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Only three Winter Parkers show up to community forum

by Stephanie Miller
Sky-Hi Daily News
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When Winter Park Town Councilor Jimmy Lahrman walked into town hall Tuesday and saw the almost empty room, he sighed.

“I’m not that surprised at the turn-out. But I don’t know what it means,” he said. “You could say people think it’s a bad idea, or they have faith in their leaders to make the decision for them. Or, there’s a lot of apathy.”

The public forum held Tuesday evening in Winter Park Town Hall was an effort to share with citizens the results of the Fraser/Winter Park Joint Working Group’s findings, which explore four alternatives for potential cooperation between Fraser and Winter Park ” such as annexation or consolidation ” and the pros and cons of each. Fraser also held a forum the next evening in downtown Fraser, but had roughly 15 citizens in attendance.

Lahrman, who sat on the joint working committee for one year, said if Winter Park’s residents had a huge concern, they would have showed up at the forum. But, he said,

“it’s too bad people aren’t more informed.”

Winter Park mayor, Nick Teverbaugh, said he also wasn’t surprised at the turnout in Winter Park.

“It tends to be that way a lot. Until people see something, it’s hard to get input at this stage,” Teverbaugh said.

He also wasn’t surprised to hear Fraser had a better turnout at its forum.

“I think when I look back historically at things, there seems to have been more people (in Fraser) who notice those things and feel strongly about them,” he said.

Mayor of Fraser Fran Cook said she didn’t know why Fraser’s forum had more people in attendance than Winter Park, but she was “thrilled” at the turnout.

She was disappointed, however, that the citizens that should have been there weren’t.

“The very people that needed to hear it the most weren’t there ” the ones that listen to what everybody is spinning without even reading the newspaper articles,” Cook said.

Cook said the towns are looking for what matters to people.

“We have the head. We have the facts. We can answer questions about facts from the research, she said. “But where is the heart of the people? That’s what we’re trying to get to. We need to get to the heart of this matter.”

The next step, she said, was to compile the surveys that were filled out at the forums and discuss the results and information collected at the next combined meeting between the towns. The date of that meeting has not been determined.

“Without having input, it’s hard to know what a lot of people are thinking,” he said.

Teverbaugh wondered if the low turnout could also be due to Winter Park’s high amount of second homeowners. Winter Park’s second homeowners make up 80 percent of the population; Fraser’s second homeowners make up 47.5 percent.

Based on what the two towns find out from its citizens, the next step would be to appoint a commission ” if the towns’ constituents show enough interest, Lahrman said. “Either we move forward, or we shelf it, based on the feedback of the informational forums. Publicly, we have not heard anything ” don’t know if that’s good or bad. It’d be nice to know what people are thinking.”

Locals at Fraser’s public forum were cautiously optimistic about the joint working group’s findings displayed on boards throughout the Fraser Historic Community Center.

“It looks pretty exciting,” was one comment.

“Consolidation is out for me,” said A.J. Jensen of Fraser, who admitted he didn’t know enough information yet to form an opinion.

Another longtime local, Mike Lorton, said he didn’t feel Fraser would lose its individuality and character if it combined with the town of Winter Park.

“Look at LoDo in Denver ” it has its own personality,” Lorton said. “Just because areas are within a given segment, doesn’t mean they can’t have personality.”

Asked if he thought combining the towns was a good idea, he simply answered,

“We’re a community. Why not work as one?”

” To reach Stephanie Miller call (970) 887-3334 ext. 19601 or e-mail smiller@grandcountynews.com.


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