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City council candidates: Beyond marijuana

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Marijuana has been a hot topic in Delta's municipal election, but during individual interviews, candidates have expressed their views on several other topics.

The City of Delta recently completed a parks, trails and open space master plan. When asked about prioritizing projects identified by citizens, Kevin Carlson said, "You've got to dream big. People could not believe the citizens could support a recreation center, that it wouldn't be financially viable, and look at what the city has done with that."

He believes the riverfront is "wide open" for development. The city needs to partner with other entities to get the word out about all Delta has to offer. Within a 30-minute drive, you can play golf or be in the mountains.

His opponent, Jay Stooksberry, said the master plan is necessary for approaching grant opportunities, "but then again we butt up against the reality of our financial situation. Unless we're willing to address what we already have, I don't know how pragmatic it is to jump ahead into a future we can't accommodate ... how can we justify adding to the existing burden of maintenance? We shouldn't stray away from conversations about opportunities, but we have to walk cautiously."

Nathan Clay, the unopposed District C candidate, focused on river activation, which he says fits into his vision of marketing the natural resources of Delta County.

The discussion about river activation segues into Delta Urban Renewal Authority's efforts to secure a hotel developer for riverfront development. Clay believes the project will be good for Delta, but has concerns about "strong arming" entities such as the mosquito and fire districts to participate in tax incentive financing.

Stooksberry agreed, saying he respects the DURA's board decision to step away from mediation with those two taxing entities. He would like to see a more level paying field for all hotels, and says there has to be a "bigger plan."

"We can't just create a hotel," he said. "It has to play into a strategy of how we market our community."

He said that will require a regional strategy, since a centrally located hotel will provide access to Grand Mesa, the North Fork and surrounding areas.

One of the amenities that should be marketed more vigorously is Devil's Thumb Golf Club, Stooksberry said.

"The golf course ... that's what really got me started down this rabbit hole. I will be perfectly frank -- my conversations with city council gave me a whole new perspective on this. I do think it is a financial problem, but it's also an asset. Friends who visit from the Front Range have said this place is a hidden gem. It needs to stop being a hidden gem."

Stooksberry said he's also come to realize how the city's water rights are tied to the golf course. On the other hand, the city has transferred over $12 million to the golf course from various enterprise funds. "It's very easy to make the argument we subsidize the golf course through our utility bills," he said.

"Like it or not, it's ours," Carlson said of the golf course. "We need to find a better way to market Devil's Thumb and draw more play from out of Delta. We've got a great pro who's trying different ideas, not just his own."

With a son on the high school golf team, Carlson said he's recognized the revenue the state golf tournament could bring to Delta. Youth programs in general bring in not only young people, but their parents as well.

Concerning DURA, Carlson said he's new to the process so he's still learning.

Carlson said he has no agenda, but simply wants what's best for the majority of the residents of Delta. "It's about time I stepped up." He said he came to that conclusion after reading about the council getting involved in personnel issues. "We need to let the workers work, and if there's a problem, council has to figure out a way without getting involved in personnel."

Clay said firing anyone should be the last possible choice. "We need to work harder with all city employees. They have to know they're cared about. Company culture is everything ... I hear it over and over again."

Stooksberry said running for office is part of his "put up or shut up" philosophy. "It's easy to be opinionated, but unless you're doing something about it you're not solving anything."

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