Trustees settle fight over community grants |

Trustees settle fight over community grants

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE, Colorado – Following several contentious meetings and a lot of detailed wrangling, the Carbondale Trustees on Tuesday approved grants to 26 area community organizations totaling $55,150.

Some of the wrangling was over whether the town should be donating to two politically active organizations – the Thompson Divide Coalition and the Wilderness Workshop.

After considerable debate, trustees decided that each organization will receive $2,000, despite opposition from some members of the board.

Due to budget constraints, the town had only $55,000 to give in grants this year, compared to nearly $77,000 distributed in 2011.

Grant requests from the various organizations came to $104,000 for 2012, far exceeding the town’s financial wherewithal.

This prompted the trustees to adopt the 2012 municipal budget last month with a $55,000 place-holder. The move was meant to reflect the intent to distribute the money once the wrangling was finished.

“We’ve burned far too much time on this already,” said a frustrated Trustee Frosty Merriott at Tuesday’s regular meeting.

In December, the trustees agreed to each list their preferred contributions in memos to the town staff, and the staff was directed to determine average amounts for all 26 organizations based on the trustees’ memos.

The final tally contained proposed contributions well below the amounts requested, and came to a total of $42,529.

But differences among the trustees prevented an agreement on that final tally.

“It’s never been this combative before, it’s never been this territorial,” said Trustee Pam Zentmyer, referring to the annual decision on donating taxpayer money to local organizations.

For example, Trustee Elizabeth Murphy opposed the town giving grants to the Thompson Divide Coalition and Wilderness Workshop, which each asked for $5,000.

Thompson Divide Coalition (TDC) is working to prevent gas drilling in the Thompson Divide area southwest of Carbondale. Wilderness Workshop also has been active in the Thompson Divide issue, but takes on other, broader wilderness advocacy campaigns as well.

“I respect and value the work they do in our community,” Murphy said. But she questioned whether it is in the town’s best interests to support “politically active organizations.”

Others who agreed with Murphy, according to the preferences for donations listed earlier by trustees, were Mayor Stacey Bernot and trustees Ed Cortez and John Foulkrod.

The mayor said at Tuesday’s meeting that she agreed with Murphy’s position, but ultimately voted in favor of a list of contributions that included the TDC and the Wilderness Workshop.

In the end, Trustee Pam Zentmyer proposed a compromise to increase the amount to be donated to each organization, in order to bring the total closer to $55,000, and end the debate.

Her proposal was approved by a vote of 4-2, with Cortez and Murphy dissenting. Foulkrod was absent from the meeting.

In other action the board of trustees:

• Upheld an Oct. 25, 2011, decision to prohibit the distribution of plastic shopping bags by grocery stores, and impose a fee for the use of paper bags as an alternative to the plastic bags. The decision means the issue will be placed on the April 3 municipal election ballot, so that the voters can decide whether the ban will be implemented or dropped.

• Gave final approval to annexation, rezoning and development planning documents for the 10-acre, 45-unit Thompson Park development along Highway 133. As part of the approvals, the town will take ownership of the historic Thompson House adjacent to the development site.

• Granted a vested-rights extension for redevelopment of two lots at 1340 Main St., formerly the American National Bank in the Crystal Village neighborhood. The property, which at one point was approved for multi-family and mixed-use commercial, is now owned by Alpine Bank and the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA), and may become employee housing for RFTA. The development vested rights, which expired on Oct. 27, 2011, were extended to Oct. 27, 2014.

• Granted a medical marijuana center license to Doctor’s Garden, operated by local businessman Rock Leonard at 580 Main St. This was the first such application reviewed by the trustees under a new ordinance approved in July 2011.

Doctor’s Garden is within 1,000 feet of a school, said Town Manager Jay Harrington, which is off-limits for dispensaries under the town’s law. But Doctor’s Garden is considered “grandfathered” because it was in operation prior to July 1, 2010, Harrington said.

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