Finger pointing, public meeting, attorneys hired, dasher boards fixed and streets
Crested Butte Town Council member Jim Schmidt has been charged with coming up with an outline on how best to handle a public meeting focused on a review of the Bud Light Whatever USA event last month. Not everyone was happy with the event and so the council wants to hear how to improve any similar events of that magnitude that may be proposed for Crested Butte. The council anticipates holding the meeting in early December after the intensive budget process is finished.
“I’ve come up with a draft agenda and process,” Schmidt told the council at the October 20 meeting. “I have no idea how many people to expect. We can either hold it here in the council chambers or if we think there will be a lot more than the room can handle, we can go to the Center for the Arts.”
“I think commercials or movies being filmed here in the future is a possibility,” said councilperson Roland Mason.
“It is important to have a meeting that focuses on what we can learn from the event, as opposed to finger pointing,” said councilperson Glenn Michel.
“I hope to do that,” agreed Schmidt, whose draft proposal includes having reports from each town department, an opportunity for public comment and the goal of ending with the council setting a direction for handling similar major special events in the future. “We should analyze what went wrong and what went right as opposed to pointing fingers.”
But fingers were pointed earlier in the meeting when a few citizens informed the council they were still upset by the event. Mary Larsen and Andi Burnite of the Creekside Spa told the council they were not pleased with how Whatever impacted their business, which is located in the Ryce building and close to where the main Whatever Elk Avenue stage was set up.
“Our business ended up being inside a secure area and people couldn’t park or even get to our business,” Larsen said. “Dan Marshall had told us we would be compensated for our loss of business based on last year’s numbers, plus ten percent. That didn’t happen and we feel disrespected.”
Larsen said they had tried to contact the event organizers, Marshall, town staff and no one had responded to their inquiries.
“So we hired an attorney and then finally we received a response from the town manager, Todd Crossett,” said Burnite. “We feel that Dan was acting as a representative of the town and we want accountability for those actions.”
Crossett and town attorney John Belkin told the council later in the meeting that they had indeed responded recently to the Creekside Spa concerns. Crossett said he reiterated that the town does not have a policy or mechanism to compensate businesses for what they feel was lost revenue due to an event.
“We don’t want to open up that door,” he told the council. “If they cut a deal with the event organizer, that’s up to them.”
“This is a different deal,” countered Town Council member Shaun Matusewicz. “It sounds like they had made a verbal agreement. It’s our job to stick up for small business in the town. We can at least email and ask for a response from event organizer Mosaic. Sometimes the little guy needs help.”
Crossett said he was taking those types of steps to see if he could sift through the mess and determine who might be best to address the situation.
Resident Susan Eskew told the council she was hoping that the $500,000 “gift” from event organizers would benefit the overall community, especially those who live in Crested Butte who took the brunt of the fallout from the event. She suggested perhaps some of the money could be directed toward affordable housing.
Resident Erika Vohman said she was never in favor of the event and was disappointed with how it came about. “I am asking that [mayor] Aaron (Huckstep) resign,” she said. “And I am disappointed with the leadership of Todd Crossett.” She questioned the legal loopholes used by town attorney John Belkin to allow the event. “Overall, the leadership going on here is not okay with me,” she said.
While Elk Avenue has been diamond-milled to return from blue paint to its original condition, Crossett said it would likely be May before a slurry coat seal would be put down. He said the temperatures were too cold at the moment since the seal has to be done when the asphalt is at least 50 degrees and rising. Too much of Elk is in the shade to reach those temperatures, so while the street is relatively smooth, it will go through the winter without the slurry seal. “The street is smooth but not pristine,” admitted Crossett. “It will be ready to go in the spring.”
The council also approved a release and indemnification agreement on October 20 that basically allows the town to hire contractor Becker Arena Products, Inc. to fix the hockey boards damaged at Big Mine Ice Arena as a result of the Whatever event. The agreement calls for the Whatever event organizer, Mosaic, to pay the company for the work but not hold Mosaic liable for potential future issues with the boards if someone gets hurt.