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Candidates square off in Bayfield

Area voters learn about marijuana sales, library district mill levy
County sheriff candidates Charles Hamby, left, Dean Mize and Sean Smith listen to instructions for their Wednesday candidate forum in Bayfield, organized by the League of Women Voters.

Bayfield voters in town will have four municipal ordinances on their November ballot, while voters in the Pine River Library District will decide on a request to increase funding for district staffing and services.

About 50 area voters listened to these issues Tuesday night at Bayfield Town Hall, as well as hearing from the candidates in three contested races for La Plata County sheriff, county commissioner and county treasurer.

The forum was organized by the League of Women Voters and sponsored by The Durango Herald.

Bayfield ballot issues

Of the four ballot issues in Bayfield, two cover marijuana sales in town limits, and two would affect how the town publishes its public notices.

Ordinance 417 would repeal the town’s ban on selling marijuana and medical marijuana in town limits. The second ballot question would allow an occupational tax on all marijuana sales of up to $10 per transaction, explained Town Manager Chris La May.

One attendee asked what the revenue might be from legalized marijuana sales, as well as the costs.

La May pointed her to a study conducted by Fort Lewis College students that is available on the town website. It states revenues of $60,000 to $200,000 are possible, with costs of increased law enforcement of about $100,000.

Another person asked if the revenues are earmarked for a specific area of the town budget. La May replied that they are not.

Kayla Patterson asked if anyone in the town would benefit financially if the ordinance is approved.

One Bayfield town trustee has expressed interest in owning a marijuana business and has done some research on the idea, La May said, noting that she has recused herself from all votes and discussions on the topic.

“As to other people’s intent, I don’t know,” he answered. “I am not going to, uhm, open a retail marijuana shop.”

Regarding public notices, the town board is asking voters to allow the town to print titles of legal notices in The Pine River Times, but not include of the verbiage. That would be available on the town website.

One question was the costs of publication of legal notices.

Publishing the town bills in 2017 cost $3,260, La May said. The cost of publishing ordinances varies from $60 to more than $3,000, which was the cost of advertising the four pages of legalese for the marijuana ordinance.

Pine River Library district mill levy increase

Shelley Walchak, director of the library, said the last mill levy increase for the district was in 1999, and since that time, libraries have evolved from book warehouses into community centers and digital service providers. Decreasing property tax revenues means the district needs to ask for a tax increase or face staffing cuts and reduced hours.

The district has six full-time and 10 part-time employees, with personnel accounting for 65 percent of the district’s costs.

Veronica Lasater asked how the district can spend its grant funding.

Very few grants are available for operations, Walchak said, noting that they are mostly for specific programs or capital projects, such as the library park and garden. Recent programming grants have been for Latino programming and for Pine River Arts performances.

County commission

Incumbent Brad Blake, a Republican, is facing Democratic challenger Clyde Church for the commission seat from the western part of La Plata County.

Blake touted his attendance record for board meetings, his business experience and the fact that he’s the only current member of the board who has run a small business, applied for a Class 2 land-use permit and sat on a ditch board.

Church promoted his experience as an engineer and his volunteer work in area fire mitigation, disaster planning and his work in economic development in Dolores County.

Regarding the potential of revising the county land-use code, Church said the county needs to “make the process cheaper,” and said spot zoning around growing parts of the county could be used.

“Not everything has to be zoned,” he said.

Blake replied, “This is a pretty prickly subject out in the county.” He said the county commission has worked to make its administrative reviews much quicker.

“The process takes way too long,” he said.

Both men said they are opposed to Colorado Amendment 74, which would allow for “just compensation” for a reduction in property values, agreeing it would cause more lawsuits against the county.

“You’re suing yourself,” Church said.

Both also are opposed to Proposition 112, which would require setbacks of 2,500 feet for oil and gas facilities.

“I really believe it is a de facto moratorium in our county,” Blake said.

County sheriff

Sheriff candidates are Republican Charles Hamby; Adrian Dean Mize, who is unaffiliated; and incumbent Sean Smith, a Democrat.

They were asked what the largest need is now for the sheriff’s office and how they would work on it.

Smith said providing more services for a growing population in a time of shrinking budgets is a challenge. The office received 40,000 calls for service last year, he said.

Hamby said morale is an issue, with almost half of the department’s 133 to 137 employees leaving in the past four years.

Mize also said morale and loyalty are issues.

They also were asked how they would engage with all residents of the county, not just those near Durango.

Mize said he thinks a substation at Purgatory might be a good idea during the winter months.

Smith said his supervisors employ resources where they are needed.

County treasurer

County treasurer candidates are Democrat incumbent Allison Aichele and Republican challenger Colton Black.

“If the office were running smoothly, I wouldn’t be running,” Black said, noting that people who know of his banking background asked him to run for the office.

Aichele said she has improved operations in the office and is continually updating technology.

When asked about employee turnover in the office, Black said he would work with employees to improve morale.

Aichele said all of her staffers are accountants, have an accounting degree, or at least 10 years of experience in the field.

“We are a high-performing team,” she said.

The election will be held Nov. 6. Ballots will go into the mail Oct. 15. More information on this year’s election is at www.lwvlaplata.org

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