GMF Facing Big challenges for Infrastructure Needs and Town Management
~ by Rick Langenberg ~
T’s the year for a new, real town manager, a workable comprehensive plan, much money for lake renovations and better roads; and of course, political peace with the forthcoming municipal election.
These are some of the wishes of both residents and leaders of the town of Green Mountain Falls. The quaint Ute Pass hub may resemble a small mountain village, but it sports a big-city plate of prime issues and projects for the coming year.
Topping the list of immediate concerns for 2018 in GMF hinges on the selection of a new town manager. Elected leaders and state officials have raved about the prospects of ushering in a new town manager form of government, and doing away with their previous trustee liaison system, which put city council representatives in charge of employees and departments.
But in 2017, this first experiment with a full-fledged town manager style ended on a failing note, with the sudden termination of former town boss Verla Bruner. This decision left more questions than answers, and even prompted some concerns by the state Department of Local Affairs. DOLA is partially funding this experiment.
However, town leaders say the second time will become the charm, and they plan to follow the advice and recommendations of Clay Brown, the regional director of DOLA.
But many residents are skeptical, and are starting to relay one main concern: Why the heck do we need a town manager for a government with only a few full-time employees?
Town leaders, though, are moving full-speed ahead with selection a new town manager/clerk. No date has been given for picking a new town boss, but leaders want to fill the position as soon as possible.
Next year also will mark a pivotal period on the planning front. The town hopes to compile a new comprehensive master plan, a project it generally pursues every 10 years. The new plan will deal with such issues as land use and zoning and annexation. But it also will tackle the subjects of tourism and hazard mitigation. The previous plan was done prior to the Waldo Canyon fire and subsequent floods, or the vastly new trends in tourism in the area, with more of a focus on special events.
Already, a joint meeting between the planning commission and the trustees has been scheduled for Jan. 9 to kick off the project. If history repeats itself, this plan should generate considerable debate, pitting anti-growth folks against those who favor more progressive business pursuits.
Plans for a new 24/7 fire station behind town hall also should kick into high gear in 2018. This project was approved by the voters of the Green Mountain Falls/Chipita Park Fire Protection District in 2016. And last year, voters went one step further and agreed to allow the district to retain any extra grant money and donations it received without reimbursing the residents.
The loan for the project is expected to close soon.
Election Time Looming
The spring of 2018 also marks election time in GMF. The mayor slot and three trustee positions will be decided by local voters.
The past two elections have been quite contentious. It’s too early to determine if political fireworks will once again ignite for the upcoming election. Positions up for grabs are those seats held by Mayor Jane Newberry and trustees Chris Quinn, Michael Butte and David Cook. All of these office-holders are eligible to run again.
Another hot issue deals with infrastructure. The current administration is lobbying hard for an ambitious, nearly $500,000 revamp of the Gazebo and lake area, often regarded as the crown jewel of GMF. Officials hope to actually close down the park next summer, if certain grants from the state are secured.
The state of GMF roads is another touchy subject. For several years, residents have cried foul over the deteriorating condition of their mostly gravel roadways. This issue has sparked many complains, but not much in the form of concrete solutions.
Town officials say they have limited resources, while some residents contend that the situation was mch better in the past, when GMF featured a larger public works staff.