Paonia resident Barb Heck was selected Oct. 27 to fill a vacancy on the Town of Paonia's planning commission. The board of trustees unanimously selected Heck, who also serves on the board of the Rotary Club of the North Fork and previously held an advisory seat on the Delta County Tourism Board.
Heck joins current planning commission members Doug Long and Constantine Hirschfeld.
"I am very pleased to see her step up to the plate," said mayor pro tem Charles Stewart, who has known Heck for many years. "The government doesn't function unless people step up and donate their time, so I'm very appreciative of what Barb is doing and encourage others to do so as well."
The town also seeks volunteers to fill seats on other boards and commissions, including four current openings on the zoning board of adjustments. With at least one major construction project and a zoning variance request in the works, town manager Jane Berry said those seats need to be filled as soon as possible. Volunteers will be put right to work and be given the tools and information necessary to understand and fulfill the positions, including a copy of the town's zoning ordinances.
"The planning commission and zoning board play a critical role in local government," said Berry.
At least one additional application and four verbal commitments for boards and commissions were received and are expected to be addressed at the Nov. 10 meeting. Those considering a seat on the zoning board of adjustments or planning commission should be able to look at and understand town regulations, noted trustee Dave Bradford.
But even those won't cover all the seats the town is seeking to fill. Heck asked if the town can appoint people living outside of town proper as a way to attract more people to fill the positions. "The town serves other people out on the mesas with water," said Heck.
"It's hard to find enough people to do these jobs," said trustee Eric Goold, who urged the board to allow out-of-town residents to apply. He noted that the last election cycle for the board of trustees didn't attract enough candidates to hold an election. "Since that's the case, why not let interested people participate?"
"Our code requires that you need to be a registered voter and taxpayer in the Town of Paonia to sit on either the planning commission or the zoning board of adjustment," said trustee Ross King.
While the state also requires that members of the planning commission be electors and taxpayers of the community in which they serve, said Berry, the town is looking to expand membership whereby people living in the broader community could serve and participate in the discussion as non-voting, or ex-officio members. Several years ago the commission was expanded to 10 members, said Berry, with three ex-officio members. Even then, seats often went unfilled.
In urging the public to get involved, trustee Suzanne Watson noted that other boards, including the tree board and beautification and recreation commissions, aren't controlled by state statute.
Mayor Neal Schwieterman suggested the rules are somewhat archaic. "I believe, had our founding fathers ever envisioned the kind of transportation we have available to us now, they might have written our documents slightly differently," said Schwieterman.
A volunteer interest form is available at Town Hall and online at townofpaonia.com under "News & Announcements."