Town manager plan mulled: Concerns raised about government changes

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Get rid of the current form of government in Green Mountain Falls, appoint the public works director, Rob McArthur, as the town manager and turn over policing duties to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.

Those are revolutionary proposals for a town with 930 residents yet Jane Newberry, mayor pro tem, ignited a discussion, beginning with the idea of a town manager at the Oct. 1 town board meeting.

To support her proposals, Newberry said she had been advised by the town attorney, Lisa Tormoen Hickey, and legal counsel for the insurance company, CIRSA, and the Colorado Municipal League to change the form of government.

“The town manager would function as a CEO and the board would set policy,” Newberry said.

While supporting the idea of a town manager, trustee Tyler Stevens expressed concern about the haste. “I think we need to learn more about it, how it applies to Green Mountain Falls,” he said. “Do we need to strategize the implementation? Then we need to actually roll it out and do it.”

The trustees, Stevens, Mac Pitrone, Howard Price, Margaret Peterson, Newberry and Ralph LoCascio agreed to do the research and host public meetings but hold the final vote Jan. 7, rather than the first deadline mentioned, Jan. 1.

“Since I’ve been mayor I have looked into town management; I think it would be beneficial for our town,” said Mayor Lorrie Worthey. “I do support having a town manager but I don’t see the rush, why we have to decide by Jan. 1.”

Amid the discussion, McArthur threw a possible wrench into the motion. “The one thing you have to consider is that the budget goes into effect for 2014 by Jan. 1, regardless of when the meetings are,” he said. “Unless you want to go through the process all over again, you’re going to have to decide which form of government you are going to use so the budget can be put together.”

Stevens responded. “Develop two budgets,” he said. “This is huge! Changing the form of government is huge.”

In the end, in a unanimous vote, the board approved the motion of making a decision by Jan. 7. With the issue still up in the air, the suggestion that McArthur be the town manager was postponed.

Board discusses changes in the policing of Green Mountain Falls

Newberry, along with trustee Price, laid the groundwork for changing the way the town is policed. According to a report by Price, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa has offered to open a sub-station in Green Mountain Falls that will be staffed during the day by sheriff’s deputies.

The offer is a result of the county’s voters approving ballot issue 1A in November, which increased the sales tax by .23 percent which is expected to raise $17 million a year.

In a chat with the sheriff, Price said they were assured that deputies would patrol the roads, take formal complaints in the sub-station, and respond to calls from Green Mountain Falls, Chipita Park and Cascade.

However, with the plan, the town would still have a town deputy on duty. “I told the sheriff we want to have our own staff,” Price said, adding that the sub-station could be opened by January. “But I will not sign off on this until we have at least a deputy here to do code enforcement.”

The deputy would report to the town manager. “There is no way we can afford to do the coverage we do now,” Price said. “The marshal (Police Chief Tim Bradley) is doing the best job he can to get us coverage seven days a week. But when you have one full-time and one part-time, you just can’t do it. We can’t afford to be spending a lot of money.”

With the sub-station, El Paso would provide the patrol cars as well as the fuel, Price said.

“I would like for us to hear from the big guy himself (Maketa) what he can do and what he can’t do,” Price said.

From the audience, former trustee Marshall Worthey, the mayor’s husband, asked if the decision was just about the budget. “Absolutely. We can’t afford what we’re doing.”

Trustees Mac Pitrone and Ralph LoCascio highlighted the fact that the residents are taxed by the county. “We’re just leveraging the money we’re already paying,” LoCascio said. “This is smart business.”

“Chief Bradley, I’d like to hear from you, please,” Worthey said.

“We have a phenomenal relationship with the sheriff’s department,” Bradley replied. “Yeah, the 1A initiative money is kicking in. I think having a sheriff’s sub-station here is a phenomenal idea.”

Yet Bradley stated that the sheriff’s deputies would not have the authority to enforce municipal codes.

In a request for proposals to serve as the town’s attorney, Tormoen Hickey’s application was absent. Last month, the attorney’s request for compensation was denied by the board. As a result of the recall petition, since postponed, late board meetings and a flurry of questions because of ongoing controversies among the board members, Tormoen Hickey cited the strain on her time. Hickey is with the law firm Alpern Myers Stuart.

However, the board did receive applications from other law firms.

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