driver that benefits the community from the center is a good position for us to have,” he said.
Rogers added she doesn’t have any hesitation about updating the facility.
“We’re very lucky to have Grand River Hospital in our community,” Rogers said.
Ballots will be mailed Monday and Rifle residents have until Sept. 12 to make their picks.
Municipal elections will be held Sept. 12, and the four candidates receiving the most votes will be elected for four-year terms until September 2021.