by Rick Langenberg:
Help is on the way, but a future restructuring of the city government in Green Mountain Falls is under serious consideration.
As a result, don’t be surprised if you see elected trustees mowing grass and picking up trash at local parks, or residents manning the phones at town hall, or the marshal running a grader along one of GFM’s steep hills. After all, this is an elected board that now has found itself in charge of running and operating Green Mountain Falls due to hardly any remaining local government workers.
“We need to come together as a town,” said Mayor Lorrie Worthey, who recently won a second term as mayor, following a competitive and bitter showdown with former mayor pro tem and veteran trustee Jane Newberry.
That is one of the messages of the high profile mayor regarding a plethora of employee and head department resignations that have occurred since a new board took office in mid-April. With these developments, residents and those outside Green Mountain Falls have raised one basic question: Who is running the town?
The mayor contends the trustees are planning both a stop-gap, temporary fix and are evaluating a long-term restructuring bid, in lieu of virtually a complete walk-out of local workers.
“The town was extremely divided during our last election. This is to be expected,” said the mayor, when discussing some exits of veteran managers.
The recent spree of employee and manager walkouts, including the entire public works department and clerk’s office, reached a peak recently with the resignation of veteran clerk/treasurer Chris Frandina and her assistant, Betty Van Scoten. These two officials worked for the town for a combined total of 45 years. In addition, Frandina, who also served as mayor and trustee, was regarded as the administrative arm of the local government for decades. The clerk’s office departures probably represent the biggest challenge for Worthey and the new trustees. To further complicate matters, they have found themselves conducting regular board meetings until nearly 1 a.m. in the morning with a full-plate of agenda items, running the gamut from new trail disputes, to a new code of ethics, to routine hassles of maintaining the roads and the swimming pool.
“There are some big shoes to fill with Chris (Frandina) leaving,” said Worthey. “We are not going to do anything quickly. We appreciate the service both she and Betty have provided this community. They have done a lot for our town. We never asked for their resignations.”
According to the GMF mayor, the recent slew of resignations didn’t overly surprise the trustees, but the timing took some off-guard. “We were informed by our attorney of the possibility of more resignations,” admitted Worthey.
While regretting the decision of Frandina and Van Scoten to leave, the mayor said the new board views this development as an opportunity to run things differently as a town government. “Do we need a full-time town clerk? Should we have a town manager, or can a clerk or town manager do both jobs? Should we have a public works director?”
These are some of the big questions the board is mulling, as it considers a possible restructuring plan. “We definitely need to embrace our history and what was done by Chris (Frandina) and other employees, but we can’t live in the past,” said Worthey.
But starting this week, the trustees must have an operating town hall office and so will try to temporarily fill the positions of Frandina and Van Scoten with an interim clerk from Calhan, recommended by the Colorado Municipal League’s Clerks Association. Also, the board hopes to name a person to head its public works department shortly.
That latter position is extremely important, as recent rain storms have left many roads in bad shape. The board has contracted out some of these duties with El Paso County, but GMF roads are tricky and almost require localized knowledge.
Worthey is highly complimentary of the new board members, who ran on the same campaign platform as herself of change and reform. She noted that they haven’t been afraid to get their hands dirty by doing a lot of work handled by former employees. “They have accepted this challenge and have worked very hard,” said the mayor.
Worthey herself said she spent considerable time cutting grass in the parks. Marshal Tim Bradley also did an extended stint road grading following one of the recent storms. The mayor said she wouldn’t object to extending this volunteer spirit by having local residents lend a hand by answering the phones at town hall.