By Lucas Vader

Staff Writer

The Cedaredge Trustee Candidate Forum that was going to take place March 24 at the Grand Mesa Arts and Events Center was cancelled along with other town meetings, but the question and answer format wasn’t dropped entirely. The forum just turned into a questionnaire with questions submitted by the public.

The Q&A discussion was posted to the Town of Cedaredge Facebook page Monday in its entirety.

Hot topics on the questionnaire included the topic of money and whether each candidate thought the town needed to cut down on spending in various ways. One question asked if the town needed to cut services in order to save money.

Heidi Weissner said it would be important to seriously evaluate services in town to determine their importance. “If a particular service does not provide much value to the town, then cutting that service could be considered,” Weissner said. She also stated that she could not determine whether anything would be cut before evaluating the services.

Charles Howe said he would “be up to the challenge” of finding ways to eliminate waste, also stating that sometimes it would be necessary to “take from one source of revenue to help another area that is lacking funds.”

Richard Udd referenced the current coronavirus pandemic, stating that it would likely cause financial hardship in the near future that would potentially inhibit town services for some time. Apart from coronavirus, Udd said, “in the long term I expect the community to experience significant growth which will lead to more sales tax and property tax revenues which in turn will allow the Town to maintain and likely expand its current level of services.” Udd said that he doesn’t expect that the town would need to cut services in the long run.

Bob Michael said, “Some non-essential items could be cut. A careful study would be necessary to identify what and how much.”

James Atkinson made a statement similar to Weissner’s, saying he wouldn’t be sure what could potentially be cut until further evaluation is done. He mentioned that the police department had previously been discussed, and he stated that water, sewer and other public works services are essential and could not be cut. “They must be set-up to maintain their usefulness and continued smooth operation,” Atkinson said. “Quality of life aspects such as trails, parks, community events and other aspects make the Town the reason to continue living in Cedaredge.”

A second big question referenced the golf course, along with the proposed general improvement district that will show up on the April 7 municipal election ballot. The question asked how the town should pay for the capital needs and improvements for the course if the mill levy initiative fails.

“The golf course got behind on maintenance and upkeep mostly because of the drought,” Bob Michael answered. “It has taken almost two years to recover. It is looking good and it should begin to bring in many new rounds.” Michael also said it would be important to have a good restaurant to compliment the course.

The golf course’s included restaurant area has seen four different restaurants in four years, with the Creekside Italian Cuisine discontinuing at the start of the year.

Atkinson took a different stance on the issue than Michael, stating that there may be financial needs regarding the golf course that the town can’t afford, as the course causes a consistent deficit with the Town of Cedaredge. Atkinson said that costs that present themselves would need to be dealt with right away. “In the meantime, I suggest a proactive approach to try and identify possible capital needs before they are needed,” Atkinson said. “I propose that a detailed analysis be conducted to map a strategy for course improvements, with a magnitude of associated costs to better understand the needs.”

Weissner spoke of what she thinks would be more productive measures than the golf course mill levy initiative in the first place, saying “Raising taxes won’t solve issues if the golf course is not properly managed.” Weissner said she’d go for more of a marketing and promotional method with the golf course in order to generate better revenue.

Howe said it would be important to have a capital expenditure fund for all departments, with each capital investment prioritized at an annual meeting. “We need to remember all the departments of the town are interrelated,” Howe said.

Udd’s ideas, like Weissner, took more of a marketing stance, but more in the style of larger promotional events. “These might include stay/play promotions that feature special packages on hotels, restaurants, GMAEC concerts and golfing events,” Udd said. He suggested that, like many of the local nonprofits, the town could hold golfing fundraisers for the golf course fund.

Another question brought up the idea of disbanding the Cedaredge Police Department and contracting with the Delta County Sheriff’s Office in a deal similar to the one with Orchard City.

Only Atkinson spoke in favor of the idea at all, stating “I have heard of such suggestions, and am somewhat in support, but need to know and have more information.” Atkinson said he wouldn’t want to jeopardize safety of the community and would want to ensure that the sheriff’s service would be equal or better than the Cedaredge Police Department, which is frequently said by trustees and staff to be understaffed. It would be an attractive deal for him if it came with substantial savings.

Howe, Udd and Weissner all said they were weary, at best, at the idea of disbanding the police department, as they provide a local force with faster response time than the town would get with county law enforcement. Howe called a full contract with the sheriff a “last resort.” Weissner and Udd both said a partial contract to have the sheriff’s department help out the Cedaredge police could be an option.

Michael said they had every option but that it would have to be a decision made among the full board of trustees. He said he would work with newly elected trustees to come up with the proper solution.

There was a question on the possibility of marijuana in Cedaredge as well.

None of the trustees who participated in the candidate forum were firmly against allowing marijuana retail in Cedaredge. However, Cyndi Payne, who did not participate in the questionnaire but is running for trustee, did say previously that she was not in favor of marijuana.

Udd said he was not “personally” opposed but that he would want to research the effects, other than revenue, that it could have on the town. He said he has some concerns about marijuana bringing undesirable people into town and would want to look into precautions.

Howe answered similarly to Udd, adding that the facts should be presented to the community.

Michael said he would not be against it but would push for a public hearing to take in community input on the matter from the residents of Cedaredge.

Atkinson spoke along the same lines. He said research and precautions would be necessary in order to not condone an atmosphere of more criminal activity.

Other questions were included on the questionnaire, and the written responses are available for viewing on the Town of Cedaredge Facebook page.

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