Changing of the Guard in Green Mountain Falls!

New GMF Leaders Take Office; Prime Land Deal Announced

Rick Langenberg

Why should Woodland Park have all the fun, when it comes to the changing of the local municipal guard and the exchange of the leadership torch to new elected officials?

In a surprising ceremony for Green Mountain Falls, a community not known for competitive elections, newly-elected trustees John Bell and Don Walker officially took office last week. Both of the new board members are well-known community figures involved in local volunteer activities and projects.

And for the second time in the last two years, Mayor Todd Dixon formerly took the oath again as the head council leader.

The fact that GMF had a contested election, and even conducted a candidates’ forum, is unusual for a town that often has to do serious recruiting to get citizens to serve on their head elected leadership board.

Town Clerk/Treasurer Bo Ayad classified the recent election “as a huge success. “All the candidates ran great campaigns,” said Ayad.

Unlike the recent municipal showdown in Woodland Park, no negative bomb shells were hurled across social media or even traditional news outlets, with most of the focus on the issues and the professional experience of the individual candidates. Moreover, the town clerk reported a fairly smooth process, with no hiccups and hardly any returned ballots due to faulty signatures. “The people who wanted to vote got to vote,” said Ayad.

Oddly enough, the April election in GMF emerged as the last time the town will host a spring municipal election.  By an overwhelming margin, voters supported a ballot issue to change the time of the city’s election from April to November, and to have these future votes and ballots coordinated by the clerk’s offices in El Paso and Teller counties. In other words, GMF elections will no longer become a function of the local government.

An Emotional Good-bye

In the characteristic tone of past changing of the guard ceremonies, last week’s meeting featured a few emotional good-byes.

Outgoing Trustee Katharine Guthrie, a familiar fixture at the council table for various administrations,  bid farewell. Guthrie, in a few emotional comments, thanked the community for their support. “It has been an honor to serve,” said Guthrie, who besides her role with the trustees, has headed the local chamber of commerce and a summer music series, and been involved with Bronc Day.

She stated that she also learned the lessons of serving the community as a whole, as a member of the board. “It changes your voice. You can no longer speak from self-interest.”

Guthrie served on the board during some tumultuous times in GMF, such as when the COVID-19 epidemic struck the community, which shut down all local operations and nearly closed area recreational trails.  Plus, she was part of the board during the infamous Parking-Gate furor when a previous administration attempted the failed policy of paid-parking.

During her time on the board, Guthrie said she learned the importance of not bowing to self-serving interest groups and representing the community as a whole.

The newly-elected trustee members got their feet wet quite early in the process, and found themselves grappling with such issues as bio-friendly toilets, trail maps, budget details, and of course details of the massive snowstorm that delivered record-breaking snow totals.

A Great Land Deal

In probably the biggest announcement of the evening, Dixon advised the board of a potential great opportunity for a new prime land acquisition from Colorado Springs Utilities, located of Ute Pass Avenue, near the public works facility. Better yet, he noted the deal will come with an acquisition price of zero dollars, other than some probable maintenance costs.

“This is an exciting opportunity,” said Dixon.  “It is a great opportunity for virtually no investment from the town.” The area would give the town a nearly 16,000-square-foot area in a prime, completely flat spot that it can use for parking, equipment storage, needed gravel for road improvements and a staging spot for contractors. Securing area for storing equipment for contractors has become a touchy subject locally.

“To me, it is a no-brainer,” said the mayor. More than anything, he described the property, which the town could use for a variety of purposes, as absolutely ideal because of its flat terrain, a quality practically unheard of across town.

In fact, he estimated that if the town had to purchase this property, it could cost more than $200,000. Under the pact proposed, the town would just have to enter into a revocable permit agreement with CSU.  With that arrangement, the property would still have to allow CSU access to the land. Other details would still have to get worked out, as far as what uses would be allowed.

Dixon expressed much optimism about the proposal.

The new trustees, meanwhile, wanted to take a little more cautious approach, and seek comment from the planning commission and adjacent neighbors, if they had concerns.

But the trustees signaled the green light for endorsing the idea of proceeding with a formal agreement with CSU over the property and finalizing a revocable permit for the area.

Storm Aftermath

The trustees also heard a regular a road update by Public Works Director Dustin McClain. The public works chief didn’t mince words in describing the impacts of the recent storm, touted as the biggest snow assault the town experienced since 1997. He noted that the town has already received 100-plus inches of snow in an account that rivals reports recorded at area snow resorts.

On the downside, he stated that this has produced tough impacts for its limited equipment.

He stated that the roads are not being prepared for the forthcoming monsoon season, with mag chloride applications slated for mid-May.

McClain was complimented for the services he provided during the storm.