Recreation, ambulance on local ballots
Golf courses, ice rinks and ambulances may all be affected by ballots cast in valleywide elections Tuesday. Voters go to the polls to pick members of the boards that manage the county’s two major recreation agencies, upvalley ambulance crews and water supplies.
The following is an overview of the candidates and the ballot questions in the major races.
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Voters in Vail will decide whether to increase their property taxes to pay off reconstruction done at the Dobson Ice Arena.
The proposed tax hike will cover the debt service on a $3.4 million bond that paid for repairs and renovations to Dobson Arena. The upgrades, done in 2001, included an improved refrigeration system.
District Executive Director Dennis Stein said the measure, if approved, will raise $280,000 in the first year. Approval would raise taxes by about $51 per year on a home valued at $1 million. District taxes on that home now run about $219 per year.
The increase expires in 16 years, when the original bond is retired. The last payment would be in March of 2020. The tax initiative is a scaled down measure from a more ambitious plan in which the rec district wanted to seek additional funds to renovation the town’s golf course and clubhouse.
If the current tax increase is approved, Stein said the district’s bank accounts would be freed up for other projects and programs.
“We could potentially lessen our dependence on fees,” Stein said. “We could use it for other expenses, and potentially develop a capital improvement fund for repair and upkeep we can’t do now.”
Voters will also pick two new members for the rec district board, which is somewhat autonomous from city hall. Current board members Hermann Staufer and Tom Saalfeld are not seeking re-election.
The three challenges are: Jeff Christensen, 41, manager of the Vail Village Pazzo’s; Michelle Hall, 42, who works for the county libraries; and Scott Proper, 24, a loan officer at Millennium Bank in Edwards.
Christensen has stressed the importance of making a variety of recreation facilities available while Hall has said she wants to become more involved in the operations of the agency after her family has participated in its programs for the past several years.
Proper said he would like to see the agency reach out more to visitors and locals and get both groups more involved in its programs.
Vail Recreation District election
When: Tuesday, May 4, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Where: Vail Town Hall
At issue: A proposed mill levy increase and two seats on the five-member board.
Downvalley voters will also choose board members for The Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District, which spans an area from Edwards to Dotsero. The rec district operates the athletic field complex at the Eagle County Fairgrounds and the ice rink and pool in Eagle.
The district – known as WECMRD – is working with Gypsum on a proposal for a recreation center in that town, and with Eagle County on soccer fields and athletic facilities at the Berry Creek in Edwards. There has also been a proposal to build a recreation center in Edwards.
Also among the major issues are discussions WECRMD is having about sharing rec facilities with the agencies Vail and Avon.
Five candidates are seeking election to three seats on the agency’s board of directors:
– Julie Ault
– Ed Coulter
– John McCaulley
– Stephanie Samuelson
– Chris Williams
Western Eagle County Metro Recreation District election
When: Tuesday, May 4, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Polling places: Gypsum Town Hall, 50 Lundgren Blvd., Gypsum; Western Eagle County Ambulance District building, 360 Eby Creek Road, Eagle; Edwards Ambulance District building, 1065 Edwards Village Blvd., Edwards
Water is going to get more expensive in Vail Tuesday, but property owners can decide how to pay for it. The Eagle River Water and Sanitation District is asking voters to increase the property taxes to pay for repairs to the town’s water lines. If voters reject that plan, their water bills will increase.
Approving the property tax increase will raise taxes on a $500,000 residential property by $55.50. If voters turn thumbs down on that, the price of their monthly water bill will go up 25 percent. That will cost an average residence of 3,000 square feet or less an additional $68.75 per year.
Money from the increased water rates will be used to pay off revenue bonds the district will use to fund the improvements. Assuming additional debt requires voter approval.
The driving force behind the ballot question is the precarious state of Vail’s 30-year-old cast iron water mains, according to district officials. The old, brittle mains are breaking with increasing frequency, necessitating expensive repairs. District officials have said increasing water bills will be the more expensive choice for Vail property owners.
In other matters, the seat representing Avon on the water district’s board of directors is being contested. Incumbent Mac McDevitt, an Avon town councilman who’s been on the board for two years, faces a challenge from Avon resident Larry Pardee, who is a public works manager for the town of Vail.
McDevitt has said water conservation is critical if the valley is to have adequate supplies in the future.
“We don’t need to delude ourselves thinking we can continue with lots of lawns,” McDevitt said.
Pardee said he wants to ensure there’s enough water for future growth in the valley and that residents’ water bills remain reasonable.
“(The lack of) water worries me. A lot of stuff starts right here in this little watershed,” he says. “This is a fragile environment and I want to protect it.”
Where to vote
Vail voters will be voting on the tax- or rate-increase question and to fill one seat on the water and sanitation district’s board of directors. Voters elsewhere in the water district will just be voting to fill the board seat. There are four polling places that will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.:
– Town of Vail offices, 75 S. Frontage Road; Town of Minturn offices, 302 Pine Street; Eagle-Vail Metropolitan District offices at the Eagle-Vail Pavilion; and the Eagle County Ambulance District headquarters at 1065 Edwards Village Blvd. in Edwards.
To be eligible to vote you must be a resident of the Vail water sub-district, have registered to vote in the general election and have paid taxes on property receiving water supplied by the water district. Approximately 750 people voted in the 2002 elections.
If you’re planning on voting, be sure to bring one identification document, such as a driver’s license to the polls.
The largest field of candidates are the seven residents vying for two seats on the board that oversees the operations of upvalley ambulance crews. Two incumbents – Dr. Kent Petrie and John Milligan – are term-limited from running again for their seats on the Eagle County Ambulance District board.
The candidates have discussed a range of topic, including training, equipment and financial management, but the controversial idea of merging the ambulance service with valley fire departments doesn’t appear to be a major issue in the campaign. Candidates have the would like ambulance crews to work more closely with firefighters rather than combining the agencies.
“Different people had different opinions, but the majority of the board has decided there’s not a huge benefit to pursuing a merger with the fire district,” said board president Donna Barnes. “Our talks with them have become more of a collaboration issue.”
Board members and candidates have also talked about merging the Eagle County Ambulance District with the emergency services agency that operates downvalley.
The candidates are:
Dr. Laurence Brooks
Dr. Reginald Franciose
What: Eagle County Health Service District board election. Voters must be registered in Colorado and either be a resident or a property owner in the district, which stretches from Red Cliff to Wolcott.
When: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., May 4.
Where: Ambulance District headquarters, 1055 Edwards Village Boulevard.
The Beaver Creek metro board, which manages the streets, storm sewers, water and sanitation for the neighborhood, is asking residents of the wealthy enclave to allow it to spend surplus funds from a bond measure on road repairs. Voters previously approved the bond to build a new maintenance yard for the agency’s buses and other vehicles.
Board members say they’ve found a cheaper way to build the maintenance yard and would like put the extra cash into the neighborhood’s roads.
“We have never used the 1998 funds to construct the maintenance facility,” said Larry Grafel, general manager for the metro district. “We still intend to use them for a maintenance facility, however we want to be able to use them for another purpose as well.”
Two metro board incumbents – Michael Bowen and Steve Friedman – are running to keep their seats on the board against a challenge from local developer John Forstmann.
“I think they have to be very careful on what bonds are floated,” Forstmann said. “I think they have to be very careful on where money is spent and not to go to far afield on where they should be.”
Friedman pointed out that while he’s been on the board it has contracted with the Eagle River Fire Protection District for fire protection. The district also has made strides in its relationship with the Beaver Creek ski resort company and Vail Resorts, the ski mountain’s parent company, Friedman said.
“I’d like to see the relationships continue to develop and improve,” Friedman said.
Bowen has been a Beaver Creek homeowner since 1983, and a full-time resident since 1995. A semi-retired businessman, Bowen says he believes Beaver Creek has evolved out of a resort and into a community, and it is the job of the board to look out for the community’s interests.
Voters: must be registered in Colorado and own property in Beaver Creek and be
Poll open: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday
Where: 63 Avondale Lane, Suite C2 in Beaver Creek.
Vail Daily reporters Scott Miller, Tamara Miller, Cliff Thomspon and Veronica Whitney and Eagle correspondent Kathy Heicher contributed to this story.