Government transparency among issues discussed at Silt candidates forum
Jerry Seifert statement read at start of the forum:
“The reason I am running is to give back to the community … I’d like to help Silt grow in a positive way. I think change is good for a town this size. One thing I would like to see is 24 hour police protection if possible along with other changes.”
With ballots to be mailed out as early as Monday, seven candidates running to be on Silt’s Board of Trustees for the next four years gathered at Silt’s candidates forum Wednesday to talk about the issues, making it Garfield County’s most contested race this spring.
Candidates Alan White, Bobby Hays, Samantha Alexander, Kyle Knott, T.J. Tucker, Justin Brintnall, and Chris Classen answered questions and spoke to the issues most important to Silt residents for over an hour Wednesday. Candidates Jerry Seifert and Mark Anderson could not be in attendance.
The top four vote getters among the trustee candidates in the April 3 mail ballot election will end up on Silt’s board. In addition, three candidates are vying for the open mayor’s seat, including Bryan Fleming, Keith Richel and Jay Barner.
Among the biggest issues the candidates addressed Wednesday was the safety of town, transparency of government, and economic development — particularly as it pertains to the marijuana industry and, of course, whether or not Silt will ever see a grocery store.
“I want to be a voice for the people that live and work in this community,” Alexander said in her introduction. “I think more communication and more involvement with the community would be my biggest priority.”
She said there needs to be more transparency from the board on how they make their decisions and “more than just a three word answer,” she added.
Alexander, along with Knott, Seifert, Classen and Anderson, are the only candidates with no prior board of trustees experience. White and Brintnall are incumbents, and Hays and Tucker have served previously on the town board.
“Recently I attended a board meeting regarding town safety,” Knott explained in his intro. He said at that board meeting he did not feel he was listened to or that the board cared what he had to say.
“Only thing I can do to change that is to run for a Board of Trustees seat,” he added.
How the Silt board handles and addressed public disputes was brought up several times throughout the evening.
“If [I am] elected you will see change, immediate change,” candidate Tucker said.
While Tucker was appointed to the board in 2015, he resigned in October belt he felt the board at the time “was broken”. Since his resignation, several Silt residents have said they wanted him back, which led to his decision to run again several months later.
“I should still be on the board fighting the good fight,” he said. “I will push for customer service back into this building. We will treat you with the respect and courtesy you deserve.”
“Communication between board and citizens is the most important part of the job,” Classen added.
Classen currently serves on the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission.
He said he’s running for trustee because he’s been involved in Silt for 11 years and “everybody deserves the right to be heard.”
“Not every day has been a walk in the park, but I am still here,” he added.
Like many of the other candidates on Wednesday, Classen advocated for a grocery store in Silt.
“We need to market Silt for a grocery store,” he said.
Candidate Brintnall felt that if the town can support his store, it can support a grocery store.
He advocated for bringing new businesses into town, which will help diversify Silt’s economic footprint and help pay for a growing police force.
“It’s been an honor to represent the board and I would like to continue to do so,” he said.
Brintnall was appointed to the board in 2016, after trustee Dylan Lewis left the area.
While most of the candidates spoke in favor of a grocery store on Wednesday, Hays eliminated City Market from the mix.
“I do not recommend bringing in City Market,” he said, feeling that it was important for Silt to diversify and to stay a small town.
“I think we need to get competition in Silt; we are still our own community,” Hays explained. “We have made a lot of accomplishments in the last four years and I hope to make that kind of progress in the next four years.”
He said his goal is to see a new middle school or junior high, bank and grocery store for Silt.
“I don’t want to have to drive to New Castle or Rifle to buy groceries, fill up a prescription, go to a bank or watch a movie,” White said in his intro. “I shouldn’t have to leave my hometown to enjoy my town.”
White was appointed to the board following Tucker’s resignation in October.
“Silt needs to diversify,” he said. “Sales tax drives everything and provides services that everybody wants.”
Candidates also responded to a burning issue throughout Garfield County: retail marijuana. Here’s their take:
“We have enough retail marijuana,” Tucker said. “I want to see a grocery store long before another marijuana shop in town.”
Alexander discussed how current zoning laws prevent additional marijuana retail shops from coming in, but added, “I think the marijuana stores we have are extremely responsible and part of the community.”
White: “We can’t build around one industry. Silt needs to diversify. I would be in support of other types of marijuana facilities. [Retail marijuana] brings in around $110,000 to $150,000 annually, which pays for police officers that everybody wants.”
Hays: “Until the federal government accepts it, no way I could support another marijuana business in our town.”
Knott: “I would vote no for additional marijuana shops. Grow facility is an interesting topic.”
Brintnall: “Town is maxed out, but I do support the stores that we have.”
Classen: “Zoning is limited, but I would still be in favor. General fund funds police officers, and sales tax [from marijuana sales] goes into general fund.”
For more on what the candidates had to say on other issues, view the forum online at TownofSilt.org.