Paonia has 60 days to appoint trustee

By Tamie Meck


Paonia has 60 days to appoint trustee | Paonia, Trustees,

Photo by Tamie Meck William "Bill" Bear, Bill Brunner, center, and Karen Budinger are congratulated by Jane Berry after being sworn in as trustees. The town board has yet to appoint a trustee to fill the seat vacated by Charles Stewart. David Bradford was

With 60 days from the April 26 meeting to appoint a trustee, just what process the board will use has yet to be determined.

The vacancy was created when trustee and mayor pro tem Charles Stewart resigned after being elected mayor in the April 5 election.

Trustee David Bradford, who was unanimously voted to serve as mayor pro tempore by the newly seated board, said there is no indication of tradition in appointing trustees to fill vacancies. Bradford, known for doing his homework, examined the board's 18 board appointments since 1990 and found that the board used prior election results only twice. There's no tradition, no statutory requirement to use the election, said Bradford.

Several citizens have publicly stated they want election results to guide the decision, which would give the appointment to Chelsea Bookout.

"I have heard that there is a move by the incoming council to put (outgoing trustee) Ross King in that seat in lieu of Chelsea," due to his experience, said Dave Weber, who served more than eight years on the board. King received 170 votes, with Brunner and Bookout receiving 177 and 175 votes, respectively. Voters rejected King and incumbent Eric Goold "...because of their experience," said Weber, urging the board to "respect the will of the voters" and appoint Bookout.

Weber said citizens voted incumbents out because the board "dithered about" the last four years, considering a roundabout at Third and Grand "while the streets of Paonia rotted and disintegrated." They also sharply increased all three utility fees, sewer and trash without justification, causing some citizens hardships. Mistakes made on the one million-gallon tank project cost taxpayers "a third of a million dollars, with nothing to show for it. It was ill-conceived, improperly executed, and had a lack of oversight." Weber blamed King, who served on the water committee and whom he said was in charge of oversight.

Goold said the town can't afford to fix the streets, and that the newly seated board will eventually come to the same conclusion. As for the water tank project, to blame King "is utterly and completely absurd," said Goold. "Everyone on this council agreed (and) voted unanimously every step on the one million-gallon tank upgrade, and for you to blame him is outrageous."

Celia Roberts urged the board to keep the public informed of the process and maintain an open dialogue. While she understands the board has 60 days to make the appointment, waiting that long is similar, albeit not as serious, as the recent U.S. Supreme Court vacancy. "If we put things off, sometimes those who want a particular outcome might get their way because it was put off, and I don't think that's a good enough reason" to delay the appointment, said Roberts.

Town statute created to address close elections does allow the board to hold a special election, said Bradford. The next board meeting is on May 10, and the process they use, he said, should be decided on no later than the May 24 meeting.

Before swearing in the new board, the outgoing board had old business to address. They unanimously approved Ed Marston's request to landscape property located in a town right-of-way at the intersection of Third Street and Grand Avenue adjacent to the Sol Margaritas building, of which Marston is the owner. "It's a weed patch and an eyesore to people coming into town now," said Marston, dubbing it "hell strip."

King recommended approval of the project. While the town has no specific guidelines for what can be done in town ROW's, many people do plant vegetation and make improvements, said King.

Project designer and contractor Wind Clearwater, who designed Poulos Park and selected the trees growing on the four corners of the intersection about a decade ago, presented a sketch plan and assured the board that a great deal of thought and consideration went into the plans.

Since the roughly 100-foot strip is located at one of Paonia's busiest intersections, only low-growing, drought-tolerant plants that won't impair visibility will be planted. Planters are set back 18 inches to allow for car doors to open. Pea gravel paths and sandstone walkways will allow pedestrians to access the sidewalk without going out into the street or destroying vegetation. Clearwater said he is open to changing the plant selection if the town deems it necessary.

One of the first issues to come before the new board is the obligatory appointment of town officers. Under state statute, a newly-seated board must appoint a town attorney, clerk and treasure, said Stewart after being sworn in as mayor. Under another state statute, the board is obligated to appoint a municipal judge. Both must occur within 30 days of the new board being seated. Two meetings remain before that deadline.

Stewart also explained that a town ordinance (2-3-10) states that the board "shall appoint seven town officers," including clerk, treasurer, attorney and judge, as well as town administrator, chief of police and director of public works. The town has no chief of police, said Stewart, "and simply cannot afford one."

Stewart said he's explaining all of this because the town should not have to appoint more officials than is required by the state.

State statute also has a provision that states officers cannot be removed by the board with out a specific charge, in writing, and an opportunity for a hearing. If the town needed to dismiss either of the additional officers, the process is expensive and cumbersome.

Board members discussed repealing the section of town code specific to the three positions and relying on state statute. The danger in that, said Stewart, is that the town has no control if state statute changes.

After a motion by Bradford, which was withdrawn and replaced by a motion by Brunner, the board voted unanimously to direct town staff and attorney David Marek to draft an ordinance to strike the three positions, thus eliminating the conflict with state statute, and present the draft ordinance at the May 10 meeting as an emergency ordinance.