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Crested Butte votes in favor of change on Town Council

Michel elected mayor. Sales tax initiatives pass

by Mark Reaman

There will be a big change at the Crested Butte Town Council as a result of Tuesday’s election. People new to the town political scene will fill three of the seven seats. For the first time in years, two women will join the decision makers. Current mayor Aaron Huckstep didn’t make the cut for council and current councilman Glenn Michel defeated fellow councilman Skip Berkshire to take the mayor’s seat. Both local sales tax increase proposals passed handily and the county voters felt that allowing governments to partner with private companies to improve broadband service was a good idea.

In the Crested Butte Town Council election, Michel garnered 355 votes to Berkshire’s 327, a 52 percent to 48 percent margin. In the council runoff, Paul Merck received the most votes with a whopping 565 ballots. Erika Vohman came in second with 480 votes. Laura Mitchell edged out Huckstep by 20 votes, 422 to 402. In an interesting statistic, every council candidate received more votes than the mayoral candidates.

“I look forward to working together as a council,” said mayor-elect Michel on Tuesday evening. “I think we all look forward to working together. It is a new time of collaboration. I do want to thank Skip for running a positive campaign and serving the town. I’m honored and excited to represent the people of Crested Butte.”

The turnout was heavy for Crested Butte. Four years ago, just 457 people cast votes. Two years ago the count was more than 700. This year, 724 people turned in a ballot. The mail ballot process seems to have increased the number of voters. The town and county recently partnered to try to make sure those who live in town were the ones voting in town through an effort to remind voters to update their current addresses.

“I think the turnout was good everywhere and feel like that effort to update the Crested Butte voter registration addresses helped with the turnout,” said Diane Folowell, Gunnison County election division manager. “Overall, the election went really smoothly. The machines worked great and having people returning their ballots early worked in our favor.”

As for the sales tax initiatives, 5A, the Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) effort to equalize the sales tax that funds the RTA to 1 percent across Gunnison County, passed throughout the county 2,391 to 2,234.

“This will allow us to expand and provide better transportation to and within the valley,” said RTA executive director Scott Truex.

The Town of Crested Butte’s sales tax increase initiative also passed after failing by three votes a year ago. The half (.5) percent increase in town sales tax will be earmarked for parks and recreation. “The people in Crested Butte want great things for the town,” said campaign chairman Jim Schmidt. ”This allows that to happen.”

The town’s sales tax rate will now stand at 9.4 percent.

The effort to keep $66 million in sales tax earned on recreational marijuana sales passed in the town, in the county and across Colorado. Statewide, about 70 percent of the voters were in favor of the state keeping the tax revenue rather than sending out a refund. The measure sends the first $40 million to school construction, with $12 million designated for youth and substance-abuse programs. The remaining $14.1 million goes to discretionary accounts controlled by Colorado lawmakers.

The initiative to overturn the limits on broadband saw similar results. In the town of Crested Butte the tally was 609 for overturning the regulation and 77 against. In Mt. Crested Butte it passed 182 to 21. The voters living in unincorporated Gunnison County voted 1,839 to 687. The city of Gunnison voted 915 to 323.

The Crested Butte Town Council will shift to a new look at the next meeting, Monday, November 16.

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