Barn ballots have been mailed out to voters in Avon
First phase of estimated $6.2M to $6.7M plan would cost the town $1.6M
AVON — Voters in town will soon receive the survey which will serve as a referendum on the plan to move the Hahnewald barn to the former town hall site.
The survey is designed to mimic a mail-in election and asks voters if the town of Avon should proceed with phase 1 of the 3-phase project, which — for an estimated cost of $1 million — will relocate the barn to the old town hall site, construct a permanent foundation for the barn and replace the barn’s roof; and — for an estimated cost of $600,000 — demolish the old town hall.
Voters are asked to check a box indicating yes or no.
The fate of the Hahnewald barn has been a contentious issue over the last few months, generating a large response from the community. The three-phase plan to restore the 110-year-old structure is estimated to cost $6.2 million to $6.7 million in total, including the $1.6 million for phase one.
After a three-hour meeting on the survey, representatives on both sides of the issue agreed it was a fair question.
“I think it’s an unbiased approach … a straightforward yes or no,” said council member Chico Thuon, who voted against the barn plan when it went before council on Feb. 12.
Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes, who voted in favor of the plan, agreed that the question is straightforward.
“I think that everybody felt good about it,” she said.
‘A LOT OF DIALOGUE’
While sending the barn to voters appeared to be an impromptu decision as it required a late change to the town council’s Feb. 26 agenda, voters in town said they began seeking an election on Feb. 12 after the council voted 4-3 to go forward with the plan.
Wildridge resident Peter Warren said the decision to survey voters was the result of input brought to the council by himself and other citizens.
“There was a lot of dialogue,” Warren said. “We wanted this to go to a vote, just like the police station did.”
Warren said Avon’s new police station, as well as the town’s indoor bus storage facility, are examples of successful projects in Avon which the town should look to as examples in planning other large projects.
“Those projects were successful because they spent a great deal of time up front,” Warren said.
The police station did not require voter approval in Avon as the funds for the project were obtained through annually renewing bonds known as certificates of participation. The Avon council decided to send the police station to voters nonetheless, and it passed.
The Hahnewald barn must be moved off the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District’s property by June 1 or it risks demolition by the district as they prepare for a federally mandated expansion. This deadline means a special election would have needed town council action no later than January in order for results to be received in time, as the county imposes a 30-day minimum waiting period on special elections once approved by the municipality.
January came and went, and no motion was made in Avon to send a barn question to voters in a special election.
This left the town with a survey as the only option to receive voter input once February arrived. While town surveys aren’t official elections, the outcome is usually the same.
Surveys also have benefits besides the obvious advantage in Avon’s case — getting around the county’s waiting period.
“When you have an official election, the election return has to be filled out properly by the voter, if there’s anything wrong or not consistent, it gets thrown in the trash,” said town attorney Eric Heil.
In other words, in a survey if you “overvote” and use too heavy of ink, or absentmindedly write your grocery list on the side of your ballot, there’s less chances of your vote not counting.
Also in Avon’s survey, you can still go register to vote now if you live in town and are not registered. As long as your voter registration is approved before the town’s April 2 deadline, you can receive a ballot and participate.
Visit http://www.govotecolorado.com to register to vote.
Ballots must be received by the Avon Town Clerk’s office by 5 p.m. on April 2.