In-house attorney and ADA compliance
By Mark Reaman
The Crested Butte Town Council continues to seek ways to end up with a balanced 2019 budget.
Council members met for a 90-minute work session on Monday, November 5 to go over staff suggestions on ways to pare down spending. Council agreed to put planning and development of a campground at Avalanche Park south of town on hold and initially cut community grants to $50,000 annually from $105,000. They’ll look again at the budget after winter to see if the Epic Pass brought in more guests and thus more sales tax revenue than expected.
They agreed to try to wean the Creative Arts District off the town funding in two years instead of one, and will advertise for an in-house lawyer to act as town attorney for about $100,000 per year, which could save about the same figure in current legal expenditures. Some additions to parks and recreation fees will likely be implemented. Council does not want to take on additional care and maintenance for new projects such as the Big Mine Park warming house expansion.
Council spent a considerable amount of time at the meeting discussing whether to spend money on fixing the ADA (Americans with Disability Act) lifts at town hall and the Mallardi Cabaret, in the old town hall building by the Second and Elk bus stop, to be in compliance with ADA standards. They ultimately agreed to proceed as soon as possible with a $5,000 repair at town hall that could buy them time, and the installation of an elevator at the Mallardi to replace the current lift. That is needed because of space issues that do not allow the current lift to come into compliance, so the elevator option will cost close to $200,000.
The council members all felt being ADA-compliant was a priority for both buildings. One issue that could hamper the project is that when the town advertised for bids earlier this year to rectify the Mallardi situation, no bids were received. Staff will look into grants that are specifically earmarked for towns to come into ADA compliance to help pay for the elevator if a bid is received.
Councilman Paul Merck expressed some concern that the Marshal’s Office was not getting the eighth officer it was requesting. Chief marshal Mike Reily said while the department could definitely use the additional officer, he understood it was a big expense and could be put on temporary hold. He did say the outcome of the sheriff’s coverage contract with Mt. Crested Butte and the coverage provided by the county could play a role. He didn’t feel the county department was prepared to adequately cover the entire north end of the valley without assistance.
“We need to keep our finger on the marshal situation and maybe it is something we revisit after the winter,” suggested councilwoman Laura Mitchell.
Town manager Dara MacDonald said the additional marshal remained a priority for staff and complimented the current officers for going “above and beyond” to make the department work.
Council agreed to spend the money to resurface the play area at Rainbow Park next year, to save money in the long run if done in conjunction with the construction of the Town Park by the Center for the Arts.
Schmidt again lobbied to not cut community grants too severely. The council agreed to look again at that line item after the winter season to reassess the state of town coffers.
At the November 19 meeting councilman Jackson Petito asked fellow councilmembers to reconsider cutting the $6,000 donation to CB Nordic that went toward grooming trails on the Town Ranch the last two years. Council received a letter from CB Nordic executive director Christie Hicks outlining reasons to not cut the contribution that keeps the heavily used trail system groomed. Petito said she made several good points and it was worth another conversation.
Generally, MacDonald explained to the council that, given past spending practices, the budget reserves were declining and this 2019 budget was an attempt to get back in line and replenish fund balances instead of dipping into them. “Continuing to set up the town to have ongoing negative spending is way bad,” she noted to the council. “The last several years the council chose to overspend compared to revenues. Town cannot sustain that. That being said, budgets are simply very informed best guesses and they are subject to change.”
“These cuts are up to us,” said councilman Paul Merck. “We’ve been given suggestions by the staff. For me, public safety and the marshal’s department is a priority.”
The council will continue its quest to manage the budget with a look at the proposed budget at the December 3 council meeting.