More Information from the Town Trustee Candidates
On March 11, the League held a forum so that voters could learn more from the candidates for Town Trustee. The election is on April 7, 2020. Time ran out with many more questions to be asked. We submitted the questions in writing to each candidate. Below are the answers we received. Unfortunately, we did not receive answers from Patrick Martchink.
Questions Prepared by the League
1. Yes or No, and why or why not: Would you support giving financial benefits to contractors building workforce housing - such as amortizing tap fees to make their construction costs more manageable?
Answer from Barbara McAlpine: Yes; in the long run it’s a good investment. As fees are paid back, they can be rolled into other projects. Ultimately it’s better to give financial benefits than to create a new tax. I would support this type of incentive.
Answer from Ward Nelson: I believe in incentivizing the private sector to perform to the needs of the community; if those needs are not, or cannot, be met. Tap fee adjustment is but one example. I believe Estes will benefit from incentives directed at REdevelopment. Tax incentive districts, such as a DDA, can provide needed funding to accomplish these objectives.
Answer from Scott Webermeier: Yes. I think it would be appropriate to provide reasonable financial incentives to developers who are helping to develop verifiable and appropriate workforce housing.
Answer from Cindy Younglund: I believe that the town should continue with assisting developers/builders with tap fee amortization however I do think we need to investigate additional incentives as well e.g. building permit discounts – rezoning – density
We need as many incentives as possible to encourage affordable housing construction and these types of incentives is something the town could consider.
2. (In 2019 about a third of PLATTE RIVER POWER AUTHORITY’S power generation came from renewable sources. By next year, with the addition of more solar panels and wind energy, they are projected to be just under 50% dependent on renewable energy sources.)
Yes or No, and why or why not: Do you consider this to be reasonable progress in reaching the Platte River Power Authority’s goal of 100% clean energy by the year 2030?
Answer from Barbara McAlpine: No. The Platte River Power Authority (PRPA) has indeed begun a process of adding some cleaner, less expensive wind and solar energy to their portfolio. However, they are not currently on a path to achieve 100% (or even close to that) non-carbon energy production by 2030, as requested by the owner municipalities. Adding significantly more renewable energy would require reduced coal burning, and Platte River continues to burn coal at full capacity. On the other hand, their plans to join the Western Energy Imbalance Market affords opportunities to obtain inexpensive renewable energy as needed from other sources; and coal burning plants can be run at significantly reduced capacity. Platte River is currently developing an Integrated Resource Plan that will guide their energy production for the foreseeable future, possibly out to 2040. Sophisticated computer models and a third-party study that they commissioned suggest that Platte River should now be reducing the output of their coal-fired plants and adding significantly more solar and wind energy, on the way to achieving 90-95% non-carbon energy production. However, it’s generally recognized that 100% is not realistic with today's technology and costs. Both sides will have to compromise if we are to achieve the desired outcome with the lowest possible carbon emissions, along with reliable and economically advantageous power generation. Our mayor and utilities director sit on the PRPA Board of Directors. As a trustee, I would ask them to vote for an Integrated Resource Plan that shuts down coal-burning and relies instead on less costly renewable energy and battery storage. I feel very strongly that both the Board of Trustees and the residents need to push PRPA to achieve 100% non-carbon resources by 2030.
Answer from Ward Nelson: I believe PRPA should make the effort. However, in reality this is a complex problem. Markets are key. Today coal fired plant production is down largely because natural gas is so relatively cheap. Future technological advances may affect the renewables timeline even further. We must always consider that we are only one of the four owners of the Authority and collaborating for the future is essential.
Answer from Scott Webermeier: Frankly, I do not have the expertise to suggest that this is reasonable or unreasonable progress. Progress to date would seem to be very positive. I don’t have a sense of whether the first 50% transition is the hard part or the easy part. I do suspect that the technology in this field will continue to expand, hopefully making the goal of energy independence a reality in the time frame described.
Answer from Cindy Younglund: I do believe PRPA has made reasonable progress and I believe their goal for 2030 is reasonable and reachable. I am hoping with the progress of PRPA the buying and sell power will be better. I am interested in learning more about the buying and selling of renewable energy and as your trustee will be encouraging our citizens to participate in renewable energy at their home and/or business.
3. TWO-PART Q: Y/N and why or why not: Do you think the town-sponsored shuttle should run year-round? (This is NOT referring to the Via Shuttle Service)
If yes, would you support charging a small fee to use public transportation, or some other method to finance a year-round shuttle?
Answer from Barbara McAlpine: No, I’m not convinced that there would be enough demand during the winter for daily shuttle service. However, I would support extending that service to weekends during late fall through May. We have enough winter weekend events to warrant using the shuttle. If we did make the shuttle available on weekends, I would rather keep it free. I would need to look at our transportation budget to see how the town might support this.
Answer from Ward Nelson: The Town has looked into this historically, and found it to be too expensive. Small fees do not begin to cover the cost; continually exploring significant grants or sponsorships is the most likely future for year round shuttles.
Answer from Scott Webermeier: Probably not at this time. I personally don’t see the sufficient demand for a 12 month service, although I am open to be convinced otherwise. I do believe that there would be merits to extending the operational services beyond the current season. Perhaps an april 1 thru end of November circumstance. I wouldn’t be opposed to some sort of fee based circumstance in this regard to help offset the expense involved.
Answer from Cindy Younglund: No, I do not think we are at the ridership to support a free year around shuttle service and I do not agree with charging the summer riders. This would impact our younger families and work force. I believe we already have a business that does support year around transportation (Via).
4. About one year ago, the League of Women Voters of Estes Park, private donors, and the town (through a Community Initiative Grant to the League) contracted with the company Clear Intentions to provide glass recycling containers, and for Clear Intentions to take the full containers to Denver. This was done to jump-start glass recycling in Estes Park. The annual cost estimate is close to $4000.
Yes or No, and why or why not: Would you consider having the town take over this cost of Glass Recycling containers and pick-ups as part of the Town Budget?
Answer from Barbara McAlpine: Yes, I would consider it. That doesn’t mean I would ultimately support adding it to the budget, but it’s a priority for me personally. $4,000 is not a huge cost, but I would want to look at the budget. I think glass recycling is really important. It’s also one of the most profitable forms of recycling. Furthermore, glass is a material that should be handled separately, for safety reasons if nothing else. We might investigate other sources of funding. It’s great that community members have donated.
Answer from Ward Nelson: No. While I wholeheartedly agree with the activity, this is not presently a function of our town government. It could be met by a small grant request.
Answer from Scott Webermeier: Originally, it was my understanding that Clear Intentions was willing to provide this service based on the amount of paid for business they were doing with restaurants and other commercial entities in the community. Before commiting to town funds in this regard I would need a clearer understanding of where Waste Management is in this regard and how much commercial recycling Clear Intentions is doing in the community.
Answer from Cindy Younglund: I am in favor of recycling in fact our business was the first commercial lodge to offer recycling in all our guests’ rooms – which fills a large dumpster once a week during peak season. The town’s business responsibility is infrastructure and not to be funding private business so I would have to say no I would not be in favor of having this as part of the town budget but I praise the LWV for taking on this venture!
Questions Submitted by the Audience
1. In an era of climate change, do you believe it is appropriate for the town to spend over $100,000 to put up Holiday Lights downtown? And then throw the lights away at the end of the season? [Clarification from LWVEP: Actually, the lights are reused, not discarded at the end of the season.]
Answer from Barbara McAlpine: If they are LED lights and they are actually reused (which only makes economic sense), then the cost to the town would be installing them in November (?) and taking them down in February. I would like to see the actual costs before pulling the plug on this. The results give our residents as much pleasure as the tourists.
Answer from Ward Nelson: Yes.
Answer from Scott Webermeier: I would have had serious doubts that the lights were thrown away each year. I’ll assume that the cost of Holiday lights includes those “non downtown lights” as well. I believe that the Holiday lights are both a worthwhile tradition as well as an asset to the entire business community and hopefully a sense of pride for the community as a whole. Back in the day the lights and other town decor were left up at least thru the end of the National Western Stock Show as a means of attracting guests from this event. For my money we could leave them up a little longer or at least until the sun isn’t going down before 5 PM.
Answer from Cindy Younglund: I personally love the Christmas lights as all our guests do as well. It has been a long tradition that I hope continues for years to come, However I would like to see if there would be a feasible way of having at least some of them turn off at midnight if the town is are not currently working on this to help save energy.
2. (2-part question): “The Land Trust, Nature Conservancy, Larimer County, EDC, and other groups are proposing that the Town of Estes Park obtain a GoCO grant to purchase land in the Thumb area of Prospect Mountain for rock climbing, mountain cycling, horseback riding and other recreational activities, some of which may generate revenue for companies such as REI, The Mountain Shop, and so on.
First, do you support the town spending $500,000 [Clarification from LWVEP: actually $241,000] to buy the land and spend more funds for trails, parking, restrooms, and so on? Why or why not?
Second, if you do support the proposal, from where in the town budget and 5-year plan would you secure the necessary funding?
Answer from Barbara McAlpine: Note that funding for this GOCO grant was announced on March 12, 2020. I’m solidly in favor of open space and have great respect for the work of the Land Trust. However, the $241,700 in local funding from the 2020 town budget does concern me. There will be additional expenses for the town, including servicing the area (police, trash removal, etc.) that will be ongoing in future budgets. Nevertheless, there was very significant support from residents for this project.
Whether I support it or not, with granting from GOCO it will go forward. The town is not in the habit of turning down grants, and it was supported by the current Trustees by a vote of 5 to 1. (Mayor Jirsa was not present for the vote.) It is already a line item in the 2020 budget. If I am elected, I will work with the Town Board and Town Administrator to make future budgets meet our priorities as reasonably as possible, taking into account the interests of our residents.
Answer from Ward Nelson: I believe the questioner is confused. The Thumb Open Space Project and the Estes Valley Open Space and Recreation Master Plan are two differing projects involving differing organizations. Two GOCO grants have been awarded: one to facilitate a public-driven master plan for the future of open space and recreation for the entire Valley; and, one to purchase the private land around the Thumb to convert it to a Town park (with a management plans developed by citizens). The present Town Board has already unanimously approved and budgeted the Thumb project, contingent upon the grant being awarded (which it was on 3-13-2020).
Answer from Scott Webermeier: First of all I think that an amenity of this nature would be an extraordinary addition to the Estes Park Brand. I find it terribly short sighted to suggest that REI, The Mountain Shop and whatever “so on” means would be the only financial beneficiaries of this addition. Clearly, guests who might be attracted to these types of activities would also need to eat, sleep and shop in the community.
That being said if indeed a GoCO grant can be obtained I’m not sure where the need for the town to purchase the property would arise. Obviously, ongoing maintenance, upkeep and administration will present ongoing costs. I suspect the town would need to participate in these costs to some degree along with other community agencies. I do believe that there may be merits in some sort of fee basis for utilization of the asset.
Answer from Cindy Younglund: I am all for purchasing land for open space and I believe it is good business when some land can be secured for open space.
Without knowing the complete details of where the funds will come from for completing the project and maintaining the area I would not be able to give you a decisive answer on the Thumb project.
Answer from Barbara McAlpine: It’s my understanding that ADUs in the residential zones described above are not allowed in Estes Park. While I would want to research this question more thoroughly before voting on it, I recognize that they would provide another source of the housing that we need so much. This quote from an editorial by former town administrator Frank Lancaster puts the question in perspective: “The 2016 Housing Needs Assessment sponsored by the Estes Park Housing Authority, with the support from Bank of Colorado, Bank of Estes Park, Economic Development Corporation, Estes Park Board of REALTORS®, Estes Park Medical Center, Estes Park School District, Forward Estes Park Foundation, Rocky Mountain National Park and the Town of Estes Park, addressed the need for ADUs as number 4 of 11 key housing plan recommendations.” I doubt if this need has decreased since 2016.
Answer from Ward Nelson: Yes; with restrictions. Many already successfully exist in town.
Answer from Scott Webermeier: I believe so. When Mr Lancaster brought this idea forward a number of years ago it made a lot of sense, as another means to help address housing challenges in the community. Perhaps best considered on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis.
Answer from Cindy Younglund: The intended use of ADU’s was to help with the work force housing shortage, not nightly rental. I agree with code allowing ADU’s in residential zones for LONG term rental only. The ability to have the income from an ADU on your property could perhaps mean the difference between being able to afford a home or not for some young families.
4. Would you support removing the job of code enforcement from the Police Department and rehiring a code enforcement officer?
Answer from Barbara McAlpine: No. A police officer, by her/his uniform and recognized authority, is more likely to get results when trying to enforce a code violation. From what I’ve been told, that was somewhat difficult in the past, though it in no way reflects negatively on any former code enforcement officers.
Answer from Ward Nelson: No.
Answer from Scott Webermeier: I don’t have enough information in this regard to give a responsible answer.
Answer from Cindy Younglund: I do not feel this position should be handled by a police officer. We are having a hard time filling our current positions without having this added stress to our department. Also, I would think the salary for a code enforcer would be less than a police officer salary.
5. Please share your perspective on the relationship that should exist between the town and the (Estes Valley) library.
Answer from Barbara McAlpine: The Library is one of the most respected units within Estes Park. It is largely funded by property taxes, from both town residents and those Estes Valley residents who live within the library district. This is a fairly common funding situation with public libraries. I think the Town and the Library should continue what appears to be an excellent relationship. If there is more to this question than I am seeing, please email me with additional information. Full disclosure: I am a retired librarian and my views are very likely to be biased!
Answer from Ward Nelson: Open and cordial. They are two differing taxing districts.
Answer from Scott Webermeier: I believe there should be a respectful and mutually supportive relationship between the two entities.The Library as noted is reasonably the “Center of Estes Parks’s Civic Life”. The Library provides excellent services and support to the entire community. With the Library providing the level of service that it does I believe it helps to allow the Town to remain focussed on it’s functions relative to Health and Safety and Infrastructure Development.
Answer from Cindy Younglund: I believe the “relationship” between the two is working fine. Based on the Library budget they are solvent and to my knowledge there is no concern that the town does not want the library to remain in the building.
6. Are you in favor of the current level of alcohol-based events or increasing them in lieu of your attitudes toward marijuana?
Answer from Barbara McAlpine: I don’t know the current level, but in general I think alcohol should be provided, and used, in moderation, for the benefit of our EP society as well as for the people who are drinking. More full disclosure: I rarely drink alcoholic beverages, so my views may be biased.
Answer from Ward Nelson: I’m not sure if the question refers to Town sponsored events- or private parties - or festivals? I’m quite happy the Town neither sponsors or promotes marijuana events. I believe the Town sponsors only three festivals that could be considered “alcohol-based”; the Craft Spirits, Whiskey Warm-up, and the Wine and Chocolate Festival. I’m happy that all strive to cater to local business and industries.
Answer from Scott Webermeier: I’m not following this question very well. I believe special events success or lack thereof will ultimately be driven by their capacity to attract guests to their event and to our community. There is an apparent interest by the younger members of our potential market (and maybe even some older ones ) in wine, whiskey and beer tasting events. I’m not sure how this point might be affected by my attitude towards marijuana.
Answer from Cindy Younglund: I believe the number of alcohol-based events has increased to a level I think should not exceed. I do not see why my views on marijuana have anything to do with my views on having events with alcohol.
We envision a demo-cracy where every person has the desire, the right, the knowledge and the confidence to participate.
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