Guest opinion: Why to support both Carbondale taxes |

Guest opinion: Why to support both Carbondale taxes

Stacey Bernot
Staff Photo |

As a fifth-generation Carbondale resident, I have seen our community grow and prosper in meaningful ways. I’ve seen us take on some tough issues over the years. I’ve seen us unite in defense of our town and, as a result, we have worked to create a better Carbondale for current residents and future generations.

As an elected official for the past 12 years, I have heard from residents, visitors, business owners and neighbors on their desires, needs and expectations of service levels for our town. Our community has finite resources, dedicated staff and a desire to provide quality services. The vast majority of people I’ve encountered over the years are well-intentioned with their projects, programs and new ideas, but many fail to explain how we as a town can achieve those goals without increased funding resources.

This April, we have the opportunity to further enhance our economy and strengthen the community.

Our local economy — and the essence of our town — are predicated upon snowy winters, flowing rivers, fertile ranchland and a healthy ecosystem. The impacts of climate change are already occurring, but we don’t have to stand by and watch. Carbondale doesn’t wait on others to solve our problems; we implement our own solutions, based on our community values. We also recognize we are part of the bigger picture, and doing our part means just that … doing our part.

During this upcoming election, we have an opportunity to strengthen our town in two important ways: investing in clean energy and community infrastructure. You’ll find two questions on the ballot you received in the mail. I’m voting yes on both measures, and I’m inviting you to do the same.

Climate Action: Yes on 2A

The town of Carbondale has made clean energy funding a priority for more than 10 years. Thanks to our past investments, our community has successfully reduced our carbon emissions 5.5 percent and collectively saved over $400,000 on our energy bills, since 2009. I am proud of the work we’ve done to become more energy independent, but if we don’t do more to support energy efficiency and renewable energy, we will fall short of achieving our collective climate goals by 2020.

Once approved, 2A will provide our town with dedicated funding necessary for clean energy investments and an opportunity to move forward on renewable energy projects that will save money and protect our natural environment. Over the last two years, the Technical and Finance Advisory Committee has completed extensive analysis on what programs could be implemented in order to reach our adopted emission reduction goals, evaluating greenhouse gas reduction potential, return on investment and community engagement.

Ballot measure 2A states that the funds would be used for energy efficiency, renewable energy and alternative transportation. The trustees will work with an advisory committee and will invite public input to guide decision-making. One proposal for managing the money and investing in climate solutions is to improve the efficiency of 800 homes, including Carbondale’s 400 low-income households; 50 to 100 businesses; and adding another megawatt of solar by installing solar power on over 200 homes. In addition, we’ll support climate-friendly transportation programs and projects, including electric vehicle infrastructure. The measure also has a sunset so that the community can decide to continue on this path or revisit this funding mechanism.

As a former coal-mining town, Carbondale has experienced a boom-and-bust economy. Fortunately, we have been able to thrive on more stable industries such as recreation, ranching and tourism. Clean energy infrastructure would be a huge opportunity for our economy and an investment in our environment. If approved, 2A will help us build on past successes and transform our homes and businesses, expand our renewable energy portfolio, enhance alternative transportation options and invest in a clean energy future for Carbondale. If you are in support of this vision for our community, I encourage you to vote “yes” on 2A.

Carbondale has unified around protecting the Thompson Divide to defend this beautiful area from energy development. We need to go one step further and take action to create solutions — use energy as efficiently as possible and expand local renewable energy resources. Ballot question 2A will make that possibility a reality.

Streets and Sidewalks: Yes on 2B

Carbondale is growing all the time. We have even more residents, more bikes and more cars moving within and through our town than ever, but our capital improvement fund is not growing at the same pace.

If approved, the capital improvement property tax will provide funding to start addressing and saving for some major street upgrades we are going to have in the next two to 10 years. The town’s 2017 Five Year Capital Improvement Plan has prioritized needed improvements for safety, maintenance and expansion. The town has worked diligently on acquiring grants over the years to keep up on our infrastructure needs, and will continue to pursue grants, but the needs far outweigh resources available.

Some of our projects outlined in the area of safety is to study and plan for needed improvements at Dolores Way and Highway 133, a Third Street rebuild, sidewalks on Eighth and Fourth streets, and a Colorado Avenue rebuild.

We also have an extensive maintenance list such as drainage improvements, concrete street repairs, trail maintenance, Crystal Bridge Drive settlement correction and a rebuild of Meadowood Drive, which is used by our Fire Department and high school and has greatly deteriorated.

Expansion is a category that dovetails into other community needs and priorities, such as housing diversity. These expansion projects are development-driven and are projects such as the proposed Senior Housing Project accessed off Second Street, an Industry Way connection that will allow access to and from downtown more efficiently, or another potential is affordable housing on Re-1 property triggering a roundabout at Weant and Highway 133. As with most initiatives, we can’t predict every project that will need funding, but having the resources available will put us in a stronger position to take advantage of opportunities. For our community to be successful in our other priorities, capital funding is crucial to seeing these projects completed.

The above-mentioned list is an initial smattering of projects that have been on the books for years, ones that are ripe for completing, or a few others that have been neglected too long. Since Carbondale is heavily reliant on sales tax revenue, and despite making headway in that regard, our infrastructure needs are far outpacing the growth in our local economy. This modest property tax would add 3 mills and has a 10-year sunset. It would allow us to chip away at our list of needs.

Carbondale is known for our innovative, pioneering, independent and creative spirit. Both ballot measures have something important in common: which is to invest in our community. By pooling our resources, we can achieve something that can’t be achieved on our own.

If you’re one of those handful of people that have told me over the years you’re all right with potholes and crumbling sidewalks, or if you’re uninterested in conserving energy or are unconvinced that our environment is rapidly declining, then don’t support these measures. If you’re part of the majority that wants Carbondale to thrive, maintain, enhance safety, sustain our strong recreational, ranching and tourism economy while taking action for our future, I ask that you support these reasonable, short-term measures that put our money where our collective mouths are.

Stacey Bernot is mayor of Carbondale.

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