NO RATIONALE FOR PITI can't imagine any resident of Steamboat who does not take some degree of pleasure in looking out over the south valley floor, on their way up Rabbit Ears Pass or returning to Steamboat and does not say to themselves, "Look at this magnificent valley, this is what is special about Steamboat." As a longtime resident of Steamboat and as someone who makes their living involved in real estate, construction and development, I can't tell you how many times I've bragged to people about the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan because of the stance we adopted as a community and said "one thing that the residents of Steamboat have insisted on and demonstrated by adopting this document is that the sanctity of the valley floor will not be compromised by selling out for the sake of convenience or for financial gain. This is where we draw the line. It is just too important. The valley floor is the one constant, the distinguishing element of the character of the Yampa Valley that we all agreed must remain unchanged." How can we now even be considering compromising that mandate? And if there is any rational consideration for compromising this mandate, should it be in the interests of creating an industrial use in an otherwise pristine and natural setting when other viable alternatives exist?
We all appreciate that gravel is an essential element for the many uses it serves throughout the county, but if you could ask every resident of Steamboat what the most obvious and offensive visible eyesores in Routt County are, they would undoubtedly say they are the gravel pit operations and batch plants. They are a blight on the landscape. If you stand within visible range of any of the gravel pits and batch plants on the valley floor and scan the landscape, you can't help but be offended by the contrast between the beautiful valley floor vs. the stark industrial moonscape created by the gravel pit operations. Yet these are necessary evils. Necessary yes, but not in areas that are irreplaceable and so visible that they would insult the senses of everyone coming into and out of Steamboat. One of the things that we as a community have tried painstakingly to do was to at least be sensitive to maintaining the natural character and integrity of the portals into and out of Steamboat. What is being proposed here is in direct opposition to that stated goal.
There simply is no rational reason to permit this new gravel permit to be built in this location. We have made many compromises in Steamboat over the past two decades and clearly much has changed. Some changes have been positive and others, had we to do them over again, we wish might have done differently. They say hindsight is 20/20. Hopefully, so is your foresight. Look at the simulation photograph of the proposed More Gravel Pit and ask yourselves what your constituents would say, what would anyone looking at that potential eyesore would say if they had your choice of leaving the valley floor pristine or having to endure the sight of that gravel pit operation every time they drove into or out of Steamboat. We have better options. What we don't have is the ability to undo a bad mistake once it's been made. Be good stewards of the land. Uphold the spirit of the Steamboat Area Community Plan and say no to Lafarge. The community is relying on you and the best interests of the entire community are in your hands.
THE CHOICES FACEDOn Nov. 6, the voters of Steamboat Springs face choices that will certainly affect the long-term development and quality of life in our community. Ballot initiative 3A dealing with school district salaries is a measure that will have long-range effects.
Over the past few years there has been a noticeable and marked increase in teacher turnover due both to retirements and teachers leaving due to a high cost of living. At the same time a state and national teaching shortage is emerging. The Steamboat Springs School District engages in a rigorous interview process in an effort to get the best teachers possible for all positions. Yet over the past several years it has not been unusual for multiple candidates to turn down offers of positions when they find out how far behind other districts our salary schedule is and how high our cost of living is.
Steamboat Springs' salary schedule is currently well below many on the Front Range and districts as close as Moffat County. If we want to maintain a quality teaching staff, we must deal with the economic reality that the market for educators, and especially for dedicated quality educators, is highly competitive. Educators will seek opportunities where they can get ahead, raise a family, buy a home and have some chances to enjoy life. They cannot do that if they have to work a second and third job in order to live here. We want to focus and concentrate our energies on our teaching, not on waiting tables.
There have been many people who have stated that teaching is a "part-time" job. While a teaching contract is 185 days, most, if not all, teachers extend this by engaging in other aspects of their jobs that go well beyond being in front of the students. Educators plan curriculum, grade papers, attend professional conferences and do many other things too numerous to list here. Drive by any of the schools on Saturdays and Sundays, during the summer, or during vacations and you will notice many teachers working on their "off time." Last year I worked hours equivalent to 62 full-time weeks. The extra hours are on weekends, in the summer and often at night.
This proposal deals with salaries for all district employees. Secretaries, custodians, aides and administrators are all crucial parts of the educational process for our students. These are hardworking individuals who all give the students of Steamboat Springs the best possible education. Their salaries have also fallen well behind those of the private sector.
Much information that has recently been presented is deceptive. Many of the salaries for teachers include extra duties such as coaching. There is no "vacation leave" for teachers and professional leave is for teaching conferences that are scheduled during the school year. Tenure has not existed in the state of Colorado for several years and dismissing a teacher requires documentation and due process, a foundation of the American legal system. Finally, sales-tax money cannot be used for use on salary schedules. Another reader recently asked me why we can't work a second or third job. Many times educators are working extra jobs, sometimes they just happen to be with the school district.
Ask yourself if you really want cut-rate teachers? Would you go to a cut-rate doctor, attorney, plumber or mechanic? Studies have consistently demonstrated that the best predicator of student success is the quality of the teacher. Quality teachers will demand quality salaries and benefits. The employees of Steamboat Springs schools, and all schools, consistently go a great job of educating our students. If we want to continue to have schools we are proud of we have to take measures to ensure funding mechanisms that will allow us to attract quality
Martin L. Lamansky
THE BIGGER ISSUEI have never gone to a gravel pit meeting before Oct. 18. Now I have gone to two meetings, and I wish I didn't have to go to any more. But as a landowner in the south valley, it is unfortunately my duty and in my best interest to keep attending.
What really came to my attention at the Tuesday meeting concerning the extension of the Lafarge South Pit is just how petty and personal this can all become, and I, too, have not been entirely innocent in this regard.
From a personal standpoint, I do not want a gravel pit anywhere near my home, for reasons that I assume are very obvious. But I have been made very aware that my personal views are now being ridiculed and are possibly somewhat petty in the large scope of things.
But in the large scope of things, the south valley does not need the intrusion of any more gravel pits.
This is an issue that goes way beyond the rights of many. We keep hearing about the rights of the neighbors, the rights of the landowners and the rights of the Lafarge employees.
We keep hearing about everybody's needs for "aggregate," about location and who lived here first.
But this dilemma is so much bigger than any one individual or any one group, and this proposal of a new gravel pit isn't just about traffic issues, views, wetlands and noise.
I am feeling petty, once again, because the very thought that a gravel pit could actually be approved in this new proposed site seems to me to be entirely unthinkable.
Once upon a time, preservation and open space consciousness were not priorities anywhere, and in some areas of our country, they still aren't.
Steamboat Springs, and most all other resort communities that I am aware of, are actively employing preservation and open-spaced consciousness in order to maintain a beautiful environment that upholds the quality of life and land that the town and community are supposed to offer those living here or those just passing through.
We will destroy all of this if there is to be another gravel pit in the gateway of our town.
I don't have any answers.
I know we need gravel, but it should become a priority to find appropriate sites that exist beyond a designated perimeter of the town and that do not destroy the entire flavor of the country and a community.