GMF Residents To Decide Fate of Future Municipal Election Timetable

Spring Votes May Get Eliminated; Leaders Up In Arms Over Unfunded Mandates

Rick Langenberg

With virtually no debate or dissent, elected leaders in Green Mountain Falls last week signaled the green light for a ballot proposition this April, aimed at ending the old tradition of springtime elections, similar to what occurs in Woodland Park, Colorado Springs and other municipalities in the Pikes Peak region.

Under the new plan, the town’s municipal vote would be moved from April to the first Tuesday in November. And more importantly, the elections would be coordinated by the clerk’s offices in El Paso and Teller counties.

The main reason for the change is to save money. With a coordinated election under the reins of county officials, the town would experience a cost savings of close to $15,000, according to GMF Clerk and Treasurer Bo Ayad.

The final verdict in this matter, though, will be made by the majority voters in Green Mountain Falls during the April 2 election. That date of this forthcoming election date, under the resolution approved by the board, won’t change. In fact, if  most voters give the okay, the new change wouldn’t go into effect until the 2026 election, the next time a municipal vote is scheduled for Green Mountain Falls.

Initial comments from the trustees indicate much support for the proposed election timing change, which would put GMF in line with such statutory towns as Cripple Creek and Victor.

“It’s been a long-time coming,” said veteran Trustee Katharine Guthrie, during the discussion of this issue at the board’s Feb. 6 meeting.

“This would save thousands of dollars,” said Trustee Nick Donzello.

This statement didn’t get any arguments from Ayad, who conceded that costs are rising for the town to run its own municipal elections, every other April.

Under the change, forthcoming GMF elections, occurring on even-numbered years, would be included with a larger ballot encompassing a variety of entities in the region.  The elections would be coordinated by El Paso and Teller County officials, and the change would only cost the town government several hundred dollars.

The main downside of this plan involves a loss of possible local significance and appeal with the election scheduling change.  The ballots, involving GMF issues and candidate contests, would become much larger.

Still, the GMF trustees appeared to favor the change during a brief discussion on the issue at last week’s meeting.

Dealing with Dangerous and Expensive State Mandates

While the leaders appeared united on lowering election costs by partnering with clerk officials in adjacent counties, the board remained somewhat divided on whether the town should play a larger role in battling the state on a flurry of new legislation.

Mayor Todd Dixon cited 60 bills he is concerned about during the current session. For the most part, Dixon said he and other representatives of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments are worried about new laws that could negatively affect small communities, such as Green Mountain Falls.

At last week’s meeting, town leaders continued to express their dismay with new legislation, aimed at creating more requirements and new ADA (American Disability Act) standards for local government websites. Under these rules, towns could face big fines if they don’t comply with accessibility standards by this July. Some of these are being proposed to make government websites more accessible for those with visual and other impairments.  Also, in-person-only meetings would be prohibited, along with workshops that don’t have Zoom capabilities, according to the new state rules.

“I struggle with it,” said Dixon. “This is an unfunded mandate.”

Local leaders say the intent of the new laws are commendable, but the technology has not advanced enough to comply.  In fact, under the new regulations, the ability to offer archival material on websites, could become quite challenging and expensive.

“They lay out the rules without giving us a path forward,” said Guthrie.

Leaders admit they must monitor a whole litany of bills, presented by state lawmakers, which could impact GMF. They differed somewhat, though, on what type of action they should take, and the power that should be allotted to the mayor in serving as a lobbyist for the town on state legislative matters.

In other action, the board waived all the fees for this summer’s 86th Bronc Day celebration, being coordinated by a newly formed nonprofit, called Building Ute Pass Community.

Town leaders also briefly discussed efforts to join forces with the county’s anti-sanctuary status movement. El Paso County and the city of Colorado Springs have made it clear they don’t want to open their doors to illegal immigrants and gain the reputation of becoming a sanctuary hub like Denver.

Dixon said town leaders need to closely monitor this issue.  But no action was taken.