The Green Mountain Falls’ town government isn’t equipped with a single law enforcement officer, features only two full-time workers and sports a nuts and bolts annual budget of less than $500,000.
Regardless of these limitations, the small Ute Pass burg of fewer than 650 year-round residents will soon follow the path of many big municipalities in Colorado by a hiring a full-time city manager through a new, more centralized form of government.
Only one catch: town leaders are hedging a $60,000-plus annual bet on this change, if they want to turn this into a permanent position.
“This is a very positive step for the town,” said Mayor Jane Newberry, a big proponent of the change, in an interview last week. She and the board of trustees have voted to pursue the hiring of its first-ever full-fledged town manager, a development that elected leaders hope to turn into a permanent situation. It is part of a new direction for the town that operated through a traditional trustee form of government for decades
And according to Newberry, city leaders are already receiving a number of inquiries for the job, which will pay an initial base salary of $60,000. In its annual budget, GMF budgeted $72,000 for the position, which includes benefits and a possible relocation package.
The change has already been implemented on a temporary basis, with the appointment of John Pick as an interim town manager/clerk. However, Pick, a consultant and veteran government administrator of more than 35 years, will be stepping down this spring. Moreover, he doesn’t want to contend for the permanent position. “I am not a candidate for the (town manager) position,” said Pick, in an interview last week.
However, he has recommended the new push for a permanent town manager position. This person also will assume some duties as a clerk. And recently, town leaders gave Pick his marching orders in recruiting candidates for the job. They hope to have a full-time town manager on-board by March.
Town leaders have been satisfied with the change in policy that takes them out of day-to-day operations, and effectively, anoints the town manager as the GMF head boss, who will oversee all employees and personnel decisions. “This is nothing new. There are no secrets about this plan,” related the mayor.
In fact, Newberry even noted that her previous political rivals, headed by former Mayor Lorrie Worthey, liked the concept of having a town manager.
The mayor has stated that public input regarding plans for a permanent town manager position has been quite positive. According to Newberry, citizens addressing the issue at town meetings have spoken favorably about the managerial change in direction for GMF.
Still, she admits not everyone is on board about the change. GMF Trustee Chris Quinn cast a dissenting tally regarding this move during a recent meeting, according to meeting minutes. In the past, the trustee had indicated that the town manager issue, which presents a big change, should be decided by the voters.
Plus, this idea has gotten a cold response by some long-time residents, who have questioned the costs and the idea of taking trustees out of the loop. They complain that if the town doesn’t have a marshal, it shouldn’t worry about hiring a town manager to oversee several people. The town manager topic has generated a fair share of lively conversations at local hangouts and at the post office.
And even supporters of the idea admit the future costs of the plan are significant hurdles. For the next three years, the future town manager plan is being supported by a grant through the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), with the town only being required to pitch in 25 percent of the salary for 2017, 50 percent in 2018 and then 75 percent for 2019. Then, the town government is on its own in financing this position.
“If there would be any cons about the plan, it probably would be the affordability,” admitted Pick.
The interim town manager, though, says, the current board is committed to making this job a reality by generating more revenue, or trimming current expenses. According to the mayor, town leaders plan to consult more with state officials, who are big supporters of the idea, in getting funding suggestions. Clay Brown, the regional director of DOLA, who previously worked with the town of Victor and played a big role in the GMF Town Hall project, supports the town manager push. He has endorsed the idea at several GMF meetings.
The mayor said it helped the trustees in getting an independent, outside look into the town manager situation, as part of a pilot program. This occurred when Pick was selected as an interim town manager/clerk for a temporary contract of nearly $50,000 for six months, with the state picking up half of the tab. An important part of that role dealt with the interim town manager coming up with an overall plan and a future budget.
The Marshal search winding to a conclusion?
Besides picking a full-time head boss, town leaders will be picking a new marshal shortly.
This search, which kicked off last spring, has eluded town leaders. “I am as frustrated as anyone,” said Newberry. That said, she contends that it’s important that the town gets the right person for the job. This position which has been budgeted in 2017, with total salary and office costs estimated at about $76,000.
According to the mayor and the interim town manager, GMF is nearing the ninth inning of its quest for a marshal. If everything proceeds on schedule, Newberry is hopeful that the town will have a new head cop by next month. Leaders have already interviewed several candidates and are scheduled to interview several more shortly.
The town has gone cop-less since April of 2016, when former Marshal Tim Bradley stepped down, following the municipal election. All of his reserves also quit.
Late last summer, it appeared the town was poised to hire a marshal, but the then North Carolina finalist couldn’t successfully complete final testing and backgrounds requirements for the job.
Town leaders were then opted to head back to the drawing board and re-start the hiring process. According to Pick, the town is still accepting applications until the position is filled.
For the last nine months, the town has relied on the assistance of Teller and El Paso County sheriff departments. But that process has resulted in considerably less law enforcement presence in town.