Woman asks for recall
A group of local citizens is attempting to recall two members of the Roaring Fork School District Board of Education, and it is rumored that members of Glenwood Springs City Council are helping push the initiative. Jennifer Vanian, of Glenwood Springs, on Wednesday submitted a petition for approval to the Garfield County Clerk and Recorder to recall board president Susan Hakanson and vice president Bruce Wampler. The petition cites negative aspects of the Glenwood Springs High School expansion as the reason for the recall. The plan for the new high school is inadequate on many levels, Vanian said in an interview. First, 35 people will lose jobs when True Value and other businesses are taken over. Second, the design is a “sprawling structure” that only increases building size by 25 percent, but doesn’t add additional classrooms. One of the affected businesses, True Value, also contributes $1 million to Glenwood Springs each year through property and sales tax, and the building it uses hasn’t outlived its usefulness, she said. The petition also cites other land where GSHS could expand, such as the building Bray & Co. rents on Grand Avenue, the district headquarters on Grand, and vacant city property between the Roaring Fork River and high school. The petition also points out the need for a hardware store “within walking distance of most neighborhoods.”The county only approves the format of the petition, not the content, said county clerk Mildred Alsdorf. “I can’t find any good reason (the design of GSHS) should go through the way it is right now,” Vanian said. Vanian has been a frequent attendee at the district’s open houses and board meetings regarding the GSHS design. She chose to include only Hakanson and Wampler on her petition and not the other three board members largely because of comments each made, and because other members are already up for re-election in November, she said.Vanian took issue with a statement Wampler read before a board meeting earlier this year, which drew a crowd that derided the district’s plan to buy commercial property. In the statement, Wampler said that the district had already made up its mind about buying commercial property to expand the high school. Many in the audience took that as an insult since they’d come to voice an opinion. She also took issue with a light-hearted comment Hakanson made at a GSHS design open house in which she said people who lost their jobs could go work at Target. “She got me when she said that,” Vanian said. “I just felt like it was a very closed group of people,” Vanian said. Hakanson and Wampler said they thought they were singled out because they are the board representatives from Glenwood Springs. Hakanson and Wampler had caught wind of the petition before it was submitted to the county. Both repeated arguments they’ve used in defense of the district’s plans since the bond was passed. “We, as a board, have a responsibility to carry out the will of the voters,” Wampler said, noting that 58.7 percent voted for the bond, including its plans for GSHS. “You win that big, I think the people are saying we’re doing the right thing,” he said. Hakanson reiterated the years of research and dozens of community members that worked on the plan for GSHS.”There has never been another solution that has been truly viable. If there were another truly viable solution out there it would have come to light,” she said. “I feel really good about the democratic process getting to this point … and I think it’s very unfortunate that a very small interest group can take apart this many years of community work,” she said. Hakanson had heard through the grapevine that city councilwoman Chris McGovern and one other council member helped push the petition.”That would be a rumor,” McGovern said, noting she didn’t know who was behind the petition. But McGovern did say the school board didn’t answer council questions about what plans for the new high school, and “True Value has not had any consideration from the school board … I don’t think their ears were open one bit.”Another councilman who has been critical of the board, Bruce Christensen, said, “I’m not involved in (the petition) … Whether or not I’d sign one at this point I’m not sure.”Alsdorf was waiting Wednesday for final word from the state on how many signatures and from whom would be needed to force a recall. A recall seems unlikely to change the fate of True Value and other businesses, most of which are getting some sort of assistance from the school district in relocation. The district has already submitted offers on the commercial properties, and is planning to begin construction in January. Depending on the timing of the petition, the recall election may not take place until the regular election in November.The recall may not save businesses, but might be worthwhile, said Mone Harrington, a manager at True Value who had been an outspoken opponent of the district’s plans, until recently. “I didn’t want it to go this far,” she said, but “it doesn’t surprise me.”The board has already received an informal petition opposing GSHS expansion with hundreds of names, but has refused to listen, she said. “When you’re going to be that closed-minded to listening to people then you’re in the wrong job,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s going to stop the building process, but I think (the petition is) going to wake up more people,” she said.
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