The new preschool in Willits will likely resemble Blue Lake Preschool's recent renovation in Carbondale. Courtesy photo

The oddest action that Basalt Town Council took Tuesday night was when the quorum of four councilors unanimously voted to approve a resolution that canceled the Town’s April 5 municipal election. 

The regular meeting, held again on Zoom due to the declaration of a local disaster emergency from COVID, was skeletal; council members Ryan Slack, Glen Drummond and Bill Infante were not in attendance, staff reports were sparse and the public was entirely absent. The agenda was wrapped up in less than an hour.

Giving the grounds for the election’s cancellation, Town Attorney Jeff Conklin explained that only three candidates had submitted applications by the Jan. 31 filing deadline for the three open council seats.  Since there were no other issues on the ballot, Conklin said the council had the authority to cancel the election and declare the three people who were running unopposed, as the winners. And this the councilors did. 

Slack, an incumbent, will retain the seat he has held for four years. Newcomers to the Basalt Town Council are Dieter Schindler and Angela Anderson, replacing Gary Tennenbaum, who is term-limited, and Infante, who decided not to run again. Biographies for Schindler and Anderson were not available. 

Town Manager Ryan Mahoney said that, while candidate debates are not necessary, the Basalt Chamber of Commerce will host a forum for the new members to “talk about their interest in running for council.” This was scheduled tentatively for March 7. The three members will be sworn in at the April 12 regular meeting.

Mayor Bill Kane said that it was the second time that Town Clerk Pam Schilling would be directed to cancel an election.  “It’s kind of what Joseph Stalin did, canceling elections [and] crushing dissent,” Kane joked. 

After the meeting adjourned, Schilling told The Sopris Sun that she has held her position for about 20 years. Conklin told the council that canceling the election saves the town between $12,000 and $15,000. 

In other news…

In the business that was usual, the council approved, on second reading, a contract for the purchase of land from Loose Cannon, LLC, for the construction of a police station at 20526 Highway 82. The $1.7 million site is adjacent to where the new public works compound will be built. The new site will double the police station’s current 2,400-square foot building size, and allow for the addition of a training center in the future. 

The second part of the contract was the council’s approval of financing the land purchase using taxable certificates of deposit, with a bank as the investor on the three-year type of loan. 

Also receiving approval was an initial agreement for the town to enter into a partnership with Blue Lake Preschool Inc., to provide licensed childcare at a site to be developed across from The Arts Campus at Willits. Senior Town Planner Sara Nadolny said the agreement is an outgrowth of the Basalt Early Childhood Coalition, which has wanted to “increase and improve access to quality licensed child care in the mid-valley.” The 2020 Basalt Master Plan recognizes mid-valley child care as “a legitimate burden in tandem with housing.” 

“We are ready to take on the role,” said Blue Lake Preschool Director Michelle Oger, who will work with the Land and Shelter Design and Alan Ford Architects to produce a conceptual design of the new childcare center. 

Blue Lake operates Little Blue Preschool in Carbondale, as well as the Blue Lake Preschool in El Jebel. All three locations will have separate rooms and licensed caregivers for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. According to Oger, after-school care will also be provided.  

Mahoney said that Pitkin County Public Health is expected to lift its COVID advisory, enabling the council to meet in-person at its next regular meeting, Feb. 22.