Oak Creek candidates share perspectives

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In preparation for Tuesday’s Oak Creek Town Board election, all candidates responded to a questionnaire about their priorities and stances on the issues in Oak Creek.

Mayoral candidate

The following candidate is running for mayor unopposed.

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Nikki Knoebel is running unopposed for mayor of Oak Creek.

Nikki Knoebel

Age: 38

Occupation: Special events manager

Prior political experience: Oak Creek town trustee, October 2009 to present

Hometown: Fort Smith, Ark.

Years in Oak Creek: Eight

Family: Tim Knoebel

Civic Involvement: Some of my civic involvements include: 2008 – present, Steamboat Ice Rink Advisory Committee; 2008 – present, Oak Creek Hockey Association, Chix with Stix Board member. Through Catamount, I have hosted a variety of charitable events: Hospice, Advocates, Penguin Plunge, Youth Hockey, Yampatika and the Figure Skating Club.

Q. The town is in the midst of several major infrastructure upgrades, with a wastewater treatment plant, pipes and water tower all being replaced or repaired. Where do you think resources in the town are most needed? The town has struggled to provide water meters and to pave more streets; do you think these items should be a high priority?

A. I think paving the streets in Oak Creek is important but very costly. Our first priority is to replace a majority of the water distribution lines before we can pave. Both of those items come at a cost of approximately $2 million.

Q. Supporting the town’s businesses and general economy are more important now than before the recession hit. How do you propose the Oak Creek Town Board develop the town’s economy?

A. As a board, we are trying to come up with ways to help the local economy. The creation of a downtown business association would help the businesses communicate and advertise weekly promotions, discounts and special events. The town of Oak Creek can add events such as a running or bike race, “Oak Creek Days” or expand on the Labor Day festivities to help bring more people to the town. Community involvement is a priority, and making Main Street user-friendly will help promote the great local restaurants, grocery store and liquor store. Our monthly newsletter helps promote the businesses and keep the community informed of ongoing events, specials, live entertainment and discounts.

Q. Several candidates have mentioned a need to increase services for children in town. Do you believe this issue is a high priority? Why or why not, and what would you do?

A. One of our goals is to have a high “quality of life” in Oak Creek. We want to attract young families who cannot afford to live in Steamboat to choose Oak Creek over other surrounding towns. We want to be a family-oriented town with a focus on kid-friendly activities. The local ice rink has been a huge asset to the town, bringing family and friends together in a positive atmosphere. The ice rink draws people from the surrounding areas for adult hockey tournaments, youth hockey games and skating exhibitions. We hope to incorporate the rink for summer activities, either as a venue for roller blading or hosting a farmers or flea market.

Q. The Oak Creek Town Board has recently passed regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries, and a moratorium on approving building changes to allow medical marijuana cultivation. Were these appropriate actions? How would you have handled the situation? And what are the next steps?

A. Yes, I think medical marijuana was dealt with appropriately. Even though the state of Colorado made it legal, they left the local municipality to govern and regulate the new law, which has proven to be more difficult than anticipated. One positive result is the town of Oak Creek will benefit from the sales tax. In the future, the state of Colorado will need to put into place statewide regulations similar to those pertaining to liquor.

Q. The town's police department, after many troubles in the past, now has one officer. The community service officer was let go during the probationary period and there is no talk of rehiring for that position. Are you happy with the current police force? Why or why not, and what would you like to see in the future?

A. I am very pleased with our new police force in Oak Creek. I think Lance is the perfect person for the job. Yes, I think a community service officer is important to have, especially during the summer months. We need to take a close look at the budget and evaluate if the position is cost-effective before making the decision.

Open-ended:

We originally moved to Oak Creek eight years ago after getting married because it was affordable, but we stayed because we felt welcomed by the town, people and local businesses. Oak Creek has a diverse group of people that make our town special. Being mayor, I feel that I can bring new energy and ideas to help stimulate the local economy. I have no special interests or agendas; I just want to see our town thrive. Even though I do not have kids, I see the importance of improving and developing kid programs and promoting community unity and taking pride in our town. Through my job at Catamount, I have extensive knowledge of budgets, finances, fundraising and special events. All qualities that I feel can help me lead and make great decisions for Oak Creek.

Town Board Trustee candidates

These five candidates are vying for four open seats on the Oak Creek Town Board. The top three vote-getters will win four-year terms, and the fourth-highest vote-getter will get a two-year term.

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Oak Creek Town Board candidate Bernard Gagne was appointed to a vacancy on the board earlier this year and is one of five candidates running for the trustee positions in the election Tuesday.

Bernard ‘Bernie’ Gagne

Age: 46

Occupation: Director of facilities maintenance, Catamount Ranch & Club in Steamboat Springs

Prior political experience: Appointed to the Town Board in January to fill the seat of a previous board member who resigned. I also ran for trustee in the 2008 elections.

Hometown: Adams, Mass.

Years in Oak Creek: Six-year Oak Creek resident, 29-year Colorado resident

Family: Single, no children (My father is moving to Oak Creek from Massachusetts in June.)

Civic involvement: Active attendee of Oak Creek Town Hall meetings for over four years, active registered voter for 29 years with a keen interest in local and national politics and current events. I’ve also contributed to charitable causes my entire adult life (food banks, volunteering, local fundraisers, “ringing the bell” etc.).

Q. Supporting the town’s businesses and general economy are more important now than before the recession hit. How do you propose the Oak Creek Town Board develop the town’s economy?

A. Indeed, this is very important. Several local businesses have closed their doors and many others are suffering. Many South Routt residents are unemployed or under-employed, which ultimately means less money for food, utilities or entertainment. The town’s tax revenues are decreasing at an alarming rate. To begin the process of rebounding economically, there are several things we must look at: First, stimulate local business by increasing activity in town by supporting projects like the Community Garden, which will give us a summer activity at the skating rink, and possibly lead to flea markets or even a farmers market; any of these will increase consumer presence in town. Second, revitalize the South Routt Economic Development Council ... a board member (or mayor) should be appointed to the council to actively pursue new ideas and opportunities. Other ideas have been discussed too, such as “Buy Local” programs (a must) and discounts on water bills for supporting local businesses (via receipts or coupons). ... Honestly, this is a time when we need to pull together as a community and support each other however we can. ... Buy local! Hire local contractors! Boost the community spirit! We should all support our local businesses, which in turn will help the town as a whole.

Q. The town is in the midst of several major infrastructure upgrades, with a wastewater treatment plant, pipes and water tower all being replaced or repaired. Where do you think resources in the town are most needed? The town has struggled to provide water meters and to pave more streets; do you think these items should be a high priority?

A. These are very high priorities. The immediate priority, I believe, is the prompt completion of the Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) reconstruction. This brings to close a multiyear, multimillion-dollar effort started in 2007, and it’ll be great to have such a large undertaking completed. With the WWTP and Waste Collection Systems replaced, we can focus on the Domestic Water Supply issues. Water Storage is of utmost concern as the present storage tank is deteriorating and must be replaced or possibly repaired. The town recently qualified for a grant from HUD/DOLA (Department of Local Affairs) to complete the engineering side of the project, and then we’ll research funding for the construction phase. The filtration and pump systems also require some attention, and beyond that is assessment of the distribution lines that require upgrades. Paving of streets is a goal we must strive for, but only after the water lines have been replaced — as that requires digging up the streets again. Also, paving of streets in Enterprise Zone 1 (Central business district) should be a higher priority than side streets … and do we consider chip and seal for side streets? Finally, the water meter installation is a challenge with many factors, i.e. the present water-based revenues must be retained with or without meters, the water supply lines should be replaced prior to meter installations, installations at many residences may prove challenging due to physical difficulties, and finally there’s the cost of the project to consider. The meter installation must be done for a variety of reasons, but it may take six-10 years to implement.

Q. Several candidates have mentioned a need to increase services for children in town. Do you believe this issue is a high priority? Why or why not, and what would you do?

A.This is a priority because there is a vacuum of available programs or venues for kids in town, and it’s more than just an Oak Creek concern; it is a concern for all of the South Routt community. To have additional programs to involve local kids and those in outlying areas is important. … The increased usage of the skating rink for child hockey and figure skating is great to see and should be encouraged. It’s my understanding that we have more programs (at the rink) forthcoming for the kids, and I support that completely. Also, the board recently discussed grants that are available to install a new basketball court, volleyball court and make other improvements at Decker Park; we should pursue these grants aggressively to support our youth …

Q. The Oak Creek Town Board has recently passed regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries, and a moratorium on approving building changes to allow medical marijuana cultivation. Were these appropriate actions? How would you have handled the situation? And what are the next steps?

A.I believe both were appropriate actions. Having researched this topic vigorously, I am convinced the appropriate actions were taken by the board as well as the Planning Commission, which voted to recommend approval of the dispensary license. In the year 2000, the voters of Colorado approved a ballot initiative to legalize “medical marijuana.” In 2001, the state Legislature passed into law (Colorado Revised Statute 0-4-287 Article XVIII, Section 14) the guidelines describing when, where, who, why medical marijuana is to be prescribed. The statute does not, however, address the details of rules and regulations governing such businesses. Therefore, towns like ours have been left to create proper ordinances regulating these types of businesses. … As a town trustee, my primary obligation is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the town’s citizens, and I believe our actions have been in accordance with that obligation. After the elections, it’s on the agenda for the board to create an ordinance regulating marijuana cultivation in town.

Q. The town’s police department, after many troubles in the past, now has one officer. The community service officer was let go during the probationary period, and there is no talk of rehiring for that position. Are you happy with the current police force? Why or why not, and what would you like to see in the future?

A.Yes, I am very satisfied with the current police force, and yes, there are plans to hire another community service officer. At present we have one full-time, year-round officer (Lance, he’s great). We have budgeted monies to hire another CSO. We also have a seasonal officer to help out in the busier summer months. Having said that, I believe there is no need for three officers on staff at any time, and given our declining tax revenues, we may only be able to afford Lance and one seasonal/part-time CSO. In any case, I am committed to the safety and security of Oak Creek residents. I’ve assisted a number of local businesses with their security concerns, and have attended the court appearances of several individuals who’ve committed crimes in Oak Creek in order to inform myself and others of the status of those cases and their prosecution.

Open-ended:

I’m humbled to ask the residents of Oak Creek for their vote on April 6. As I’ve said, there is a lot of work to be done in town, and I’m willing to make that commitment. I assure you that I’m committed to the town and will make wise, prudent and thoughtful decisions on behalf of our residents. I have very strong project management skills and strong fiscal experience — both of which are important at this time. I’m available to assist residents with their concerns. My professional experience includes extensive electronics and electrical project management, extensive plumbing and water supply experience, and extensive personnel management skills, to name a few. I will dedicate the required time, energy, and skills for the betterment of Oak Creek, its residents and its employees!

For anyone with questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact me by phone at 819-3624.

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Oak Creek business owner Lawrence Jaconetta is running for Oak Creek Town Board. Jaconetta said he wants to become a member of the board so he can serve the community and figure out the best ways to bring business to town.

Lawrence Jaconetta (LJ)

Age: 33

Occupation: Owner of Local Flavor, OC Inkdrilling, Lupitas Cantina, South Routt Computer Guys

Prior political experience: none

Hometown: Palmer, Mass.

Years in Oak Creek: Five, 14 in Routt

Family: Wife Paula Jaconetta, daughter Lupita

Civic involvement: (moderate at best)

Q. Supporting the town’s businesses and general economy are more important now than before the recession hit. How do you propose the Oak Creek Town Board develop the town’s economy?

A.The question should be how do we maintain rather than develop. I’m sure this question has been rattled around board members and community members for years with little result. This will be a big challenge that can’t be summed up in 100 words — may take 100 work sessions. Fresh ideas and new traditions will be my focus.

Q.The town is in the midst of several major infrastructure upgrades, with a wastewater treatment plant, pipes and water tower all being replaced or repaired. Where do you think resources in the town are most needed? The town has struggled to provide water meters and to pave more streets; do you think these items should be a high priority?

A.Absolutely. Need for good infrastructure has been at the heels of this town for a long time.

Q.Several candidates have mentioned a need to increase services for children in town. Do you believe this issue is a high priority? Why or why not, and what would you do?

A.Without having all the facts to determine what services are needed and obtainable rationally, it is impossible to assign a priority level. It's impossible for me to make a sound comment on this subject other than that I have a daughter that is one and a half.

Q.The Oak Creek Town Board has recently passed regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries, and a moratorium on approving building changes to allow medical marijuana cultivation. Were these appropriate actions? How would you have handled the situation? And what are the next steps?

A.I agree with the present board decision.

Q.The town's police department, after many troubles in the past, now has one officer. The community service officer was let go during the probationary period and there is no talk of rehiring for that position. Are you happy with the current police force? Why or why not, and what would you like to see in the future?

A.Yes I am happy. And nothing particular.

Open-ended:

It would be best if you did not vote for me so I could spend that time with my family. If I do end up on the board, I'll give it my all, learn from the experience, help the town make solid, well-informed decisions on current situations, town business, economic growth, and above all, improve the quality of life that we all call OC.

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Johrene Meyers-Story is one of five running for four open Town Board trustee positions.

Johrene Meyers-Story

Hometown: Born and raised in Routt County

Family: Husband Dan Story, children are Aidan, 7, and Bella, 5

Civic involvement: I supported and helped with student council both in high school and in college. I am currently signed up as part of the Oak Creek Labor Day Committee for 2010. I am currently the co-president of the Oak Creek Hockey Association.

Q. Supporting the town’s businesses and general economy are more important now than before the recession hit. How do you propose the Oak Creek Town Board develop the town’s economy?

A.The current board has worked very hard on the town’s budget and is continuing to do so. I feel that the current board has made great progress with this issue. Realistically, though, it is not just about our current financial standing but developing ways to bring money into our community and sustaining our current business owners and homeowners. I am a huge supporter of economic development. The town of OC has the best coffee shop, the best thrift store, the best family-run restaurants, and we used to have the best Chinese food in all of Routt County. The museum in OC is wonderful and well cared for by longtime volunteers that are continually educating all of us of the heritage that the town holds. We sit among the most amazing mountains (The Flat Tops) that provide everyone with outdoor adventure, yet there are people who live in Routt County that haven’t even been to South Routt let alone know about the Flat Tops. We as a board and as a town need to “think outside of the box”! The town of OC needs a “town manager,” we need a “visitor center” if we want our current businesses to stay open and the town to prosper economically in the future.

Q.Where do you think resources in the town are most needed? The town has struggled to provide water meters and to pave more streets; do you think these items should be a high priority?

A.I feel that the main resources that the town is needing at this point in time is understanding and results concerning the water issues that the town has been dealing with for quite some time. I do support the current board and Bob Redding with the progress that they are making with the infrastructure repairs that are currently being done with the pipes, waste treatment plant and water tank. I am not against water meters for the town of OC, but I personally would like to do more research on water meters to make sure that they will be the most accurate and efficient option for both the town and citizens. Concerning more paved streets, well, I do have to be honest and say there is something really cool to me that my kids are growing up in a town with dirt roads; they provide that small-town, country feel, and I like that. On the other hand, I do think that the roads of OC need repairs and I think it is important to look at certain “hubs” of the town that should be paved.

Q.Several candidates have mentioned a need to increase services for children in town. Do you believe this issue is a high priority? Why or why not, and what would you do?

A.I absolutely believe that there is a need for a recreation area for the youth in the community as well as all community members. I feel very strongly that this is a priority and it is needed in the community, hands down! In order to provide this service, we need to look at what spaces we already have, for example the park and the ice rink. If we could use both or one of these spaces as an area for kids to come and play basketball, skateboard, roller blade, play tennis, volleyball or ultimately, one day, a local swimming pool. It is so important to me not just as a mother but also as a caring community member that our community has the option to be active and that the town provides an area that is safe and supports health and good growth for the youth. Funding for the recreation center will take some thought and creativity, but I feel that applying for a grant would be a good start in funding the needed recreation.

Q.The Oak Creek Town Board has recently passed regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries, and a moratorium on approving building changes to allow medical marijuana cultivation. Were these appropriate actions? How would you have handled the situation? And what are the next steps?

A.First of all, people need to remember that medical marijuana dispensaries are a legal business under the state of Colorado. We as the town of OC, or any other town in the state of Colorado cannot turn away a business that is creditable within the state of Colorado. Legally the OC Town Board had to allow this business, and I strongly feel that the current board has worked very, very hard to make sure that we don’t make the same mistakes as surrounding towns have concerning this issue. This is also an issue that is still being more defined with in the OC Town Board, as within many other town boards in Colorado. I can assure you that no one on the current Town Board or myself are not taking this issue seriously and do not have the community’s best interests at heart. Everyone needs to be patient with this issue and trust his or her town boards. If you are angry concerning the medical marijuana cultivation then the reality is you should be mad at the state of Colorado for leaving all of the counties and towns of Colorado to define a law that has been left unfinished and loose ended by the state.

Q.The town's police department, after many troubles in the past, now has one officer. The community service officer was let go during the probationary period and there is no talk of rehiring for that position. Are you happy with the current police force? Why or why not, and what would you like to see in the future?

A.I am very happy with Lance, and I feel that he is a great fit for our community and our needs. I do think that if we could get another part-time officer that has a similar police background as Lance then the town of OC will be set. Concerning the community service officer, this seems to be a position that doesn’t work too well for our community. Yes we do have a lot of dogs at large, and this seems to be the biggest complaint I hear from community members, but I think that maybe our police officer could give out tickets or warnings concerning the issue. Plus, it is important to make sure that our town has the money to financially support a community service officer, and if the town does, then it needs to be looked at more carefully to make sure that a community service officer would be better than another part-time police officer.

Open-ended:

I was born and raised in Routt County. My father was John Meyers (lineman for YVEA) and my mother is Irene Meyers (RN @ YVMC). My parents raised me to have strong morals and values that have been my cement for life. This has helped me to be (and continue to strive to be) the outgoing, approachable, ethical and educated individual I am today.

My husband, Dan Story, and I bought our first home and current home here in Oak Creek two and a half years ago (I did a lot of growing up in OC with my aunt and uncle, Noreen and Dinty Moore, owner and founders of Dinty Moore’s Pizza).

My husband and I have two children, Aidan 7 years old and Bella 5 years old. It is very important to us to be sure that we raise our children with a strong sense of morality, values, and respect for themselves and others and to understand what it means to be part of a community.

I graduated from Steamboat Springs High School in 1999. I attended Ventura College in Ventura, Calif., from 1999-2001.

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Oak Creek Town Board candidate Linda Price said since her six children have left home, she’s ready to join the Town Board after more than 34 years in the town.

Linda Price

Age: I am of legal age to run for the Oak Creek Town Board. That is not a politically correct question; I thought your mother would have told you that.

Prior political experience: No real political experience prior to this endeavor. In my younger years, I was busy raising my family. However, I have always been interested and now I have the time to be seriously involved.

Hometown: My hometown is Haxtun, Colo., in the northeastern corner, near Sterling.

Years in Oak Creek: I have been in Oak Creek for 34 1/2 years.

Family: I am divorced with six grown children, all of whom were raised in Oak Creek.

Civic involvement: When my family moved to Oak Creek in 1975, Labor Day, this was a pretty rough community, at night anyway! But in the daytime, our seniors were at the post office and walking about town; they were and are Oak Creek. After meeting many of them, I wanted to stay and be a part of this family. At that time there was no kids’ baseball team, so I contacted Bob Adams at the Twentymile Coal Mine, the owner at that time, and he told me he would help the community with a field if I found an organization to help get us going. I then contacted the Babe Ruth Baseball League and went to several meetings in Denver with both Mr. Adams and the league representatives; they did everything after that. A field was put in at the high school, which was eventually moved to its present location and replaced by the parking lot. Many people from the mine and community pulled together to make this a reality, and I stayed on the board for a couple of years, but I was more into the game, not the politics.

Later, as I became more involved in the church, we held many kids’ programs and activities for the youth in town.

Q.Supporting the town’s businesses and general economy are more important now than before the recession hit. How do you propose the Oak Creek Town Board develop the town’s economy?

A.Town businesses and the general economy have always struggled. It is hard for people to spend local, since we all need to get the best buy for every penny. We need to upgrade our main street, Colorado Highway 131, and open our doors, flowing out onto the sidewalks, giving the people driving through a reason to slow down and hopefully stop and shop. We as locals need to walk or at least park on the side streets and use our parking lots. If people can’t park easily, they won’t stop. Also, a local coupon sheet using the town letter and local customer lottery drawings.

Q.The town is in the midst of several major infrastructure upgrades, with a wastewater treatment plant, pipes and water tower all being replaced or repaired. Where do you think resources in the town are most needed? The town has struggled to provide water meters and to pave more streets; do you think these items should be a high priority?

A.I think we need to complete the projects that are under way. We still have water leaks popping up on Sharp Avenue, which the town crew is staying on top of with repairs. Until all are satisfied that all of our mains are as close to 100 percent as possible, paving of the streets in question would not be cost-effective. However, if and when the funds are available, paving on other roads would be good for community enhancement. Water meters would be helpful to budget water usage, but can the town or property owners handle this expense at this time?

Q.Several candidates have mentioned a need to increase services for children in town. Do you believe this issue is a high priority? Why or why not, and what would you do?

A.Kids fall through the cracks; I think we need to find ways to get our young people interested. Go to the schools, ask students, get them involved in the community. Maybe find some grant money to start a department and employ some youth to help grow civic and community projects that their age groups are interested in. Our future lies in our young people, and now is as good a time as any to teach them if they want something they have to work for it. We as community leaders and parents need to help by showing them the way.

Q.The Oak Creek Town Board has recently passed regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries, and a moratorium on approving building changes to allow medical marijuana cultivation. Were these appropriate actions? How would you have handled the situation? And what are the next steps?

A.The medical marijuana issue is a sign of the times. I feel the board has a good grip on the situation and seems to be working through all legal questions as best they can. I do think that commercial cultivation sites should be in the industrial part of town; Arthur Avenue and industrial home growers should fall under the cottage industry ordinance, if possible. Any additional dispensaries should be dealt with on a per capita basis.

Q.The town's police department, after many troubles in the past, now has one officer. The community service officer was let go during the probationary period, and there is no talk of rehiring for that position. Are you happy with the current police force? Why or why not, and what would you like to see in the future?

A.This is another question of what can we as a community afford. Can one officer do the job? How much does our community support our police department/officer? I don't know how well a community watch program would work for us, but since it has never been tried, it is something to think about. After all, in this size of community, we all know a stranger and if they belong here or not. So as good neighbors and citizens, isn't it to our advantage to be just that, a good neighbor and citizen? Support our local peace officer!

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Oak Creek Town Board candidate Dawn Smith is one of five running for four open Town Board trustee positions.

Dawn M. Smith

Age: 33

Occupation: Animal safety deputy, Routt County Sheriff’s Office

Prior political experience: Trustee with the town of Oak Creek Board of Trustees, November 2009 to present

Hometown: Bellingham, Wash.

Years in Oak Creek: Two years in Oak Creek, 10 years in Routt County

Family: Spouse, Geoff Smith; two dogs, Solo and Memphis

Civic involvement: Serving as board member for the Animal Assistance League of Northwest Colorado, February 2009 to present; volunteer work in recreational therapy, Horizons ski program 1999 to 2003; Colorado Therapeutic Riding Center, 1997 to 2000

Q.Supporting the town’s businesses and general economy are more important now than before the recession hit. How do you propose the Oak Creek Town Board develop the town’s economy?

A.I would support some town-subsidized advertising, maybe ads placed in the paper to coincide with the town garage sale or other events. I would like to look into purchasing a road sign to be placed at the south Colorado Highway 131/Routt County Road 14 intersection to let travelers know that Oak Creek is just ahead with food, lodging and shopping. The board has discussed incentive programs for encouraging the residents of Oak Creek to shop locally. I would also like to look into a brochure to distribute at Stagecoach State Park during the summer months.

Q.The town is in the midst of several major infrastructure upgrades, with a wastewater treatment plant, pipes and water tower all being replaced or repaired. Where do you think resources in the town are most needed? The town has struggled to provide water meters and to pave more streets; do you think these items should be a high priority?

A.The wastewater treatment plant should be and is a high priority. The project design was started in 2004 and has a projected completion of September 2010. The water tower has a crack in it, which makes it a very high priority. We have looked into our options with purchasing a new or used unit. We do have funds set aside for this project, and we are considering the best site for the new water tower. Of course the water pipes throughout town are a priority, as they provide the residences and businesses in town with their water. These are being prioritized by need and funding.

I believe it is ultimately in the best interest of both the town of Oak Creek and the people who live here to have water meters. However, the cost associated with such a project is massive. With the above-mentioned projects already in the works, I doubt we will be able to move forward on purchasing water meters in the immediate future. I believe paving more streets will be a project that will have to wait until some of the more urgent issues are dealt with.

Q.Several candidates have mentioned a need to increase services for children in town. Do you believe this issue is a high priority? Why or why not, and what would you do?

A.I believe that children should be a top priority in any community. I have heard wonderful things about Steamboat's after-school programs, and I would be very interested in bringing a similar program to Oak Creek. I believe it would be very important for such a program to run later into the evening. This would allow for parents who work in Steamboat to make their way home to pick the children up without having to feel rushed to do so.

Q.The Oak Creek Town Board has recently passed regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries and a moratorium on approving building changes to allow medical marijuana cultivation. Were these appropriate actions? How would you have handled the situation? And what are the next steps?

A.One thing I hope the people in Oak Creek understand is that we (the board) did not have the choice to disallow a dispensary. Our choices were about how to regulate the dispensary that was applying for a land-use variance. In putting the regulations into place we researched dozens of other municipalities throughout Colorado to see whose ordinances best represented what we wanted here. I believe we were able to come up with a fair and balanced ordinance for dispensaries. We tried to dovetail the ordinance with the existing liquor laws and the bill currently in the Colorado house. We put a moratorium on commercial cultivation because of the differences in the two businesses. We will be meeting after the election to discuss the town's needs in that area.

Q. The town's police department, after many troubles in the past, now has one officer. The community service officer was let go during the probationary period and there is no talk of rehiring for that position. Are you happy with the current police force? Why or why not, and what would you like to see in the future?

A.I am extremely happy with the job Officer Dunaway has been doing since he came to Oak Creek. We have received no formal complaints about his handling of situations, and we are getting great feedback from the Routt County deputies that have worked with him. With Officer Rossi returning again for the summer, I feel very confident we have a great police force in place. The board has discussed rehiring for the CSO position. It was decided to table that decision until after the elections. At that time, it will be determined by the board members on the Police Commission if the need for a CSO justifies the funding needed for that position.

Open-ended:

Since moving to Oak Creek two years ago, it has become apparent to me that it is the kind of town where motivated people can make a difference. We are lucky here that you do not need to be wealthy or connected to get involved in local politics. This town is facing a myriad of issues as we continue to grow. I have enjoyed getting to better understand those issues over the last few months and look forward to the continued opportunity to work toward finding solutions for them.

Comments

Scott Wedel 4 years ago

I think the candidates fail to grasp the importance of water meters.

It is not just a matter of fairly billing the citizens of Oak Creek so that someone in a 800 sq ft house on a tiny lot is not automatically paying the same as someone in a 3,500 sq ft house on a quarter acre. It is also a very obvious indicator that something is deeply wrong with OC infrastructure and/or governance.

When the guy from Dept of Local Affairs visited OC last year, he was not aware of any other town that had unmetered fixed rate billing for commercial users. Thus, it is quite possible that OC is UNIQUE in it's inability to transition to water meters. So is OC unique in the bad condition of it's water pipes, or is OC unique in it's inability to figure out a transition plan that every other water district was able to figure out, or is OC unique that it has less funds than any other water district? There is simply no good answer to why OC lacks a water meter transition plan.

That sort of problem, unique to OC, tells potential investors to go elsewhere such as Hayden where infrastructure and/or governance must be in better shape because they were able to solve this issue years ago.

BTW, a water meter transition plan is easy to find online and is pretty simple. 1) Encourage people to install water meters. 1.A) Require all commercial install meters within a year or two. 1.B) Require that water meters are installed when a property is sold. 2) Charge customers with meters a base rate plus an usage rate. Since amount of water produced is known then after adjusting for presumed leakage, and it is know how much water the metered users are consuming, so it is a simple spreadsheet calculation to come up with revenue neutral numbers for base/usage vs unmetered fixed rate. (How much is base and how much is usage is a policy issue balancing encouraging conservation vs fairly sharing costs of water system among all users. But it is a simple spreadsheet calculation of plugging in the desired base or usage charge and learning the other number). Yes, you are always billing based upon earlier usage, but customers quickly adjust to being billing by usage so usage quickly reaches a stable number. 3) Then adjust upwards the billing rate for unmetered customers which returns you to Step #1.

Over time that will get most all installed. Then the district has a number of options of how to handle the final few that lack meters. But since it has been solved so many times already then it is possible to look at a plan and see how it went in order to decide if that plan is the way to go.

Scott Ford, our regional economic development fearless leader, could probably be convinced to help the town board with evaluating some of the various plans adopted by other towns and with the calculations of base/usage.

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Scott Wedel 4 years ago

BTW, I was asked if I think there are things wrong in OC then why have I invested there.

Simple answer is that everything I've bought has been at a huge discount to replacement value. Buying at $45, $50, and $43 a sq foot is pricing that is very cheap. You couldn't complete the steps PRIOR to construction (buy the land, design, get approvals and pay the tap fees) for which I got the completed building. The price difference between SB and OC is far greater than what should exist within a 25 minute drive.

I suppose I am too much of an optimist to expect OC to continue to be unable to solve basic issues.

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JusWondering 4 years ago

Scott, I can't argue with you on the cost /sq ft. You are correct on pricing... very cheap and might get a little cheaper if some of these issues are not resolved. The biggest irony to me is that OC has been unable to solve some of these most basic issues for 35 years. Except for the MMJ issue, insert the year 1976, 1986, etc you would probably not have much different key "real" issues. Does the town still have wooden pipes in some places? OC seems like so many other governmental/quasi-governmental entities that have betrayed the trust of those that they are to serve.

The town always seems to find a scapegoat for its own lack of effective planning; the energy crisis in the 1970's, the 1980's recession, the overburdensome law enforcement earlier this decade... what's next... oh, yeah, its the economy. Now it is a town void of some of the most basic services, or have services that are provided sub-par for any incorporated municipality. It did not get this way overnight.

Nowhere in any of the candidate's responses do I read anything that would lead me to believe that it is a great place to relocate my business to or that I would be able to find and groom qualified candidates. If this is to be a bedroom community for Steamboat, then so be it... but a residential tax base simply cannot support the infrastructure upgrades that an incorporated town needs. It is very well known that per square foot commerical spaces require less municipal services (with some exceptions) than a homeowner with 2.5 kids, 2 cars, a dog, etc. yet pays much of the same cost as a residential space.

Scott, perhaps, in reference to some of your other posts, your suggestion of a dissolution of the Corporate Town structure is the best approach for this struggling entity. Without proper infrastructure and services what is the purpose of incorporation?

To drill your point further... even the town of Yampa has had water meters since the 1980s.

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greenwash 4 years ago

juswondering and Scott have nailed it on the head.OC is what it is and it hasnt changed in 40+ years.Investors and supporters have come and gone over and over again.Its like a broken record or like ive said before "The Boulevard of broken dreams".

Max is right smoke shop ,strip club, Head shop, tatoos and things might change.

GO for it LJ.

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Scott Wedel 4 years ago

Justwondering, If towns were corporations then the smaller town of Yampa would be eying a takeover of OC because Yampa could run it so much better. Yampa has been able to figure out efficiencies such as the head of public works has the certifications to run their water plant while OC pays a consultant for the operator license and also pays a plant operator.

It is not that I would like the OC town government to be dissolved into utility districts, it is that I see upcoming budget cuts and since the town failed to maintain infrastructure during the good times then it is going to do even less over the next several years of shrinking town budgets.

I note that OC residents pay more for electricity than YVEA customers and pay among the highest water/sewer rates in the state.

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kathy foos 4 years ago

OK so Chelseas is closed,the gas station recently closed,other than that I believe that the rest of main street is still operating except for the carwash that is the most ghostly thing on a consistant basis over the years in o.c.Why not admit that your speculation investment has bombed out and sell whatever you own in that town and say invest in Hayden and leave OC. alone?Its more of a place for a regular community to live and not a bedroom community for steamboat.Scott if you dont move to that town.,I dont think you will be listened to a an armchair quarterback,First you sit on a closed car wash for years andf then you complain about it possibly turning into a ghost town.What a disservice you do to the hard working people that are investing and living in the town.They obviously have customers or they wouldnt still be open at all.I suppose the bad economy hasnt got any effect on the situation.No one from the town responds to your stupid comments because they are repetative and untrue.You even have people believing that there are wooden pipes left,ha!I heard that Hayden needs you now Scott,go for it,(just kidding)

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JusWondering 4 years ago

Sun,

Wow are you defensive! I don't believe anyone said OC still has wooden pipes... I do remember a time in the not too distant past where it did. How long have you been in South Routt? Going on 35 years myself.

Go ahead and keep a blind ideal... it is simple economics. Sorry. Do you even understand what a bedroom community is? What percentage of OC residents live and work in OC? What new commercial employer has hired a significant portion of the residents? I will give you that there are some new businesses in OC. Great for them! As I stated, the pro-forma for a business in OC looks great but it is VERY difficult to keep a viable business in the town for a period longer than five years. Many have tried and many more will as long as (to Scott's point) real estate is cheap. One of the largest barriers to entry for a brick and mortar business is the cost of rent. Keep it cheap and you can keep it viable with less income.

OC commercial space is 100% at capacity? Are there any empty lots? You mentioned Chelseas, the gas station and the car wash... what percentage of available space is occupied by viable businesses? What is the vacancy rate for commercial? Nationally it is 17%? If 4 establishments are empty and you have 10 that equates to a 40% vacancy... hardly a thriving commercial community (I am not saying OC has 10 commercial lots).

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Scott Wedel 4 years ago

Sun, You missed a few other closed businesses: Lynx Realty is closed and property has been foreclosed. Dovetail Designs is not operating in OC and the building is for sale. The shop at the corner next to the nursery which was once open is closed and the building is for sale. Six other Main St properties are for sale.

You think all of the open businesses must be doing fine because they are still open? It never occurred to you that some businesses are currently losing money or making so little money that the owner is working for less than minimum wage, but are staying open on the hope that things will improve and they can hopefully start making money again?

If you want to operate the car wash and are willing pay taxes, insurance and utilities then we can sign that tomorrow.

My investments have not bombed because I got in so low. The irony of the situation is that if OC property stopped selling at such a discount to replacement cost then I probably would sell out. The way to get rid of bottom feeders is to get off of the bottom.

The fact that the Town Mall could not find a buyer until it was discounted all the way down to $145K for 5,300 sq ft should be a major wake up call. It means that there is minimal interest by investors to consider OC because everyone else passed at $199k, $179k and so on. Property selling 25% below county assessed value and having other properties currently listed at 33% below county assessed value is going to cause a heck of a hit to property tax revenues.

I have never said anything about a ghost town. I am saying that OC gov't has been unable to even implement plans for infrastructure issues and with upcoming cuts in revenues then the question of whether it should dissolve the Town Government and go county will become a more and more serious discussion. The buildings and people would not disappear. It would just become like Pburg and Stagecoach in which there is not a town gov't.

I never ever said anything about wooden pipes. Typical misinformation. Not at all surprising because easiest way to deal with unpleasant facts is to attack the messenger.

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Scott Wedel 4 years ago

No one is asking or expecting OC to be perfect. It would just be extremely nice if it could become like Yampa and Hayden where infrastructure issues are being timely addressed.

It is surreal to read the question and answer regarding paving the streets. For 10 years I've been watching Sharp Ave gradually turn from a paved street into a mixed paved and dirt road. There are large segments of pavement that have disappeared over the years. Simple water intrusion causing areas of swelling and severe cracking which gets scraped off by motor grader. Pavement gone, hello dirt.

It is also surreal to read the answers about downtown businesses. When I see a cloud of dirt from the car in front of me and see dust clouds whipping off of the street then that does not strike me as a nice place to stop, eat and shop. I do not understand why the Town Board worries about a recycling operation a mile south of town limits and does not insist that the town street sweeper clean Main St more than once a month.

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Cooke 4 years ago

Dovetail Designs is still operating in the OC. However, the building is for sale.

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Scott Wedel 4 years ago

I thought Dovetail had moved their operations to SB. I never see them there any more except to pick something up.

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JusWondering 4 years ago

To make matters worse, I read this morning that as other industries come out of the recession leaner with cleaner balance sheets governmental entities that have not yet begun to see the impact of the recession on CAFR. Let's assume that current market values are 33% below asssessed values (this is a hypothesis only for illustrative purposes). Since this valuation falls in arrears, I can only imagne that at some point the County will have to wake up to the reality that there was a one year drop in value of 33% (whether they smooth it over five years or not remains to be seen). To be honest, I am not familiar with Routt County's assessor formulas and their reappraisal program but I can assure you that I will not just suck up the assessment as a valid value of the property when I could not sell it for what it in the next five years for what it is being valued today.

Assuming the County does not honor a reassessment, then as a business owner, I would have no choice but to pull out... no property tax and no sales tax.

This recession has been different than any other we have ever seen. There has been double digit decreases in property values and consumer spending... the life blood of municipal coffers.

So, the real trimming of government budgets including OC, OCFPD, Routt County, etc. has yet to begin. Then as incomes go down the cost of obtaining financing for infrastructure goes up dramatically.

A smart board candidate would be thinking of contingencies today and running on that platform. A smart board candidate would be finding ways to clean up the infrastructure issues very quickly to maintain value of the town government.

I am with Scott in that I do not see OC as a ghost town and am optimistic about its future, but I do see it at a very pivitol point; one that it was at before the recession hit... one that will take very strong leadership to deal with. Leadership that fully grasps the issues facing the town. Leadership that is ready to make very tough decisions (like re-evaluating whether or not a 1% sales tax is enough to fund the road infrastructure it has in place; perhaps a question that should have been raised a very long time ago; it has remained at 1% since 1980!).

I just do not see much in these responses from the candidates presenting themselves as that kind of leader.

In order to be able to finance the infrastructure upgrades OC needs to not only stabilize real estate values to the best of its ability, but it also has got to increase revenue from commercial activities... the town needs to implement a business improvement master plan and quickly.

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Scott Wedel 4 years ago

JustWondering, You do not have to worry about the reappraisal process being nefarious or such. The county assessor's office has to follow pretty strict rules of which the most important is to use values of recently sold property. They use that to come up with a value per sq ft and then make some adjustments for the condition of the property.

If the property owner does not agree with the valuation then it can be appealed. The assessor's office will listen to the property owner as to why the valuation is not accurate. They may adjust the valuation. At the appeals meeting with the county commissioners the assessor's office will then explain exactly how they came up with the valuation and the property owner can present a counter argument. The BCC then votes on what they think is the fair valuation. The property owner can appeal that to court if procedures were not followed such as the county saying they need the tax revenue and so not adjusting to fair value.

I agree that OC needs to increase commercial activity. As I stated before, when OC cannot manage basic infrastructure issues such as having a transition plan to use water meters then that is a red flag for most potential investors. OC suffers greatly from the perception that infrastructure issues are out of control. I think the best thing Town of OC could do to improve commercial activity would be to address infrastructure issues. Not that everything needs to be fixed immediately, but it is so important to implement plans that can be measured and monitored.

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