Election Guide 2013: Walter Magill
October 16, 2013
Occupation: owner of Four Points Surveying and Engineering, licensed professional land surveyor and professional civil engineer
Hometown: Amherst, N.H.
Years in Steamboat: 16
Family: wife, Cristina Vicinelli Magill; three children, Wally, 10, Suzy, 8, and Henry, 7
Civic involvement: Steamboat Springs City Council since November 2007, Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series board of directors, Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association special event funding board and summer marketing committee, Howelsen Hill 8-Miler and Keep Emerald a Gem race director, Steamboat Mountain Runners junior varsity, Holy Name Catholic Church member, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Little Vikings Ski program assistant coach
Q. List your top three priorities as a Steamboat Springs City Council member and talk about how you would go about accomplishing them.
A. 1.) My top priority for my upcoming term will be to work with the community of Steamboat Springs and city staff on a resolution to the public safety building project. Through a collaborative effort, we must determine the location, budget and construction for the new or upgraded public safety building and downtown fire station within the following year.
2.) Additionally, I plan to work with the community, Trails Alliance Committee, Yampa Street Partners, Mainstreet Steamboat Springs, Winter Sports Club, Steamboat Ski Area, Chamber lodging committee and others for investment of the lodging tax based on the vote outcome.
3.) Another priority is to continue to provide a balanced budget for the city. The budget should be conservative, yet provide essential services. Due to rising costs of materials, fuel, staffing and health care, the city needs to budget below expected sales tax levels and maintain healthy reserves for future projects.
Q. This budget season, the city wants to bring some employees back to a 40-hour workweek and give market raises to some workers for the first time in years. After years of budget cuts and furloughs, what do you think of the city's current level of service and the state of employee pay? What changes should be made, if any?
A. I believe the city of Steamboat Springs' current level of service across all departments is very good. Having worked with and observed city employees over the last six years, I am convinced the community is well served by a hardworking group of dedicated individuals who diligently strive to make Steamboat Springs a great place to live. Our employees put in extra effort to serve the community. Currently, several departments have been working standard 40 hours per week; however, within the 2014 city budget, I will recommend the city adjust department schedules for parks and recreation and the Planning Department and to provide service for a minimum of a half-day on Fridays every week to better serve the community.
Q. For more than a year, the city has pursued a new public safety campus in a variety of locations. Staff is expected to come back with the latest round of potential sites for council to consider in December. What do you think of the process the city has taken so far? How would you direct staff to continue with this process?
A. I consider the public safety campus one of the most important decisions facing City Council next term. The site selection process for the building completed in the last year has been disorganized and haphazard. The council has reviewed separately the Iron Horse property, Stockbridge site, Rita Valentine and several private parcels, which have been unsolicited. I am recommending the city staff present the four locations that are being vetted, less Rita Valentine Park, on a matrix with the benefits and challenges of each site. The location of the police station is only one aspect of the next facility decision. Council will be requested to provide direction on the final square footage for the facility, budgeting and future use of the existing building in the next term. I will be actively involved in the planning process for the facility as it continues during the next year and welcome public input.
Q. The city's recently approved rules for the sale and use of recreational marijuana are likely to be revisited in the coming years as Amendment 64 is implemented statewide. What do you think of the city's approved rules that zone pot shops out of the downtown commercial district and place restrictions on using the word marijuana in signs for businesses? Should marijuana shops be regulated like liquor stores?
A. The Steamboat Springs City Council approved appropriate rules for recreational marijuana in 2013. The decision to keep marijuana shops out of downtown commercial district is prudent. Despite the popular vote in favor of legalized marijuana, it is my belief that the city of Steamboat Springs does not need to lead the state in relaxed zoning for marijuana shops in downtown or commercial areas. I take issue with the Steamboat Pilot's editorial board's pro-marijuana stance for zoning. I would ask, who is misserved by the approved zoning and advertising restrictions. Let's play a wait and see on the marijuana businesses in our community. We currently have three operators, and I don't see the benefit of adding to this number. We are dealing with the legalization of something previously prohibited. Colorado's stance on legalization is unprecedented in the United States.
Q. How will you vote on the current council's recommended spending of the lodging tax? Explain why.
A. The lodging tax ballot question, while not perfect, can be understood in the ballot language. Through much hard work of the accommodations tax force committee and current City Council, it has been decided to split the first three years of the tax between the Yampa Street Partnership and the Trails Alliance and then for the next seven years the tax will be spent on trails. Many may question the scheduling of trails to build or how Yampa Street Partnership allocates the tax dollars, but if the tax passes, an advisory board will review the projects and recommend the spending. I will be voting in favor of the ballot measure and hope to review the advisory board proposals on the projects during the upcoming years. In future recommendations, a major criteria for approval will be activities, which stimulate overnight lodging in our community.
Q. The city has in recent years implemented a new microgrant program. It also provides funding to the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association. What should the city's role be in promoting economic development?
A. I believe the community tax dollars that are spent on the micro-grant program are helpful to small businesses in the city of Steamboat Springs; however, the program needs to include a return-on-investment analysis and one and two year follow-up on each business that receives the grant funds. I consider the funding of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association vital to our community. The Chamber partners with the city of Steamboat Springs and works hard to market Steamboat Springs in the summertime. As a community whose budget is based on sales tax funds generated, it is important that Steamboat Springs markets itself for visitors in the regional area.
Q. In recent years, the city has taken a conservative approach to budgeting and has built up a substantial reserve by doing so. As sales tax revenue here continues to show modest gains in the wake of the recession, what are your budget priorities? How should the city use reserves?
A. I believe the city of Steamboats Springs should continue to budget with a conservative approach and place money into the reserve fund. Although the economy is showing signs of improving, by budgeting conservatively, the city provides funding for capital improvement projects without having to spend money on paying interest on borrowed funds.
Open-ended statement: In closing, during my next four years on council, I look forward to proving guidance to the city of Steamboat Springs on maintaining existing facilities and providing essential services to community foremost. The city should continue to provide support for programs that assist the long-term health of the community, be it in supporting nonprofits, programs for children, adults and seniors, and being a partner with regional and state governments. It is my belief Steamboat Springs will continue to be an incredible place to live and work as long as the members of the community stay involved in the local government process and support each other.