Green Mountain Falls elected leaders are wagering a $21,000 one-time bet on a new managerial style of government that marks a big change from current practices.
If the gamble pays off, GMF may become the latest small Colorado community to put a town manager in charge of all daily municipal operations, and do away with the current trustee or council/liaison system that has existed for decades.
By a unanimous vote, the GMF trustees agreed to try to secure a planning grant from the state Department of Local Affairs for a temporary town manager for six months. They also okayed the job profile for the position, with the future town manager expected to compile an overall transition plan for GMF, oversee all personnel action, including the hiring, interviewing and recruiting of applicants for future jobs, and direct local agencies. Plus, the person would assume the duties as a city clerk. In turn, the town would have to foot the bill for a little more than $21,000 for the position for a six month contract. The state would pay the remaining portion of the contract.
If town leaders are happy with the arrangement, then they may make a bid for a permanent town manager/city clerk, with financial assistance from the state for three years. However, the grant dollars for this program, authorized through the state Department of Local Affairs, are now frozen.
But Mayor Pro Tem Cameron Thorne believes the town has an excellent chance of obtaining the monies for the temporary head town boss slot. Clay Brown, a regional director of DOLA, is a member of the GMF administrative committee and could help facilitate the grant.
During last week’s meeting, the idea of a combined town manager/city clerk chief received support from several residents. In fact, no one spoke against the plan.
“It is a six-month trial,” stressed Mayor Jane Newberry.
“Take a gamble with $21,000,” said long-time resident and former trustee Mac Pitrone, in explaining the current administrative monies available in 2016. “If we like the system, we pursue it. If we don’t like it, we let it die.”
Accoding to Pitrone, the town manager plan is definitely worth trying, especially in lieu of the personnel problems and staff turnover the town has experienced in recent years.
“It seems like a golden opportunity,” said another local resident. “What do we have to lose?”
“The world has changed around us,” added the mayor, who noted that DOLA is a big proponent of the town manager style of government in Colorado.
However, Trustee Chris Quinn suggested putting the issue to a vote of the citizens. “I want the citizens to be on board. It is their town,” said Quinn.
Moreover, he cautioned that while this idea has a definite managerial appeal, it would definitely mark a significant change in the town’s governmental structure.
Trustee Dave Cook agreed about getting more citizen input, but noted that the town had passed the deadline for deciding to put an issue on the November ballot. He didn’t want to delay the process.
Under the new plan, the trustees would take a more subdued role from an operational standpoint, with the town manger calling most of the shots. The elected leaders wouldn’t oversee town agencies like they have in the past. However, they would have the power to fire the manager, if they aren’t happy with his/her performance, and to adopt policies. This is the way most home-rule cities operate in Colorado, such as Woodland Park.
“It is not like we are abandoning our responsibilities,” said the mayor, who has been a big proponent of the town manger style of government for several years.
But the plan could generate much debate locally. When a previous plan was implemented in 2013/2014, with the hiring of former Public Works Director Rob McArthur as head GMF manager, it created much controversy and became a big campaign issue in the municipal election. Under the administration of former Mayor Lorrie Worthey, this position was eliminated and town leaders wanted the trustees to get more involved again in the operations of the government.
The latest town manager plan was approved by all trustees. However, with this vote, the town’s administrative committee was instructed to develop a press release and summary fact sheet, outlining the advantages of this plan and why town leaders are pursing this style of government.
Marshal search update
In other GMF news, local citizens were once again informed that the search for a new marshal isn’t breaking any speed records.
Newberry told the public that a marshal selection committee will start doing interviews on Aug. 5. Under the plan she unveiled, committee members will selected two or three finalists. The interviews of these finalists will be conducted by the trustees.
Due to the confidential nature of this process, Newberry said the interviews would occur behind closed doors.
However, even if a head law officer is picked, the town may not have a marshal for at least another month or two. The marshal finalist still has to undergo a possible 21-day investigative period during which background checks are handled.
A few residents last week expressed frustration over the delay, noting they haven’t seen much law enforcement presence by the sheriff departments of Teller and El Paso counties.
Plus, these agencies can’t handle any code enforcement complaints, such as illegally feeding geese, loud noise or permit-related concerns. They can deal with speeding violations, but few cop cars have been spotted locally in the last few months.