Oak Creek forum focuses on money

Town Board candidates also address law enforcement, town infrastructure needs


To vote

Oak Creek Town Hall will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 6 for the Town Board election. Town residents can vote in person or by mail. Town Clerk Karen Halterman said she would mail a ballot to town residents who signed up on their voter registration to permanently receive a mail ballot. April 2 is the last day to request an absentee, or mail, ballot. Halterman said Thursday that ballots have not yet been printed but will be mailed to voters before April 2. Call Oak Creek Town Hall at 970-736-8231 for more information.

— One way or another, money was the top issue at an Oak Creek candidates’ forum Thur­sday night.

How to bring more of it to town, how to keep it circulating in town and how needed infrastructure upgrades will demand a whole lot more of it in the future — all were discussed by the five candidates for Oak Creek Town Board and mayoral candidate Nikki Knoebel.

The forum hosted by the Routt County League of Wo­­­men Voters, candidates’ only public discussion before the April 6 election, was sparsely attended. Fewer than 10 residents came to Oak Creek Town Hall for the event, where Town Clerk Karen Halterman’s dog, Rosemary, consistently wove her way through the seats for affection.

There was plenty of passion for Oak Creek among the candidates, who cited a love for the South Routt County town. Incumbents Bernard Gagne and Dawn Smith, appointed to the board in recent months, join Lawrence Jaconetta, Linda Price and Johrene Meyers-Story in the race for four Town Board seats. Knoebel, also appointed as a trustee in the past year, is running unopposed for mayor. Mayor J Elliott and Trustee Josh Voorhis are not running for re-election.

Several questions from the audience related to reviving Oak Creek’s business community and attracting more visitors.

“We need to really focus more on our economic development,” Meyers-Story said, suggesting creation of a visitors’ center, more involvement in cultural heritage tourism and more advertising of Oak Creek and regional attractions such as the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.

Gagne said growing plans for a community garden in the town could be the first steps toward a farmers market. He also suggested a coupon program to encourage residents to shop locally, an organized downtown business district and a revival of South Routt’s community development program, which he said is “floundering.”

Price said revitalizing the car wash and Sinclair gas station downtown are crucial to stopping drivers who pass through Oak Creek on their way from the Interstate 70 corridor to Steamboat Springs.

Gagne expressed concern that county efforts to repair Routt County Road 14, from Colorado Highway 131 to Stagecoach, could create “an Oak Creek cut-off” for drivers who could bypass Oak Creek entirely. Smith suggested a sign at the turn-off just south of town advertising food and gas ahead, and more advertising at Stagecoach State Park of town amenities.

Jaconetta suggested trying to bring more road-biking events to South Routt in the summer and building on local traditions such as the annual Taste of South Routt event.

“Anything to drive sales tax dollars and revenues to this town,” he said.

Those dollars soon could be needed for town infrastructure upgrades, including a possible pipe replacement for the town’s water treatment plant. All candidates expressed a willingness to address the issue if elected.

“I would just have to sit on the board and see what the facts are,” Price said.

“I just want to make sure that (upgrades) are affordable for all of us,” Meyers-Story said.

Responding to a question about how to best provide local law enforcement — “forever an issue in Oak Creek,” moderator Mark Fischer commented — all candidates said they are happy with the town’s direction under new Oak Creek Police Officer Lance Dunaway, who took on the job in December.

“I think we’ve got the perfect situation right now,” Knoebel said.

The three candidates with the most votes will be appointed to four-year terms. The candidate with the fourth-highest tally will be appointed to a two-year term. The mayor’s term also is two years.

Smith, citing the low attendance Thursday night, said she hopes town residents take an active role in the April 6 election and become more involved in Oak Creek overall.

“When they get more involved and invested, hopefully we’ll get the town to bloom again,” Smith said.

Pilot & Today reporter Zach Fridell contributed to this article.


Scott Wedel 7 years ago

Windle, That Appalachia comment is mean spirited and nasty. The fact that these people you hate spend a lot of time and money in Oak Creek certainly makes it hard to presume that they hurt OC economically.

As someone that has invested in Oak Creek, I am far more concerned with the sad state of roads, water, sewer and electrical infrastructure, and that the town consistently takes from the utility funds to cover the periodic budget crisis. I am far more concerned that OC has taken minimal steps to reduce town government spending. The next round of property values is going to be way lower and the town's budget is going to see major reductions in revenues.

I am far more concerned that it has been said by Town Board members that a Colorado town needs 1,300-1,500 minimum to be viable and OC falls well short of that and has far less commercial than other towns of that size. It does not have the regional hardware store, propane distributor or just about any other service typical of a small town. Thus, it lacks the sales tax revenues typical of a rural town of it's size. Not only is there no urgency to increase population by promoting infill of multi-family housing, town policies such as high fixed price tap fees actively discourage that. (Tap fees for apts/condos is 5 times more than for Hayden).

If I was considering investing in Oak Creek then I would be far more concerned that the business community complained for months about Chief Russ driving away customers and the Town Board's lack of reaction. There is something deeply dysfunctional going on when it took an ad placed in the paper signed by virtually every business owner to get a response from the Town Board. And even then the Town Board did not make a decision about the police, but asked the business community for it's recommendation which was to fire them for incompetence.



Scott Wedel 7 years ago

I am amazed to learn that some think that an operating car wash is important. I spent a lot of time at numerous board meetings arguing that the water/sewer bills made the car wash a money loser to operate and the car wash has a water meter that could be read to prove that it used less water than even a typical residential customer. The town was adamant that they would not read any water meters. I found a provision in the town code that commercial customers that use only a little water are to be charged residential rates. The Town Board repealed that ordinance. I even took the Town to small claims court where Town Attorney Bob Weiss stipulated that the car wash used less water than the average commercial user. But he then argued and that judge agreed that the town has the right to charge whatever it wants to whatever customer. So I have come to accept that it is Town policy to keep the car wash closed.

I note that when it was open that people said they didn't use the car wash because it was pointless to clean their vehicle and then drive onto a muddy dirt road. There is currently 15 feet of muck in the Town's right of way, much of it several inches deep, between the concrete of the car wash that goes to the property line and the dry part of the road.

I have constant hope that OC town government will address these issues. I think these issues will be getting resolved one way or another in the next 5 or so because unincorporated Pbrug and Stagecoach already have better roads and infrastructure. With the upcoming multi-year budget squeeze, I think if OC town government fails to do well then the already existing talk of the advantages of dissolving town government (and creating a utility district) will turn into decisive public action.

(I note that BCC allowed Kelly to continue operating and asked him to get all of the proper state environmental and highway permits. I think there is no doubt that Town of OC would have shut him down and destroyed his business. I think that difference in treating businesses is an example of why people are reluctant to invest in OC).


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