Carbondale Corner: Town board making progress on many fronts
My wife Holly has a “teamwork” cheer we do when the challenges of parenthood requires a little morale booster. It’s a little goofy, but sometimes challenging times call for drastic measures. So I’ve wondered if I’ll ever need to resort to using it as mayor, but I am happy to report that I haven’t needed to bust it out yet. As a team, I’d say the Board of Trustees has been working very well together.
It’s no fun for anyone including staff, the public or board members when there is dysfunction on a governing board. So as mayor it is a high priority for me to keep the board firing on all cylinders. Fortunately, we have a great board of passionate and dedicated trustees, which makes my job much easier.
Unfortunately, we are still one trustee short of a full board and we’re contemplating whether to appoint someone or hold another special election, likely in April. Some on the board are leaning toward an election, however a three-month delay, a cost of around $8,400 and the need for a third election in one year has us seeking feedback from the public to guide this decision.
It is important to note that if we appoint, it would only be until our next election in April 2018, when that person would need to run for a two-year term. So if you have thoughts or are an interested candidate, please reach out to one of us ASAP.
In addition to filling vacancies on the board, attainable housing has been another priority for the new board. I’m happy to report we’re making progress thanks to many different factors.
The previous board adopted a new development code called the Unified Development Code (UDC), which is proving to be a big step in the right direction. The UDC is making it easier on applicants to align their projects with the town’s goals and bring good projects to fruition. Admittedly the new code is no silver bullet, but a well-crafted and well-thought through code allows the board and staff to focus on the bigger picture, rather than the minutia. As a result, we’re close to adopting rental housing guidelines, which provide additional tools for developers and will hopefully result in more rental housing — a big need in Carbondale.
Also, the town of Carbondale, along with Garfield County and the municipalities within it, are in the very early stages of exploring the concept of a multi-jurisdictional housing authority that could allow us to collectively capitalize on great projects that aren’t attainable without partnerships, including public-private partnerships. To be ready for opportunities like this if and when they arise, the board has also agreed to dedicate $50,000 of our reserves to attainable housing in our 2017 budget. I doubt we’ll meet the demand for attainable housing in my lifetime, but I’m confident we’re making noticeable progress.
Speaking of the budget, we are in the middle of reconciling our lofty goals with our not-so-lofty budget. As I learn more about the town’s budget, I am impressed with what Carbondale has been able to accomplish with such a modest budget.
Our per-capita general fund spending is approximately one-third less than Glenwood’s, two-thirds less than Basalt’s, and three-quarters less than Aspen’s.
Thanks to frugality during the recession, our reserves remain very strong. We have roughly nine months of reserves, while three months is more typical for small towns.
So the good news is our current financial position is strong. The challenge is that our infrastructure is aging fast and, unlike many towns, Carbondale does not have a dedicated funding source for capital projects. So identifying a sustainable path forward with respect to infrastructure will undoubtedly be one of our priorities moving forward.
What this new board does not need to focus on is making Carbondale the funnest place to be. We are so fortunate to have an all-star cast of organizations that bring you First Fridays, a Creative District like no other, the truly authentic Carbondale Rodeo, renowned local music venues, top-notch restaurants, KDNK, the clean energy mecca of the West and much, much, more. I may not need to bust out my wife’s cheer, but there is a heck of a lot to celebrate in Carbondale.
Dan Richardson is mayor of Carbondale. This column will appear on the second Thursday of each month except during election campaigns.