The first regular meeting of the Board of Town Trustees (BOTT) in the new year saw the full board in attendance, masked and in-person.
With the exception of one item, the consent agenda was approved with little discussion. This included accounts payable with approved community grants, authorization for the town clerk to appoint municipal election judges and several liquor license renewals.
Trustee Ben Bohmfalk noted that payment for overage fees from Mountain Waste have gone down significantly: $1,225 in December, whereas these approximated $4,000 at a point when many members of the public voiced complaints.
The item that was pulled from the consent agenda for further dialogue involved the reappointment of two members to the town’s Environmental Board: Patrick Hunter and Fred Malo. Hunter in particular was under scrutiny for actions that Mayor Dan Richardson felt were counter to the efficacy and standing of that board.
Several members of the Environmental Board vouched for reappointing Hunter, a decision they had unanimously approved. With the exception of Mayor Richardson, who has replaced trustee Heather Henry as the BOTT liaison to the Environmental Board, all trustees voted to reappoint Malo and Hunter.
Several members of the audience stepped forward during the public comment period, including two people discouraging trustees from implementing a mask mandate, plus a complaint about traffic speeds on Merrill Avenue and the intersection of West Main Street and Hendrick Drive.
During trustee comments, trustee Lani Kitching announced that she is officially seated with the Colorado Wildlife Council and thanked Carbondale for navigating “unprecedented challenges” over the past four years, preparing her for the “thorny issues” she will face in her new role.
One of the main items on the week’s agenda included approval of ballot language for putting the replacement of the town’s aquatic center on the April ballot. Pursuant to the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), voters must approve any increase in taxes or public debt in Colorado.
The language that will appear on April’s ballot asks to borrow up to $8 million, without raising taxes, to build a new aquatic center replacing the existing one. This would be accomplished using the existing half-cent tax that is paying off the Recreation Center (anticipated to be paid off in 2024). Unless withdrawn, the half-cent tax must be spent on the Parks and Recreation Department.
Through a Great Outdoors Colorado grant, the town hired a consultant to look at options and found the existing town pool beyond rehabilitation, with aging and deteriorating concrete.
“It’s up to us to make sure voters understand,” said trustee Erica Sparhawk. “These kinds of measures, like Heather pointed out, are confusing. TABOR does that on purpose. They put it all in caps so it feels like it’s yelling at you.” Sparhawk emphasized giving thought to the current pool’s users: seniors, working class people, school groups, etc.
Without a plan to replace the aging pool, there could be “people in rivers without access to swimming lessons,” said Sparhawk.
Next, trustees approved phasing the eighth street project, due to the quickly rising costs of construction. Interim Town Manager Kevin Schorzman said that the pressures driving up costs will likely not be relieved for years. “Whatever the next Greek letter is for COVID, I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon,” he said.
Phase one of the work will focus on the west side of the street, where there is not a continuous sidewalk. Traffic calming features, like “bulb outs” and striping will be implemented, along with the installation of a six-foot sidewalk in 2022. Phase two will focus on the east side of the street.
Other actions taken by the board included the appointment of trustee Marty Silverstein to the Garfield County Emergency Communications Authority Board.
Finally, the special event task force calendar of 2022 events was unanimously approved, “if [events] align with public health orders at the time.” The Parks and Rec Department has forfeited Oktoberfest and Celtic Fest, seeking to focus on events that more clearly align with their mission to encourage physical wellness. A fall festival has been slated for another group to carry out in mid-October.
Schorzman was thanked for his participation as interim town manager. “I never heard Kevin complain,” said Richardson. “[He] never missed a beat, and had two big jobs for the past several months.”
Petitions are now available at Town Hall for persons interested in running for one of three trustee seats, or the mayoral seat, each for a four-year term. Completed petitions must be returned to the town clerk by 5 p.m. on Jan. 24.