Green Mountain Falls Trustees Finalize Proposed Lodging Tax – Rick Langenberg

lodging-tax
Green Mountain Mountain Falls voters will join other communities in the region in casting tallies on a proposed lodging tax hike this November, with the extra funds going towards town beatification.
In addition, citizens will decide if their government can free itself of possible state restrictions in entering into possible partnerships and lease agreements with key telecommunication providers, in an effort to increase broadband Internet coverage.
However, both issues include lengthy ballot language that ignited the wrath of a former trustee. “These (ballot) ordinances seem very wordy,” said resident Mac Pitrone, who questioned the costs for the town government. Pitrone asked if the town could get away from publishing extremely long ballot measures that almost confuse the voters. “I don’t remember these being that long (in the past),” he added.
Pitrone didn’t get too many arguments from a group of citizens, whose patience definitely grew thin with a series of ballot actions taken by elected leaders last week.
For an extended period, the trustees finalized the wording of a ballot question on a proposed lodging tax increase, which will raised the nightly levy from 2 to 4 percent. The extra tax could generate an extra $19,000 a year, according to the final proposal.
But how to spend this extra money sparked an extended discussion at last week’s meeting. Several trustees wanted the extra money to go towards beautification and park improvements. But other leaders voiced support for extending this to overall recreation pursuits and enhancements with the swimming pool. Another trustee, David Pearlman, asked about using the money for tourism promotion.
Trustee Tyler Stevens expressed concerns about tying the town’s hands regarding how it could spend the extra money. He sought language allowing the tax funds to be used for overall park and recreation improvements.
But long-time resident and former mayor Dick Bratton opposed this stance, saying it clashed with the views of the planning commission. “We don’t have a recreation problem,” blasted Bratton, who said the money should be tailored strictly for town beatification and parks.
Pitrone agreed, citing the importance of making it clear how the extra money should be spent. Otherwise, he fears the voters will reject the tax hike plan. This marked one of the rare occasions when both Pitrone and Bratton, knows for their outspoken commentary, took similar stands on a local issue.
The trustees agreed to only allow the money to be used for park improvements and town beatification. With this definition, they believed the funds could get used for pool enhancements.
The trustees also got into a lengthy discussion over another ballot proposal, allowing the town to free itself from the restrictions of a current state law that bars governments from entering into any type of partnership or agreements with telecommunications and communications providers. This one was approved, but Mayor Pro Tem Cameron Thorne didn’t support the measure.
He indicated that town leaders shouldn’t be so hasty about jumping on board in waving the pro-telecommunications banner. This issue will appear on the ballot for a number of local counties and cities.
Extended bus service
The board also heard from Maggie Reed, a representative of the Teller Senior Coalition. She told the trustees that the Senior Coalition wants to extend its one-day a week transportation service to Green Mountain Falls. This would allow citizens to shop and run errands in Woodland Park and even travel to Cripple Creek. This service is available every Wednesday.
Also, it would allow riders to connect to other services, providing transportation to Colorado Springs and even Denver. Reed stressed that the Teller Senior Coalition provides a bevy of services that many people aren’t aware of.
Eventually, she said transportation services are under consideration, which would permit an individual to travel between Cripple Creek and Denver, and even hop onto a plane to Arizona.
The trustees expressed support for the idea of expanded transportation, but wanted to hear more details regarding the schedule. A tentative bus service area could occur, right across from the swimming pool. The service provided by the Teller Senior Coalition would be available to all citizens, regardless of their age.
Reed will make another presentation in early October and outline a more detailed schedule.
No Marshal
Green Mountain Falls still doesn’t have an official marshal, but the search is reaching a conclusion. Last week, Mayor Jane Newberry confirmed that leaders have picked a finalist, but that person still must complete some tests prior to assuming the position. If the finalist, who is from North Carolina, passes the tests, the town could have a new marshal as early as this week.
Since last April, the town has operated without any local law enforcement protection and has relied on support from Teller and El Paso counties. But recently, many residents have bombarded the trustees with questions regarding the town’s future marshal department..
The town also could soon have a new town manager on board, as part of a six-month trial program, partially funded by the state. The town has received 15 applicants for the position, which also would include a role as town clerk. The new manager would oversee all departments and personnel decisions and make recommendation for the future operations of the town government.
If this town manager-style of government works, Green Mountain Falls may adopt this change permanently.