Grand Lake municipal fee spurs ‘hostile’ town meeting
Grand Lake town officials fielded public concern over a recently approved municipal fee Monday night during what one trustee called “a hostile situation.”
Several members of the public voiced great concern during the town’s regular meeting Monday over the new municipal fee that the Grand Lake board approved as part of its annual budget for 2018, which imposes an additional cost of roughly $100 per year on each residential dwelling unit and commercial facility in the town. The town expects the new fee to raise approximately $80,000 in 2018.
Sky-Hi News reported last week on such public concerns over the new municipal fee and the way in which it was approved. A Letter to the Editor in which Grand Lake Trustee Tom Goodfellow pointedly voiced his opposition to new fee was published in a subsequent edition of Sky-Hi News. In the letter, Goodfellow wrote he was “elected to represent the people of Grand Lake and not a regime of dictators.”
Following an opening statement from Goodfellow, the meeting Monday moved forward with numerous personal attacks against Jim White, the Grand Lake town manager, and against the trustees.
“I realize that there is probably some anger in this room, and so be it,” Goodfellow said, addressing his comments directly to the board. “If the board feels I am unfit to be a board member, so be it.”
Goodfellow went on to express his opposition to the new fee and to ask the board to consider postponing implementation of the fee pending a public hearing.
As Goodfellow spoke, Grand Lake Trustee Steve Kudron asked him to clarify to attendees his vote on the town’s 2018 budget, to which Goodfellow replied he had not voted on the budget because he was absent from the meeting during which the budget was approved.
As the lengthy discussion continued, multiple town trustees and citizens took the floor to speak, both for and against the new fee and the manner in which the fee was approved.
Pat Farmer, a Grand Lake resident, highlighted concerns about the procedures that led to the fee’s approval. Farmer highlighted that a public hearing on the fee was initially scheduled for Nov. 27, 2017, but was canceled after White missed the deadline to publish a notification of the hearing. The public hearing never rescheduled and the fee was approved as part of the town’s 2018 budget.
Farmer admonished White for contacting Scott Krob, attorney for the town, after the mishap and admonished the town board for not reprimanding White.
But Farmer wasn’t the only community member to make pointed attacks on White and his actions during the meeting.
Former town trustee Lance Sabo called for the board to rescind the new fee entirely and suggested that the direction of the town, over the last three years, “is going in the entire wrong direction.”
“… it is my proposal that we need to look for a new manager for this town,” Sabo told the board.
Other citizens spoke out in support of White and the board.
Andrew Murphy, owner of Mountain Paddlers, took issue with some of the terminology used by opponents of the new fee.
“To the board, I applaud you for doing what you felt was best. Regarding comments about Mr. White, that bothers me a lot. This is not a dictatorship. He was hired as an experienced town manager,” Murphy said.
Murphy went on to note the differences in administration from the town’s two most recent managers.
“I have seen a lot more positive actual action in the last three years than I had seen in the first four I was here,” he explained. “I applaud Mr. White. He has helped make that happen.”
The board took no action regarding citizens’ requests to postpone or rescind the new fee.
“We all voted and approved the budget,” Trustee Shawn Bruegger said. “I don’t think now is the time to go back on our discussion.”
Trustees Lisa Jenkins and Kudron, along with Grand Lake Mayor Jim Peterson, clearly expressed their support for moving forward with the fee as approved, but noted that citizen concerns were causing them to reassess the manner in which the town approves such fees going forward.
“I took umbrage at being told I was establishing a dictatorship,” Peterson said. “This was not meant to be malicious, or harmful. I am all for developing a public policy, that says for the future we will do specific things before enacting fees.”
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