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Estes Park Town Trustee Candidates

Five of the eight candidates for Estes Park Town Trustee responded to questions about the position they are running for on April 1st. Below are their full, unedited responses to the six questions they were asked. Responses from Geraldine Treacy, Wendy Koenig, Judy Fontius, Paul Fishman and Ward Nelson.

There is a meet and greet scheduled for March 31, 2014 at Cheesy Lee’s in Estes Park at 6:30. This will e an opportunity to meet the candidates and thank them for running.

Geraldine Treacy:

  1. As far as my professional life, I am most proud of getting a group of company executives home from Europe during 9/11. The Philadelphia building I worked in was evacuated due to a bomb threat, but I hid under my desk and didn’t leave with my fellow employees, because I had an American Airlines agent on the phone that worked with me in getting the execs on connecting flights back to the states. I was told to give up by every other airline agent I called. Everyone was saying they would be stuck in Europe for at least four more days. It was exhilarating for me to call my boss who was in England, and to be able to tell him “You can all start packing to leave for the airport!” When they returned, they sent me a big bouquet of flowers. The bomb threat to our building was a hoax and I made it down to the street from the 43rd floor without incident.
  2. What Estes Park organizations are you a part of?
    The Estes Park Woman’s Club; a Board member of the veterans group, History and Heroes; a woman’ s Christian book club; and I volunteer in the fund-raising department of EPMC.
  3. Which direction should the Estes Park budget go? (Increased, decreased, stay the same)
    The budget needs to be increased to cover the cost of restoring and improving infrastructure. The current budget covers current service levels. Estes Park residents have expressed a desire for increased services.
  4. If changes need to be made in the budget, how should that be handled? (Increase taxes, mill levy, find ways to trim expenses, other)
    Nobody likes to pay taxes, but I believe the proposed 1% increase in sales tax, two thirds of which is paid by tourists, is necessary. The tax would go to funding citizen requests for more services: Expanded road maintenance program, Community Wellness Recreation Center, Integrated Senior Services, improved Museum facilities, new hiking trails and connections, enhancements to emergency management like an AM Radio Station which will cost approximately $50,000.
  5. What is the most pressing issue the town is currently facing?
    Estes Park has fallen from the third most visited Colorado town to fifth. Our town’s lifeblood is tourist dollars. Natural disasters like the recent flood and past fires unexpectedly shortened the tourist season. We need to focus on extending the tourist season, even by just two months, with new attractions. Breckenridge did this successfully by focusing on extending their high season—winter—into the summer months. We need to diversify, just like one is advised to do with a stock portfolio.

    It is important to facilitate the development of tourism experiences and products that are not season dependent. According to the Office of Travel & Tourism Industries’ 2013 Spring Travel Forecast, international travel to the United States is expected to increase through 2018. Therefore it would make sense that our marketing is expanded to cash in on this trend.

    I also believe like the towns of Breckenridge and Boulder, all shoppers should be encouraged to use reusable cloth bags for shopping by charging 10 cents per plastic bag. Merchants keep half the fee. The other half of the fee could be designated for either the town’s operating budget or toward a worthy cause.

    Research has indicated that an estimated three million disposable bags are handed out every year by retail and grocery stores in Breckenridge alone and some two billion disposable bags are used in Colorado annually. These bags are used for an average of 12 minutes, but they remain in our landfills, oceans, parks and beaches for thousands of years. Both plastic and paper disposable bags are costly, environmentally damaging, and completely unnecessary. I think Estes Park should consider a BYOB program (Bring Your Own Bag).

Wendy Koenig

  1. How long have you lived in Estes Park? 43 years

I was raised in Estes Park and went through all grades; kindergarten through 12th grade in Estes Park. I lived 5 years in Utah and 5 in Florida and came home to Estes Park in 1987 to raise my family here.

  1. What are you most proud of in your personal or professional life?

Several blessings come to mind: I am married to Roger Schuett and we have five amazing children, Jason, Kristin and Karin Knudson, Kaylin and Pam Schuett and 7 grandsons! I am a two time Olympian in the 800m track and field for the USA; I have a Doctorate in Audiology and own Community Hearing Center, inc since 1989 in Estes Park. I am proud to be a Town Trustee. Estes Park has been good to us!

  1. What Estes Park organizations are you a part of?

I am a past president and Melvin Jones Fellow in the Estes Park Lions Club. I have been a member of the Village Band and I am a member of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church. Due to my time commitments as a Town Trustee, and audiologist, my attendance at all three organizations has been significantly reduced.

  1. Which direction should the Estes Park budget go ( increased, decreased, stay the same)

This is a question with a variable answer. The Town is required by State statute to manage the Light and Power Utility, for example. Infrastructure maintenance for roads, water pipes and electrical lines must be funded. Intergovernmental agreements make funding of such entities as the Fire District and until recently, operational expenses for a future performing arts center a requirement. Staff salaries, insurance and benefits cannot be changed without Board approval. There are 19 categories in the budget that all include fixed costs and items that can be underfunded, not funded or have funding delayed. Each Board makes these decisions annually with staff input beginning in June with weekly public meetings ending with formal acceptance in October/November.

The outcome of the 1% tax incentive will impact budget decisions currently in place. If the tax incentive is defeated the newly elected Town Board will have to decide if Town roads need to be a priority at the suggested funding level of $1.2million per year for 10 years, for example. If the New Board of Trustees decides to fund roads at this level, adjustments to the budget of $438,000 per year will have to be made to find the additional $600,000 dollars for 2014 repairs. I don’t believe there is a simple answer to question #4.

  1. If changes need to be made in the budget, how should that be handled?

The budget needs for the various Town departments will determine the approach used to meet those needs. Trimming expenses is always looked at every year.

We have identified that the Town has fallen dramatically behind in road maintenance. A sales tax increment was selected remedy this identified need and is currently before the voters. A little background may be helpful. Jerry Miller and I were at the Colorado Municipal League (CML) annual conference in 2011. We attended a meeting discussing options for funding road infrastructure needs. We brought the information to the Town Board three years ago. As citizens, you are now being asked to vote on a sales tax increase to fund road infrastructure and other items that have had funding requests over the past three years. Why did I promote this option to my fellow Trustees? I feel this is a fair method to get caught up on road replacement and maintenance because all who use the roads tourists and citizens will pay for their repair. Also, citizens have the option to shop elsewhere if not in favor of the sales tax increase. The poor who will be most burdened by the tax can get a tax rebate for food tax. This is the fairest way in my opinion to correct the lack of maintenance by previous Boards and pay for amenities requested by our citizens, such as the Senior Center relocation. Emergency radios suddenly will be required due to new government regulations. Trimming the police budget was not realistic, so the radios were added to the sales tax incentive menu.

  1. What is the most pressing issue the town is currently facing?

Several issues are “most pressing”: Flood repair, workforce housing, economic sustainability and infrastructure maintenance. These are equally pressing, in my opinion.

Judy Fontius:

  1. How long have you lived in Estes Park?

I purchased my home here in 2006. I have been a full-time resident since 2009.

  1. What are you most proud of in your personal or professional life?

In my personal life, I am most proud of challenging myself to obtain a Doctor of Philosophy degree and doing it! In my professional life, I am most proud of, as a school administrator, having the opportunity to experience and affect change in a school I was assigned to specifically to “turn things around.”

  1. What Estes Park organizations are you a part of?

I have belonged to Estes Park Newcomers for four years. I am a co-chair of one of the Interest Groups. I am currently on the Estes Park Senior Center Board and co-chair of their fundraising committee. Incorporating my love of nature/animals and history into my life, I am a volunteer in Rocky Mountain National Park and a docent at MacGregor Ranch.

  1. Which direction should the Estes Park budget go?

Every effort should be made so that fund target ratios are maintained and without taking on any debt in the General Fund. The flood of 2013 showed us how important a General Fund Reserve is – most of the time not used but is there when events like the flood occur.

  1. If changes need to be made in the budget, how should they be handled?

The first approach would be to study the 12 budget areas, the General Fund being the most inclusive, and determine if areas could be trimmed without influencing benefits to citizens. Reallocation of funds should be looked at. Many times these efforts do not produce favorable results. If a tax increase were to be called for, the best approach is the sales tax. Visitors contribute approximately 2/3 of sales tax funds. Any other increase burdens residents. For instance, property taxes would need to increase tenfold to raise enough revenue to equal a 1% sales tax. Tax increases are a serious matter and Estes Park residents need to participate in the budgetary process.

  1. What is the most pressing issue the town is currently facing?

Flood recovery is the most pressing issue the town is currently facing. This includes taking care of the infrastructure and the need to broaden our business base and strengthen our year-round economy. Tourism is a primary economic driver and the town must invest in our product offerings for visitors.

Paul Fishman

1. I have lived in Estes Park since 2002.
2. The thing I am most proud of in my personal life is my little sister. In my professional life, was owning and operating a successful business here in Estes.
3. I am part of two Estes Park organizations/ committees right now. Event Center Task Force and the Strong Tomorrow Task Force. I was a chamber of commerce board member and a 2017 Economic Development Committee member.
4. The Estes Park budget should go in whatever direction is reflected by the needs of its citizens. It should and is a reflection of the sales tax collected and projected to be collected. Up down or the same.
5. If changes need to be made in the budget, we should as board members look at all options out there and be creative as well. An Increase in sales tax which is on the ballot now is the fairest way everyone pays into it. 67% from our guest 33% from us, not a bad deal. I am not thrilled with it either but here we are now. The roads need repair and replacement, we desperately must have a multi-generational center, better trails, and emergency center all made possible by a 1% increase in our sales tax. Mill level's do not easily pass here in Estes. It is an unequal tax, commercial properties pay 3 times the amount of residential making it difficult to justify the additional expense. Finally, there are always places to trim a budget but at what cost to the services provided to the citizen. Balance is the key and understanding of cause and effect.
6. The most pressing issue the town is currently facing, is still the flood recovery and its continued affect on the economy. We also better be prepared for spring run off. We must also keep striving to find the balance between the character of our community, our natural surroundings, and the creation of a year round economy.

Ward Nelson

  1. How long have you lived in Estes Park?

6 years full time; have visited for 34 years.

  1. What are you most proud of in your personal or professional life?

Not really the feeling of “proud” but the two most “touching” areas:

Personal: creating and raising a family.

Professional: the communications I’ve had with former students.

  1. What Estes Park organizations are you a part of?

Noon Rotary Board member; RMNP volunteer; President of The Reserve of Estes Park HOA, Trailmasters Hiking Club, Fine Arts Guild of the Rockies, Estes Valley Land Trust.

  1. Which direction should the Estes Park budget go? (Increased, decreased, stay the same)

The budget is a fluid document. Spending is dependant upon revenues. Responsible budgeting balances those two. Any excess revenues from our sales tax based budget should go:

1) To rebuild the reserve

2) To improve infrastructure

3) To reinforce promotion of Estes Park as THE Colorado destination

4) To insure the highest quality and stability of municipal employees

  1. If changes need to be made in the budget, how should that be handled? (Increase taxes, mill levy, find ways to trim expenses, other)

Insufficient revenues mandate cuts in services or finding new revenue sources. I’m not a fan of raising taxes.

  1. What is the most pressing issue the town is currently facing?

Many pressing issues are intertwined. Lack of year round jobs. Changing demographics. The emergence of a large retired population and accompanying lack of affordable housing for the working population affects the community in many ways. I’m personally worried about severe declining enrollment in the schools. The Town, in partnership with other organizations, must encourage thoughtful growth through a diverse year round economy.

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