Full Woodland Park Council Could End Political Deadlock On Key Issues

Swearing-In of Stephanie Alfieri Scheduled For Thursday

~ by Bob Volpe ~

This Thursday, the Woodland Park City Council will swear-in Stephanie Alfieri as the seventh member of council.

Alfieri won a tight election in the November regular election on Nov. 3. Her official swearing-in was delayed until the official certification of the election results.

Stephanie Alfieri

This will be the first time the council has been fully staffed since last April when Councilman Noel Sawyer suddenly resigned. Since Sawyer’s resignation, there have been several attempts to appoint applicants to his seat, but every time there was a vote, council deadlocked 3-3. Eventually, council decided to kick the can down the road to the voters in the November regular election. Alfieri beat out Catherine Nakai, and Don Dezellem in the November election.

With Alfieri taking a seat on council, this may end the constant deadlock 3-3 votes council has been plagued with since April. Among the tie votes council has been dealing with are appointments to several volunteer boards, including the Downtown Development Authority (DDA).

Last July was the second time council took a vote to fill the vacant seat on the DDA board of directors. At that time council members Kellie Case, Rusty Neal, and Mayor Pro Tem, Hilary LaBarre, refused to cast a vote for any of the applicants. Council Members Jim Pfaff, Robert Zuluaga, and Mayor Val Carr voted for all three of the applicants.

Several of the council members have expressed concerns about the current direction of the DDA, and would prefer axing the organization altogether.

The applicants for the vacancies were Elijah Murphy, Jerry Good, and Marty McKenna. Current DDA Board of Directors Member Ellen Carrick is not seeking another term on the board. Both Murphy and Good have served on the DDA board of directors for several years. This was the first time McKenna applied for a seat on the DDA board.

In an ironic twist of fate, Murphy, and Good wound up keeping their seats on the DDA board of directors despite the lack of approval by council. According to state statute regarding a city’s DDA, “A member shall hold office until his successor has been appointed and qualified.” (State statute CRS 31-25-805 (3).

Head Town Boss and City Budget

Two other key issues facing the full council are the appointment of a new city manager and the 2021 budget.

Current City Manager Darrin Tangeman has accepted a position as the new city manager of Truro, Massachusetts. He has only served as city manager for Woodland Park for a few years.

City Manager Darrin Tangeman

According to Tangeman his last day as Woodland Park’s boss will be December 11. According to sources privy to TMJ News, council is divided on whether to promote Assistant City Manager Michael Lawson to the position. Lawson began his job as assistant city manager on October 19.

He comes to the city with experience and a proven track record of success in local government. Prior to accepting this position, Lawson worked for the city of San Diego as a Management Analyst, and then with the City of Aurora for more than 12 years in various roles: Manager of City-Wide Special Projects, Interim Community Development Manager, Interim City Clerk, Finance and Budget Program Manager and Finance and Budget Program Administrator.

Despite Lawson’s excellent resume, according to sources, some on council are pushing to appoint Public Works Director Kip Wiley as the slot as new city boss. Wiley has been a mainstay of the city’s utility and public improvement operations for many years. If the council opts to pick from its current ranks, this would run parallel to previous actions of an earlier council.

Ironically, one of the city’s most longstanding previous city managers, David Buttery, started his career with the Woodland Park government as their public works director. He was promoted to the city manager job, when a previous search for outside city manager candidates fell through, ending with none of the finalists wanting the job.

Alfieri’s vote will be pivotal in dealing with the city manager situation.

The budget is another key issue facing council. Council has been hashing out details on the 2021 budget for months, often calling special work sessions to debate funding in the budget, which calls for reductions in expenses. Among the controversial budget cuts kicked around by council is the defunding of the DDA’s discretionary spending allocation. Council has listed much of the DDA’s expenses as “discretionary.”

Some of the expense items council listed as discretionary are; telephone service, information technology, beautification, and professional services among others.

By cutting the DDA’s discretionary spending to zero, council would effectively eliminate the DDA’s website, which is the main source of the DDA’s ability to remain transparent with the community. The DDA’s website includes links to DDA documents, meeting minutes, and email contact links to the DDA board members, ability to stream live meetings and much more.

While council does not have the authority to defund the DDA, they do have budget authority to authorize expenditures. By eliminating the DDA’s authority to spend items listed as discretionary, the DDA would only be able to spend money on debt services, TIF reimbursement, and for legal services.

However, contrary to some reports, the city does not fund the DDA. The DDA’s income is completely generated from Tax Increment Financing (TIF) revenue TIF revenue does, however, add to the city’s revenue. This is money based on land/commercial value hikes on properties in the DDA district, since it started.

Another issue of apparent concern is the fiscal operations of the Woodland Aquatic Center and other key services.  Some are concerned about these reductions, while other leaders contend these projects, such as the Aquatic Center, need more scrutiny.

With the apparent constant 3-3 split on many issues, Alfieri could have an impact on  council on the course of the council for the next several years.