Citizens to Decide Fate of Disputed Council Seat
~ by Bob Volpe ~
Two key issues took center stage at last week’s regular meeting of the Woodland Park City Council: reopening the town’s Aquatic Center and appointing a new council member.
Last Thursday, the council debated the touchy subject of reopening the pool, forced to close as result of the COVID-19 epidemic. It also revisited the issue of selecting a new councilperson to replace former member Noel Sawyer.
Aquatic Center Slated to Reopen This Week
Swim time is returning to Woodland Park early next week, only with some stringent conditions.
At last week’s meeting, Director of Parks and Recreation Cindy Keating gave a report on the plan to reopen the aquatic center, which was shut down as part of mandatory closure orders issued by the state.
Since Governor Polis recently relaxed restrictions on opening gyms, and health clubs, the issue of whether to open the pool fell into this category.
Keating’s presentation outlined a two-phase plan to open the aquatic center.
The plan includes limited hours of operation and screening of people who may show symptoms of COVID-19. Staff will be required to wear personal protection equipment and patrons will be required to wear face masks when they are not in the water. In addition, staff will sanitize the facility once per-hour; patrons must enter through the north entrance and exit through the south entrance; social distancing will be enforced; registrations will be accepted through online methods or by phone and may be done up to seven days in advance.
Lockers and showers will not be open at this time and lap swimming will be permitted with restrictions, Patrons will be limited to 25-percent of capacity or up to 50 persons (whichever is less) at a time in both pools. Patrons will not be allowed to use any of the facility’s furniture and lifeguard tubes will not be shared.
Another key issue on the reopening is that current pass holders will be granted refunds for time lost while the facility was closed.
For a full list of operation times and updates on conditions, visit the aquatic center’s website at: https://city-woodlandpark.org/wac/ .
The reopening of the aquatic center, though, triggered a lively discussion at last week’s meeting.
What was supposed to be a simple report on the reopening of the aquatic center turned into a heated debate on the costs to operate the pools, and some begrudging sentiment on how the whole issue of the pool was handled, even before voters approved the bond issue to construct the center.
Several council members were not satisfied with Keating’s lack of information on costs to reopen the facility. The discussion centered on whether it was financially responsible to open the facility since the city subsidizes the pool. Keating’s presentation did not satisfy council when it came down to the pool’s revenue versus the expenses the city would have to pick up. Council demanded more information on these costs.
There was some confusion as to whether council was being asked to vote on the issue.
City Manager Darrin Tangeman explained that the pool’s budget for 2020 was already approved and the only vote council could take would be a no vote to keep the facility closed. Without a vote, the pool will open as outlined in the reopening plan, according to Tangeman.
After much more debate, council reached the conclusion that it was within the city manager’s authority to open the pool without approval of council, unless they voted to keep it shut. Council did not vote to take this action. However, they did insist that Keating answer questions about their concerns regarding the financial issues surrounding the aquatic center. These issues have persisted since the aquatic center opened for business in Oct. 2018.
Keating announced the target date to reopen the pool is June 15.
New Council Pick
At a previous meeting, the council voted to send Sawyer’s vacant seat to a vote of the citizens in November, opting not to vote on the applicants who applied for that position. But after a review of the city charter, City Attorney Jason Meyers informed council that before sending the issue to a vote of the people, council must first hold a vote on the applicants.
The council had three official applicants for the position.
According to the city charter regarding appointing someone to fill a vacant seat, the council must approve the applicant by at least four yes votes. The vote was then taken, and as some leaders earlier predicted, the council was split on who should take the seat. Councilman Jim Pfaff, Mayor Val Carr, and Councilman Robert Zuluaga voted for Stephanie Alfieri. Councilwoman Kellie Case, Mayor Pro Tem Hilary LaBarre, and Councilman Rusty Neal voted for Darwin Naccarato.
With the formality of taking the vote out of the way council instructed staff to begin the process of putting the vacant seat on November’s ballot. The coordinated election will cost the city about $10,000, according to previous estimates. Anyone who meets the requirements to run for office may apply and run for Sawyer’s seat in November.
This is the first time in recent memory a council appointment had to be turned over to the citizens.
In other council news, Jan Wilson was awarded the Keep America Beautiful President’s Circle Recognition Award to Keep Woodland Park Beautiful for standards of excellence achieved in 2019.
Charlie Estes was appointed to the Keep Woodland Park Beautiful board, and Jim Rumsey was appointed to the Board of Adjustment.
Council was given a report on the city’s audit for 2019 by City Finance Director, Emily Katsimpalis. The city passed the audit and Katsimpalis noted that the city’s budget reserve came in at 22 percent. This is an increase from the projected 17 percent budget reserve.
There was one ordinance on initial posting. Ordinance 1379 will extend the temporary moratorium to January 23, 2021 on accepting applications for detached single-family uses in Multi-Family Residential Suburban and Multi-Family Residential Urban zones and set the public hearing for June 18.