Should Avon tighten its purse strings?
AVON, Colorado – Each week, the Vail Daily is doing a Q&A with Avon town council candidates to help voters get better acquainted with their views. Six candidates will be competing for four seats in November’s election.Incumbents Rich Carroll and Dave Dantas are both vying to keep their jobs. The seats belonging to Brian Sipes and Ron Wolfe will be opening up because both have reached their term limits.Challengers include Chris Evans, a local builder and longtime planning commission chairman in Avon; Todd Goulding, Avon’s current planning commission chairman and owner of a development consulting company; Jim Benson, a former town councilman who owns an insulation company and, formerly, Box Office Video; and write-in candidate Paul Siemonsma, senior estimator at the Gallegos Corp. and president of West Lake Village’s Home Owners Association.Question: “Given the economic downturn, should Avon continue to invest in economic development projects or should the town focus on conserving resources?”Paul Siemonsma: Economic downturns can have positive outcomes. It took an economy that was growing out of control and put things back into check. Businesses have to whip themselves back into shape and people have to step up their work ethic to survive.What this means for a consumer is a cheaper, better product. With that being said, now is a good time to invest in Avon’s future to get the best bang for our buck. However, no investment should be made without the proper due diligence confirming any undertaking’s long-term payoffs far outway the initial cost. Planning for the future is a must for everyone, and that goes for communities as well. Crawling under a rock now will do us no good when the recession ends.Todd Goulding: The bottom line is economic development is important to Avon, and we need to use this time to prepare for tomorrow without spending money today. Eventually, the economy will recover, and when it does, we need to be ready.One relatively low-cost investment is to refine the town’s advisory plans like the comprehensive plan, investment plans and master plans to make sure these documents reflect the desires of the town in a way that will attract development, not discourage it. They must be coordinated among themselves and the new land use code being developed.Another is to review and improve processes to create a customer-service oriented government. We must create a place where people want to come, rather than the current perception that it’s too hard.I look forward to implementing these low-cost measures to put Avon in a position to capitalize when the time is appropriate.Chris Evans: We must have a balanced budget. However, for the past several years, the town has had greater expenses than revenue and has had to pull from reserves to pay the difference. Given the economic downturn, it is unrealistic to expect that revenues will increase and, in fact, are projected to continue to decrease. To balance the budget we either need to raise taxes to bolster revenue or cut expenses. I am NOT in favor of raising taxes. Therefore we must cut expenses.First, we must cover vital services such as our police force, snow removal, etc. Second, we cover programs that are integral to our town such as the recreation center. Any money left over can go to services that benefit the economic development of the town.The leaders of our country believe that we can spend our way out of a budget crisis. Our local families and businesses know better. Conserving resources, while painful, results in a financially healthier town.Dave Dantas: Two projects Avon should be working on are the pavilion/stage and a realistic Main Street.The design of the pavilion will be reworked to get the construction cost to the $300,000 budget. We have $200,000 from Holy Cross. The rest of the funds come from fundraising, donations.Main Street can be a road realignment project. By getting rid of the snowmelt and expensive finishes the deep utility work is minimized. This project can be phased, starting at Avon Road and moving west past the Seasons. Urban Renewal funds will be used. The Urban Renewal Authority is currently collecting approximately $400,000 per year of funds that can be used for Main Street improvements. Every development in the Urban Renewal Area brings added U.R.A. funds to be spent improving the area.We have to make it a priority to have a vibrant town where our residents and businesses can thrive.Rich Carroll: Yes, Avon will conserve resources and invest in our town as money is available. This is a balance among various needs including maintenance of what we have. Avon has a multi-pronged approach to this balance:• Maintaining a balanced budget.• Have an operating funds balance of 35 percent.• Have a capital fund balance above $1.5 million.• Use of extensive financial modeling, with five-year projections.This approach enables money to be available to build the Wildridge/Metcalf bike lane in 2011. Also, in 2011 a pedestrian path along Highway 6 from Avon Road to Post Boulevard will be built with the aid of grant money.Avon is properly spending money to update the Recreation Center, pave roads, and on park maintenance. As the economy turns around and money is available, Main Street will be built without an increase in taxes. This will help attract private sector economic development.This multi-faceted approach will move Avon forward responsibly.Jim Benson: I do not believe it is the government’s role to stimulate the economy, especially a small one like the Town of Avon. The town should “live within their means.” We should be providing police, snow removal, park and road maintenance and the like. We should preserve what capital we have and keep the town functioning. Let’s keep in mind what our directive or mission is.