Silt candidate forum filled with drama, differing ideas
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
SILT, Colorado – Those looking for political drama were not disappointed on March 10, when a candidates forum gave local voters an up-close look at those who hope to govern Silt for the next four years.
There were accusations of revenge as a political motive, and of a growing lack of respectful behavior in town government.
Candidates were practically in universal agreement about the need for a grocery store and a bank, and perhaps a big box store, to move into town to help stimulate the local commercial atmosphere, although, they are unsure exactly how to attract such enterprises.
And more than one candidate vehemently declared that the town is being mismanaged by the current staff and board of trustees.
Covered by Cable Channel 12 and sponsored by the Silt Chamber of Commerce, the forum took nearly three hours and is to be rebroadcast by the television station at 7 a.m., noon, 7 p.m. and midnight, every day until March 16.
Two trustee candidates have withdrawn from the April 6 Board of Trustees election, both citing personal reasons for quitting the race.
Toni-Marie Yorty withdrew from the race on March 10, and write-in candidate Kelly Thorton told the audience at the candidate’s forum that he was backing out.
That leaves six men vying for three trustee positions – Rick Aluise, Bryan Fleming, Bobby Hays, Mark Rinehart, Bob Shiveley and Paul Taylor.
Two people – incumbent Mayor Dave Moore and incumbent trustee Meredith Robinson – are seeking the mayor’s post.
The field of candidates was seated at the council table in Town Hall for the forum – in no particular order and with no attention to the individual candidates’ affiliation with one of two slates that have emerged in the race.
Still, several candidates did refer to the slates in their remarks during the forum.
One group is known as the Save Our Silt Committee, and includes Aluise, Fleming, Moore and Taylor.
The other has informally been tagged Sensible Solutions for Silt [or S-cubed], and the slate includes Hays, Rinehart, Robinson and Shiveley.
The forum brought out a variety of ideas for how the town can attract new businesses and industry, ranging from sales tax incentive programs to making the community a little nicer to look at.
“I’m tired of looking at Silt the way it is,” said the mayor, “when we have the vehicle and the means to change it.”
Moore repeatedly pointed to the town’s $90,000 Beautification Fund – which he said was created at his suggestion – as the “revenue stream” that would permit the town to issue bonds worth up to $400,000 to pay for sidewalks, improve parks and other beautification efforts.
Former Silt town administrator Rick Aluise was the first to suggest a grocery store and a bank are critical to the town’s commercial future, adding that he already has talked with at least one market that may be interested in opening a Silt store.
It was an idea that all the others agreed with, although Hays, Shiveley and Rinehart expressed equal interest in smaller businesses, such as bike shops, a food coop, art galleries and other enterprises that might appeal to locals and tourists alike.
Hays, in particular, stressed the town’s proximity to the Colorado River and the wisdom of working to attract businesses with a recreational orientation.
When moderator Cheryl Chandler asked for the candidates’ opinions about “big-box development, Aluise said, “They’re like economic explosions … because other businesses feed off that.”
Terming big box stores “an anchor,” Aluise elaborated, “If you don’t have an anchor, you don’t have any other businesses.
Robinson remarked that big box stores are “something that you should have a place for … if someone is interested in coming in. I just think that any type of business, any type of industry, should be allowed.”
Hays, however, declared simply, “I do not feel that the big box development fits the town of Silt.”
That sentiment won qualified agreement from the mayor, although he added that if planned correctly, “I think it can work out. That would provide jobs,” as well as being an anchor for other businesses.
Rinehart said he preferred the idea of “themes” in attracting development, such as focusing on river-oriented activities.
“I think we need to see what we can do to be unique, something that someone else in the valley isn’t doing,” he commented – his ideas included leveling out a space in town for an ice rink in the winter, while Shiveley mentioned the idea of building a BMX bike park with the help of local parents to keep costs to a minimum and encourage citizen involvement in town affairs.
It was later in the forum that members of the SOS Committee began focusing on the town’s $275,000 deficit and a shrinking reserves fund that is down from $1.7 million a couple of years ago to some $800,000 today.
“You can’t run a town on a deficit,” declared Fleming, echoing the feelings of the others in the SOS slate.
Aluise criticized the town for retaining its building and planning department, claiming it costs the town $269,000 per year, when there are no developments applying to the town.
He also questioned the need to have a full-time attorney on staff, which he said costs $115,000 per year.
The functions of the two departments could be contracted out to private businesses, he maintained, for much less money.
Rinehart, who serves on the town planning commission, questioned Aluise’s numbers regarding the planning and building department, and declared flatly, “We need legal services” to avoid lawsuits over board decisions.
Taylor maintained that the town’s reserves are being “depleted by wasteful, needless spending,” mentioning revisions of the comprehensive land use plan and the zoning codes as examples.
And the mayor, growing angry as his answer lengthened, told the audience, “We gotta set priorities. We gotta get away from this wasteful spending on programs that, all it provides is a bunch of paperwork. We need some business type of thinking.”
Trustee Bobby Hays, responding to a question about any “hot topics” that had not been covered in the forum, replied, “One that has not been brought up is revenge.”
The SOS committee, he said, is composed of “people who have actually been fighting amongst themselves. And they want to come … and straighten out a board that might have a little bit of conflict among themselves? If you promote them, how are you improving the Town of Silt?”
Robinson, answering the same question, said she hoped her election as mayor would permit the board to “get back the respect and trust between the board and the staff,” which she felt had been lost in recent times.
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