Hayden resident Sam Haslem said the time to talk to an elected official is before the election. And with Election Day set for Tuesday, he and other concerned Hayden residents participated in an open-question forum with the candidates Wednesday night.
Four residents are competing for three seats on the Hayden Town Board: incumbents Ken Gibbon, Lorraine Johnson and Richard "Festus" Hagins; and one newcomer, Recreation Board member Richard Bush. Mayor Chuck Grobe is running uncontested for his third consecutive term.
Forum mediator Mark Fischer asked the candidates to address several pressing issues in town, including growth, a recent request for a 670-acre annexation, the water supply and town spending.
Fischer said developers' request for a large annexation, which would involve building a golf course, seemed to be Hayden's biggest issue.
Gibbon said the development is one of the main reasons he is running.
"We need to follow what's in our master plan that we recently drafted and where the ink's not even dry yet," he said. "It says we need to grow within our boundaries before annexation."
Johnson said residential growth should be accompanied by commercial growth to create jobs and minimize dependence on other Yampa Valley communities.
Surveyor and Hayden Economic Development Commission member Gordon Dowling said the town should annex the land so that it would have control over what happens there. If the town doesn't, he said, the developers could request to subdivide 35-acre lots in the county.
HEDC Vice President Don Johnson echoed Dowling's comment.
Hagins said he agreed that gaining control over that land would be beneficial, but he is indecisive because of the master plan. "Part of me says let's annex, and part of me says not to annex," he said.
The candidates also were asked how they felt, overall, about growth.
All said it is inevitable but that they want it managed correctly.
Bush said he thinks more communication, perhaps monthly joint meetings, with other entities in town such as the School Board and community groups, could help the town better understand the vision of the community and attract business growth. Hagins and Lorraine Johnson agreed.
Gibbon said the town is proactive in regards to growth issues, particularly in planning and in business recruitment through the newly formed HEDC.
Hagins said that boosting community pride and involvement would be one step toward being proactive. He said improving and promoting town activities could help.
Bush said recreation is "just as important as anything," because implementing sidewalks, trails and bringing more recreational opportunities would enhance the quality of life and entice families to live in Hayden.
"We're a recreational society," Gibbon said, agreeing with Bush. "Recreation is what attracts people in this area."
Grobe said infrastructure improvement should not be sacrificed for recreation.
Don Johnson said people should live in Hayden because they want to, not because they have to.
Attendance at the forum was low, perhaps because of a winter sports banquet at Hayden High School.
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