In less than a month, voters will head to the primaries to choose between two Republican candidates for the District 2 county commissioner seat, both promising to bring a fresh perspective and needed change to the county.
Jeff Fry and Mark Marchus will square off Aug. 10 for the Republican spot on the November ballot. The winner of the primary will challenge incumbent Democrat Doug Monger.
"I think what Routt County is really needing somebody with experience dealing with land and roads and bridges ... and some new and innovative ideas, and I think I'm the best candidate to do that," Fry said.
Fry's priorities include keeping costs of the new justice center down, chip-and-sealing more county roads, fully funding the county sheriff's department, and giving the go-ahead for a gravel pit somewhere in the south valley.
A top priority for Marchus is making government easier to use. Marchus supports providing affordable housing opportunities, keeping county services downtown, and making sure development across the county pays its own way. He supports a gravel pit somewhere in the south valley.
"What I bring to this campaign and to Routt County is a wide variety of experience in what good government really looks like and ... how it should be run," Marchus said. "I think that experience should aid me in helping Routt County become more of a user-friendly, consumer-oriented, 'listen to the constituents in the county' sort of government."
Fry grew up in Steamboat Springs, graduated from Steamboat Springs High School in 1976, and later moved with his wife to a ranch north of Hayden. There, they have a small cattle operation and raise their three children.
Fry said he feels strongly that, given the county's tight budget, there have to be "more creative new ideas to save money." The new justice center is creating that tight budget, Fry said, so all steps to keep the center's costs down should be taken.
If elected, Fry said he would work hard to help the construction engineer decrease the $15.5 million price tag by at least 10 percent through value engineering.
Fry also said he felt county commissioners made the right choice to build the justice center just west of downtown, and that the Steamboat Springs City Council should have been more proactive in helping the county address parking, traffic and cost differences with the site if the city wanted it to stay downtown.
County roads that are now gravel should be chip-and-sealed, he said, and officers with the sheriff's department should be paid as much as those with the city, to prevent officers from leaving the county.
Fry said he feels strongly that Emerald Mountain in Steamboat Springs should be preserved with outside funds, and not through swapping small Bureau of Land Management parcels across the county, as proposed in the Emerald Mountain Land Swap. Selling those small parcels, he said, could lead to more development, and loss of habitat for sage grouse, which is close to being listed as an endangered species.
Fry thinks the Yampa Valley Regional Airport and the Steamboat Springs Airport should stay open, mostly for safety reasons, and that a gravel pit is needed to support construction in the area south of Steamboat.
"It's not a political issue for me, it's a need issue for the people of the South Valley," Fry said.
Fry said he is running for this office because "I'm committed to this area, and it's important to me."
He encouraged people to go to the polls Aug. 10 to vote in the primaries.
"I think people are looking for somebody who has not been involved in government, and has new and fresh ideas," Fry said.
Marchus credits his 30 years of experience working with building departments of different sizes for preparing him to serve the county as a commissioner.
Making county government easier to use is of utmost importance to Marchus. Some of that starts with keeping an open door to all residents, something Marchus said he did as Routt County's chief building official.
"My door was always open," he said. "If you had a problem, let's come in, let's sit down, and let's work out a solution."
Marchus said that as chief building official, he took a building department that was perceived as being not easy to use, and turned it into a department that contractors across the county support and find useful.
Marchus was terminated from that position in February on allegations that he did not create a good working environment at the department and violated county gift polices by taking trash stones from a contractor. Marchus has denied those allegations, and the building community has supported him. He is now involved in a lawsuit over the termination with the county.
Marchus has lived in Routt County with his wife since 1998.
Affordable housing is a key issue to Marchus, who said he feels that efforts to provide affordable homes are only addressing one-third of the problem. Assistance should be available to seasonal employees, and to those who need help buying an apartment or condominium, he said.
One important goal for the county is to make the Yampa Valley Regional Airport self-sufficient, he said. As for the Steamboat Springs Airport, Marchus said he supports keeping it open for safety benefits.
On the topic of gravel pits, Marchus said it's obvious the county is in a "building boom," and that gravel for driveways and roads and projects has to come from a pit somewhere, because it can't be manufactured. The more important issues are mitigating effects of the gravel pit while it's operating, then properly reclaiming the land at the end.
Marchus said he supports the idea of the Emerald Mountain land swap, but that the process of gathering funds and selling parcels was flawed, and is what most people disagreed with.
On many of the "hot issues," he said, it's tough to say how he would decide, because he would need to sit as commissioner first and receive all the information available and talk with all the people involved.
Although Marchus received just less than the 30 percent of votes he needed at the Republican Assembly to be placed on the primary ballot, he petitioned to get on the ballot.
Polls open for the primary election at 7 a.m. Aug. 10. Voters also can vote early from Aug. 2 to 6, and can vote absentee before Aug. 3.
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