Granby candidates debate change vs. experience at election forum
March 28, 2008
Positions of “change” and “experience” echoed that of the national party race during Granby’s candidate forum Thursday night at the Granby Library.
Regardless of each candidate’s approach, all 11 candidates had a similar vision for Granby ” a thriving downtown. But methods for achieving that goal were as diverse as the candidates themselves.
Mayor Ted Wang, seeking a second term, held ground for experience, with 15 years serving on Granby’s Planning Commission, 14 years as a Granby trustee and another five years as mayor. Wang was elected after an appointment to fill the late former Mayor Dick Thompson’s seat.
But Wang’s 2008 race to keep his seat is not without a challenge.
Three other candidates advocate the need for change in Granby.
The self-proclaimed “not as long-winded” mayoral candidate, 17-year Granby firefighter Joe Fuqua, said one of his motives for running was to “improve the negativity in the press and people’s outlook of the town board.”
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Fuqua has worked for governments since 1991 and is employed as the supervisor at Fraser’s wastewater treatment plant.
To promote “open, positive communication with community members” and a to strive for a “more comfortable and open town board that is in touch with the people,” were reasons Jynnifer Pierro stated she was running. Pierro suggested ways to steer growth to Granby such as tax breaks or deferment of parking requirements.
Conceding that the existing mayor can recite on-the-job knowledge of details, Pierro defended her role as candidate by saying she has the better part of experience as an established citizen of Granby both as a resident and business owner.
“Obviously, there are a lot of issues in town I’m going to have to learn and get caught up with. The mayor’s experience comes with the job; my experience comes from living here,” she said.
Pierro moved to Granby in 1979 and spent 20 years in the environment of a family-run Main Street business. The second-generation family business is Legacy Building Specialties.
Mayoral candidate Kirk Arnold could safely say he has downtown knowledge as well, with roots in Granby since 1985 when he started his insurance business, Middle Park Agency. Arnold said he wants to be at the helm to “see Granby prosper and see positive change.”
Arnold listed affordable housing, child care, beetle-kill and water as top issues Granby’s next mayor should address and cited the town’s need to attract younger families.
Citing an advertisement highlighting the cost of paid consultants that appeared in the Sky-Hi Daily News Thursday ” paid for by the Granby Political Action Committee with Patrick Brower as treasurer ” Greg Guthridge and Greg Mordini challenged the town’s track record of contracting planning consultants and an attorney to do a large part of the town’s work.
The town’s attorney is paid $147 an hour, and in 2007 more than $268,000 was spent on Granby legal work, with $62,363 that coming out of town funds, according to the advertisement. The remainder was paid for by those developing land in Granby.
Mordini, who works for Forest Energy, which constructs pellet mills, said the town processes have gained a reputation of being cumbersome and excessively “legal.” In his research, he said, other Grand County towns indicated they rarely had their attorney sitting at the board table, whereas Granby has theirs at every meeting.
Trustee candidate Guthridge, a 27-year resident of Granby who is the manager of operations at Mountain Parks Electric, calculated that $250,000 ” “That’s a full-time lawyer. Whoever’s elected to this board ought to investigate that.” Engineering and planning has been handled similarly, he said.
Mayor Wang defended the town’s business dealings, as did trustee candidates Pete Gallo and Charlie LaBrake, saying the town has complex development issues before it and the attorney is there to protect the legal interests of the town and its citizens.
Arnold said he couldn’t condemn the town for the expenditures without knowing the gain the town achieved by conducting its business in this manner. Although LaBrake said that the attorney fees are quite high, the citizen for 28 years said the town needs outside help to get things done, and few locals qualify for such positions.
Gallo, resident for 25 years and owner of a Main Street gas station for 22 years, said from his experience on the planning commission, town-contracted planning and engineering ensures that development doesn’t take advantage of the town.
The mayor said hiring contracted help saves the town money by not having to pay for a staff employee during lean times, or having to pay for benefits.
“It’s how your board and I look at keeping money under control, and not have money going to waste,” Wang said.
After the meeting, Fraser’s Town Attorney Rod McGowan, a Granby citizen who sat in the audience, confirmed that it is unusual for a Grand County town to have an attorney at every board meeting.
“Having council there all the time makes it hard to have a friendly small-town-type discussion,” he said. And in his opinion, Granby’s development does not require it.
“We’ve had development in Fraser long before Granby,” he said.
The candidate debate did not just center on the negative.
Each candidate talked about Granby’s potential to attract more businesses to the downtown without sacrificing the small-town atmosphere citizens hold dear. Each had ideas for expounding on what Granby already has to offer, such as Kaibab Park, as Guthridge suggested, potential for a recreation center, as Pierro suggested, “bulb-outs” on Agate Avenue to make it more pedestrian-friendly, as Gallo suggested, and more opportunities and activities for the town’s youth, as trustee candidate Travis Zeke Burmaster said.
A resident for 3.5 years who works for Granby Ranch, Burmaster said, “I’m proud to be here; I think everybody should be. It’s a beautiful place.”
And trustee candidate Elaine Henrekin, citizen of Granby for 12 years, advocated a town that ensures responsible growth, and one that works together with the county and other towns for its citizens.
Deborah Shaw, a trustee incumbent who has lived in Granby 27 years, was absent from the candidate forum due to a family obligation.
After six official questions each, a handful of audience-submitted questions and opening and closing statements, the candidates were given one final question.
One audience member asked, “Do you know your next door neighbor? Granby needs to know neighbors in order to grow as a community.”
All the candidates indeed said they did.
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