Mt. CB council expresses concerns with CB Fire District

Facility expansion and ballot confusion

By Kendra Walker

During their May 2 meeting, the Mt. Crested Butte town council made it clear that they require more communication from the Crested Butte Fire Protection District (CBFPD) due to concerns about the district’s recent mail-in ballot election and developments around its proposed new headquarters, search and rescue facility and training tower. CBFPD CEO and commissioner Sean Caffrey attended the meeting and answered questions. 

Ballot deadline confusion

Councilmember Steve Morris expressed his concern about the validity of the district’s election for De-Brucing that occurred that day, due to confusion around when the mail-in ballots were due versus when they had to be postmarked. The ballot secrecy sleeve with voter information stated, “Ballots must be received by the Designated Election Official or an Election Judge by 7 p.m. on Election Day in order for your ballot to be counted.” However, the Affidavit of Voter on the ballot envelope stated, “I affirm that I mailed this ballot by 7 p.m. MT on Election Day.” 

Based on the language, Morris said he was under the impression that he had until 7 p.m. on May 2 to mail his ballot, however that day the post office informed him that his ballot had to have already been mailed and received by 7 p.m. on May 2. Morris said he knew of many others in the same situation who are used to being able to vote the day of, were confused by the ballot deadline and therefore would not have their ballot counted. There were no drop off locations for this election.

“It sounds like from the feedback we’ve gotten is that perhaps it was not clear on the ballot they had to actually arrive somewhere by 7 p.m. tonight,” said Caffrey. “I don’t think we did a particularly good job of articulating the rules, it sounds like there was a lot of confusion around postmark and arrival times. I apologize that people had trouble understanding the deadlines were approaching or passing. This was the first time we tried a mail ballot election, and we learned a lot about that and will do better next time.”

Caffrey noted he was pleased with the voter turnout. The preliminary results for the De-Brucing election came in with 398 votes to approve the action and 219 people voting against the measure. 

“Going forward I commend you on the mail-in ballot, but a drop box of some sort would be great for folks who wait until the last minute,” said mayor Nicholas Kempin.

Proposed headquarters

In a lengthy discussion, the council also spoke with CBFPD about their proposed new facility project and the county’s requested referral comment letter regarding the project. The council emphasized that they felt a bit in the dark about all the project details since the bond to fund the project was passed by voters in November 2021 and CBFPD has since changed the project’s location and design. The proposed site is located on the east side of Gothic Road, just north of and adjacent to the town of Crested Butte. 

Some council members emphasized that they did not feel comfortable offering support for the project given all the changes since it was passed by voters, the lack of communication they received from CBFPD and the short amount of time in which they received the request for the letter with a deadline of May 2. 

“The plan is going through at the county whether we support it or not, and we owe it to the county to provide our comments,” said Kempin. “I want to make sure we get productive comments in no matter what.” There is also a public hearing before the County Planning Commission scheduled for May 18, and Kempin encouraged his fellow council members to follow up with in-person comments at that time if they would like to do so.

The council emphasized that they do not support onsite septic and encouraged the district to find a way to reach an agreement with the town of Crested Butte on provision of central water and sewer to the site.

“I’m surprised an entity charged with the public health and safety of our community would go against [CB town annexation],” said Kempin. 

“There are plenty of factors that caused us not to go with the IGA (Intergovernmental Agreement) with the town of Crested Butte,” said Caffrey. “It made more sense to do a project within the county. We are currently in the middle of the well and septic conversation.”

The council also reiterated the importance of traffic and pedestrian safety and agreed with the town of Crested Butte’s drafted letter on the need for a sidewalk. “I would encourage a proper turn lane to accommodate the slowdown of massive vehicles,” said councilmember Roman Kolodzeij. 

The council also wanted special attention to be given to landscaping of drought-tolerant plant species to soften the site’s hardscape, as well as low-carbon footprint features such as solar and geothermal components. Caffrey noted CBFPD is exploring geothermal options with the county. “It’s a matter of how much of that can we afford to do,” he said. “We’re in a position now of getting as much solar as we can possibly afford or get grants for.”

The council directed staff to draft a letter addressing their concerns regarding water and sewer service, pedestrian and auto access and landscaping.

Check Also

Dialogue continues over Compass plan

Big discussions over major change taking place…you’re invited to participate By Mark Reaman The sometimes …