Avon candidates weigh economy, development
AVON Guiding Avon through a shaky economy was a common theme at a forum Wednesday night for Avon Town Council candidates.Incumbents Kristi Ferraro and Amy Phillips, former mayor Buz Reynolds, Jr. and newcomers Karri Willemssen and Shari Peach answered a wide range of questions about the town Tuesday at a forum held in Avon. The forum was sponsored by the Vail Daily, the Vail Valley Partnership and the Zephyr.Dan Smith, a professor at Colorado Mountain College, moderated.Much of the discussion revolved around money and the economy.The candidates were asked what good financial decisions they might make, especially considering the economic crisis. They also were asked how they would have handled the towns mill levy considering the increase in assessed property values.Phillips said the town has money in the bank for Main Street, and the town has used very conservative numbers when creating the budget. Phillips said her experience managing large hotel budgets has made sifting through Avons budget and figuring out whats affordable is a big strength of hers. She said theres a difference between budgeting for a project, and actually spending when the bids come around.I think were in good shape to ride out the storm, Phillips said.Ferraro said the town has reserves and has developed contingency plans where it can cut 5 to 10 percent of the budget if necessary. As for the Main Street project, she said It may be a great year to get bargains, referring to the possibility of lower construction bids when contractors are hungry for work.Reynolds showed the most reluctance with Main Street, mainly because of its price tag and the uncertain economy. He said with the economy as bad as it is now, he wants to wait and see what happens in a few months or a year before committing more money to the project.The sales tax revenues are going to plummet, Reynolds said. I dont think people are going to be coming as much as we think.Peach, also highly concerned about the economy, said she was in favor of continuing with the downtown redevelopment, but would keep an open mind to delaying projects if needed because of the economy.I think that Avon, luckily, is on very sound financial footing, Peach said.Willemssen, who works for a property management company, has seen her phone stay quiet when it should be ringing with Christmas bookings. She says the town should play it safe in the next few months, especially with Main Street spending.I think we should hold off until we know what the economy is doing, Willemssen said.Growth was another big topic at the forum. They were asked if a bigger Avon was necessarily a better Avon.Ferraro said that growth is going to happen, whether they like it or not. Her approach would be to encourage more dense development, like in downtown Avon, and preserve buffers of open space.Lets try to focus the development on the already disturbed areas of the valley, Ferraro said.Reynolds said he didnt want to see every inch of Eagle County developed, and Peach said she agreed.I would like Avon to plan smart, sustainable growth, Peach said.To accommodate growth, Willemssen said shed like to see more affordable housing in Avon. She talked about how she would like to see Miller Ranch-style housing at the Village at Avon. Phillips talked about how with growth will come a need for improved public transportation.The candidates were asked if it was a good decision to freeze the mill levy when the assessed property values went up, which effectly raised property taxes.Ferraro said property taxes make up only a small amount of the towns revenue, which is mostly created by sales tax, and lowering the mill levy wouldnt have been a good idea. Phillips, Peach and Willemssen agreed.I felt that we might have a reduction in service if we did that, Phillips said.Reynolds was the only one to differ.If we dont need the revenue, then I dont see any reason to take it, Reynolds said.Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 970-748-2955 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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