Fraser, Winter Park discuss taking next steps toward merger
Sky-Hi Daily News
Officials from the towns Fraser and Winter Park conducted a joint meeting Thursday evening to discuss items such as recycling, the study to combine both towns and animal control.
Town board members and staff from both towns meet twice a year to discuss items that affect both towns. Although no final decisions where made, the meeting was characterized as productive.
Combining the towns still being explored.
Both towns decided to move forward with the results of the joint working group study, a year-long initiative that explored the possibility of combining the towns of Fraser and Winter Park.
It was decided that both town mangers should work together over the next couple of weeks to find out what the requirements are to form a commission, which would further study the possibility.
“If we want to move this forward to people, we have to form a commission that studies the report and makes recommendations to the board, so they can decide whether to move forward, ” explained Fraser Mayor Fran Cook.
Forming a commission requires a statute. The town managers plan to share their findings at the first public town meetings in February, where the public can share their views and board members can then decide whether to even form a commission.
“I think it’s the only logical next step, unless we just say ‘Nice study,’ and shelve it,” Cook said, referring to the board’s decision to explore the idea of a commission publicly. “It was a magnificent study that qualified ramifications for both towns. We’re elected officials, we need to represent our constituency. The only way we can do that is to put it out into a public meeting and have people come to us.”
Winter Park Mayor Nick Teverbaugh explained that the joint working group study quantified what the benefits might be if both towns combined, but if it gets to the point of a vote by the people, it’s going to be more of an emotional issue, he said. Although both towns held open house forums to present the study to the public, they were not well attended.
A commission would be made up of three people appointed from each council. It would explore what it would take legally to present the decision to the public for a vote.
“It’s more designed to build on quantifiable issues, and dealing more with emotional issues to see if we can get more feedback,” Teverbaugh said. “And to see if it makes sense to go to a vote or not. (The commission) has a different goal than what the working group was charged with.”
The first public meeting in February for both towns will give board members a chance to “look and see whether both councils feel they should take the next step, which is forming a commission,” he added.
Consolidation of both towns is not something either board is trying to manipulate, Cook said. She believes by holding public meetings about the subject, voters can make their voices heard.
“It’s very exciting because you hear a lot from people on the street, in the bars, in the post office. But you don’t hear from everybody,” Cook said. “And that’s what we want ” that’s what our public meetings are all about. Come to them, call us, let us know what you think. And then maybe we’ll have better guidance whether to form a commission.
“(People ask), ‘Why are you two separate towns?’ Let’s get an answer.”
Teverbaugh also pointed out that both boards believe they need to be careful. If the decision goes to a vote and doesn’t pass, it needs to be understood that the relationship between both towns isn’t damaged.
“We’re working better together than we ever have. With our combined police department, building departments, and other ways,” Teverbaugh said. “We don’t want anything to jeopardize that.”
Both towns talked about the request for proposal (RFP) about to go out in an effort to hire a major hauler for recycling in Grand County, but it was agreed Fraser and Winter Park should also be looking at other options to put recycling back in the south Valley.
“Yes we are definitely part of the county-wide proposal. But we need to be prepared,” Cook said.
If a bid is made on the RFP and it turns out to be too expensive, “we want to have other potentials in the hopper,” she added.
The bids for the RFP are expected to come back in March, and the towns are hopeful a recycling program will be in place by the summer. If the bids aren’t good, both towns want to have an alternative in place also by that time.
Animal control officer for both towns
Fraser hired an animal control officer a couple months ago, but decided the position would be more effective if it came under the Fraser/Winter Park Police Department.
It was assumed, Teverbaugh said, that most calls about dog issues came from Fraser, not Winter Park. But Chief of Police Glen Trainor told both boards that while Grand County Animal Control received close to 60 calls from Fraser last year, it received almost 30 calls from Winter Park.
The boards therefore decided the new animal control officer would work for both towns and under the Fraser/Winter Park Police Department, but records would be kept by the Grand County Sheriff’s Office. That way, residents of Winter Park can call the local animal control officer instead of Grand County Animal Control.
Fraser will continue to fund the program, and records will be kept to show where dogs are the biggest problem. The two boards will then review the records, and revisit the funding, if necessary.
“The real thing both towns agree on, that it’s not as much police action as it is education,” Cook added. “The animal control officer will work through the police department, but it’s going to focus very strongly on education , responsible ownership ” the way to enjoy your dog in Fraser and Winter Park. This isn’t a doggie jail program.”
Hiring a parks person could benefit both towns
Winter Park is in the process of hiring a parks person to oversee its Public Works department and gardeners. Both boards discussed the job description, and it was indicated that the duties of the parks person could be shared in both communities.
Continuing a successful relationship between both towns
Teverbaugh agreed that as far as a working relationship goes, this was the furthest along both towns have ever been since he’s been mayor. Cook said the willingness to work together is a “real productive way to operate.”
“The most rewarding part of the meeting was the fact that we reaffirmed from both towns that this collaboration that we have makes both towns stronger,” Cook said.
“And we are both so proud of the positive direction that our boards have taken in collaborating and coordinating everything.
“Everybody from both boards said this has been best thing that has happened in the south Valley, and we are committed to working together for benefit of the whole Valley.”
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